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Jonathas lives with his parents and his brother, Juliano, in a cottage in a rural area of the Amazon. The family harvests and sells local products at a roadside fruit stand, a place of contact with new friends and novelties from the rest of the world. They meet Milly, a visitor from Ukraine, and the native Kedassere. The group decides to spend the weekend at a campground in the jungle. Against his father's wishes, Jonathas will embark on this adventure. Seduced by Milly and the forest, he undertakes his most transforming journey.Written by
Wandering in the Amazon jungle for many days, feeling all alone
I saw this film as part of the Rotterdam film festival 2013, in the Bright Future section. The screening was the world premiere with film makers present, among who were the actor who played the main character (Jonathas), and of course the director. The final Q&A revealed many things that I did not get from the screening itself. Neither did the synopsis on the festival website steer me in the right direction. It's a pity, and I would have enjoyed the film much more when prepared better. Below notes may be helpful in that respect.
The story is based on what happened in 2008 with a real Jonathas, who survived 49 days in the Amazon jungle. His father went looking for him, persisting in the search even after all official rescue services dropped the case, having decided that the chances for survival where nil after so many days.
I must admit that I got confused halfway the running time. From the synopsis and the first half, I expected a story line that was very different from what I saw. What do you expect when two brothers take off with two foreign girls to go camping in the forest?? They don't have seen much of the world yet, apart from the tourists that pass by and buy some fruits from their stall. Their father is very dominantly present, and does not allow them much leeway. And then suddenly, they leave in a jeep with two beautiful girls and set up their tents in the forest. I would have expected a love story, a coming of age drama, or similar.
But suddenly, we see Jonathas all alone in the jungle. Obviously he lost his way and is eager to find the camp back. In hindsight, and confirmed by the director, this second half is THE core part of the film. The first half provides for the necessary context, such as the family situation at home, and the reason that he wound up there in the first place. For some time I was silently hoping that he could find his way back, but in vain, as I found out after the screening, given that the extensive wandering was the prime purpose of the film.
But anyway, Jonathas' wanderings gave us an unprecedented view on the Amazon forest, its harsh weather conditions, the sudden changes from day to night, and many more reasons to see this film. Gradually, we feel with Jonathas and his despair, even to the extent of hallucinations when he sees people appear from nowhere. A nice touch was the inclusion of Wagner's overture to the opera Lohengrin in the sound track, which certainly worked for me to paint a fairy tale atmosphere along with the imaginary people he sees around him.
The director told us that everything that happened with the search parties involved, and scenes how the family experienced the possible loss of Jonathas, were filmed but lost (on purpose) in the editing phase. The original script ended more regular, with lots of tears and hugging. But the film makers deemed all that footage unnecessary and dropped it, if only to show the core events and to deviate from the traditional ending.
The whole film crew was from Brazil, except 6 people who were "imported" from elsewhere. Through the local people it became apparent that the forest is considered very different from the rest of Brazil. In a way it is a neutral place, and a proved fact is that foreigners usually grasp the essence of the forest better than the average Brazilian. According to the director there is much more to tell about this phenomenon, bordering on politics, but no necessary knowledge to appreciate this film.
During the final Q&A it came about that many people think that the jungle is dark, but obviously that was not the case in the film. The director explained that what we saw was for real. There are stark contrasts between very light and very dark spots next to each other. As I said before, this alone can be a good reason to see this film, as a perfect chance to experience the jungle as it is, and feel alone with Jonathas and his despair.
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