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Estamira (2004)

7.9
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Documentary about Estamira, a 63-year-old woman who's been working for over 20 years at a landfill in Rio de Janeiro. Schizophrenic, but very charismatic, she's the leader of a small ... See full summary »

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Title: Estamira (2004)

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Documentary about Estamira, a 63-year-old woman who's been working for over 20 years at a landfill in Rio de Janeiro. Schizophrenic, but very charismatic, she's the leader of a small community of old people living off garbage and has a very lyrical and philosophical attitude towards life. Written by lukejoplin@infolink.com.br

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28 July 2006 (Brazil)  »

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Happiness in the most unexpected places.
11 August 2006 | by (Brazil) – See all my reviews

It's an obscure film, shot in 2004, only released in the movie theaters now.

It's the story of a 72-year-old schizophrenic woman who has been earning a living, in the last 20 years, in Rio's city dumpster. Like hundreds of others, she awaits the huge trucks with garbage and scavenges it in search of material to recycle, sell or keep to herself. She says that's the happiest she's ever been, because she had no luck in the world prior to that. She's seen giggling with her friends, flirting with another - most likely, just as unstable as she is -, and remarking about her role in the universe.

The cinematography - yes, the city dumpster - is amazing. The opening scene shows plastic blacks flying among vultures, and from then on, grainy shots of people, like ants, climbing the piles of garbage, the red sunset, telling a story of pollution, a black river of a putrid liquid with gas coming out of the bubbles, the dogs and the horse against the sunset, side-by-side with a burning garbage can.

The comedy relief of the movie, and also some of its most insightful moments, comes with her cussing loudly at God. When one of her grandchildren mentions we all come from God, she says "shove God up your! God rapist God thief God that never helped me or anyone else! Your mother came from my bosom, nowhere else! God rapist, incompetent, mean!!" It's so outrageous, the whole audience was laughing out loud. Her only son, very religious, fears she is possessed with a malignant spirit, so he won't visit her anymore. The other daughter, not religious, gives her all support.

The story of her life is so sad that it can weakened by placing labels. They are always avoided in the movie, and her whole life is unveiled slowly, so that we are led to believe her when she says that the city dumpster was the best thing in her life. She is proud of what she does, proud that she built her house with what she found at the dumpster, and says that everybody in the world needs Estamira.

She had a daughter while living in the dumpster. Her older son decided to give the 6yo kid for an informal adoption with a loving, middle-class family. The girl is now 21, beautiful, and she says: "I feel resentment because I was not raised by my mother. I have bad memories of the dumpster, everything is bad there, but my mother raised my two siblings, why not me? We would be hungry sometimes, but I would survive, I know I would, and we'd never be separated".

The movie started small, but word of mouth is working so much that, on a Thursday, the theater was crowded, and people applauded at the end. Despite the punches in the stomach you get while watching it, it's in fact an uplifting movie, in that you see the love inside her family, the blissful ignorance of her friends at the dumpster, the fact that she laughs at herself and wants to go on living to fulfill her "mission".

Watch it if you have the chance and realize there is happiness where you least expect it.


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