by Drew Martin
The Netflix blurb for Found Memories is - Life in a quiet village rolls slowly from one day to the next with little excitement -- until a young photographer named Rita arrives.
Photography, by and large, is the most social of all the visual arts, so when I clicked on this Brazilian flick I expected the arrival of the photographer to spice things up, bring people together etc...but even though she does this to some degree, it is more about her becoming part of the place. It is a village in which appreciating the present is about taking in the past.
Rita is played by the lovely Lisa Fávero who ends up in the near ghost town, which she romanticizes as a place like her father used to tell her about. She kneads bread before dawn with the old widow who reluctantly hosts her, drinks cachaça in the middle of the night with one of the few loners who make up the tiny population, and questions the local priest why the graveyard (which she wants to photograph) is locked. At a post-church service meal Rita makes a toast with her little metal cup of cachaça. A shopkeeper says drinking is a man's vice. She asks what are the women's vices, and the priest responds - "To cry, to bear children, to sew, to pray."
Perhaps the most visually interesting thing about this film is that even though Rita has a modern camera, most of the pictures she takes are with pinhole cameras she makes from boxes and pots. She develops those pictures at night in her room, which serve as a visual narrative in a couple parts of the movie. It was smart to include the pinhole camera and the chemical bath film development because they are unhurried processes and complement the pace of the movie.
This is a very, very, very slow movie, which uses the first twenty two minutes to show the uneventful daily routines before Rita is introduced. The only real upbeat part comes at an hour and seventeen minutes into the movie when we see her dancing in the pitch black night to her iPod with Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Out blasting. And this is followed five minutes later by a lively evening dance outside, which everyone attends.
Although this is not really a movie about photography, it is an important theme. I love when the old widow talks about the past, when a portrait photographer came through their village and everyone dressed up. She says, "...even the dirtiest ones looked noble."
When some senior citizen villagers are assembled by Rita for a shot on a bench, one of them protests, "There's no one to leave pictures to." And tragically, in another scene, the old widow tells Rita that her son died when he was one year old because the person taking care of him put him on top of the cupboard so she could take his picture, but he fell off and died of complications the next day.
Click here to watch a trailer for Found Memories.