Sunday, 26 March 2017

a vida privada dos hipopótamos (maíra bühler, matias mariani)

This is a suitably Latin American Gordian knot of a film. Is it a documentary or a fiction?  Is it a film about Latin America or North America? Among other artful steers. The film is constructed around a lengthy interview with a North American, Christopher Kirk, who is, ostensibly, in prison in Brazil. The filmmakers state that they discovered Kirk whilst researching a project about gringos in jail in South America. Kirk proceeds to tell an elaborate tale about his relationship with 'V', a half Japanese beauty he met in Bogota. The more he extrapolates, the less believable his story becomes. 

The filmmakers speak to people who knew the incarcerated American in his earlier life. The film is assembled with clips from YouTube and photos and video clips purportedly taken from Kirk's hard drive. There's also a curious segment when Kirk appears on local TV after a friend looking after his flat whilst he's away wraps all his possessions, down to the toilet paper, in aluminium foil. When Kirk heads ‘south’, his dull demeanour changes, reflecting the changing landscape. Bogota and Seattle are chalk and cheese. Bit by bit, the film suggests, the Latin world takes over. Kirk’s description of “V” ends up suggesting that she might, in fact, be a kind of alias for the exciting uncertainty he discovers when he heads south of the Rio Grande. An uncertainty that appears not just in his surroundings, but also within himself. 

Kirk would clearly appear to be an unreliable narrator, something backed up by his old friends. However, what the audience doesn't expect is that the filmmakers themselves are also unreliable narrators. The further down the rabbit hole we go, the more unstable the ground becomes. Is there any truth at all to what we’re watching? Does a Youtube clip of Chris Kirk on the Brazilian border really mean Chris Kirk ever visited or was even near to the Brazilian border? In this way the narrative ties in effectively with current preoccupations about the authenticity of data in the digital age. it also makes for a fascinating, uncertain film, one that tantalises with notions of a “truth’ which remains constantly out of reach.  

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