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The Pope's Toilet (2007)

El baño del Papa (original title)
A small South American village is in a flurry over the Pope's 1988 visit.

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Credited cast:
Virginia Méndez ...
Mario Silva ...
Virginia Ruiz ...
Nelson Lence ...
Henry De Leon ...
Jose Arce ...
Rosario Dos Santos ...
Hugo Blandamuro ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Andrea Alvarez ...
Wilson Alvez ...
Carlos Andrade
Brandon Antuna ...
Baltasar Burgos ...
Capitan Alvarez
Yonatan Da Silva ...


In Melo, a poor Uruguayan country village near the Brazilian border, several men earn their living from contraband, mostly transported on bicycles. One of them, Beto, is getting too old for heavy freights but hopes to earn a motorbike. The idea is to build and charge money for the use of a proper lavatory at the occasion of the first-ever papal visit to Uruguay, as His Holiness is expected to pass trough Melo where he may be cheered by hordes of Catholic Brazilians. Written by KGF Vissers

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Release Date:

8 April 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Pope's Toilet  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Uruguay's Official Submission to the Best Foreign Language Film Category of the 80th Annual Academy Awards (2008). See more »

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User Reviews

Hounest; engaging; genuinely funny and always with an eye on the grander scheme of things, this flush Uruguayan picture is a wonderful watch.
19 October 2010 | by (Hampshire, England) – See all my reviews

Don't be put off by the title, as Uruguyan writer/directors César Charlone and Enrique Fernández have, in 2007's The Pope's Toilet, crafted something stirring; resounding; fascinating and heart breakingly tragic, a classy adaptation of true circumstances once upon a time. The film covers a handful of people in and around a poor family of a small Uruguyan town on the Brazilian border called Melo and what it is they believe in; what it is they entrust their dreams and aspirations with, be they of a religious ilk or even career related, and the consequent danger of these things being shattered. The film is a humbling, down to Earth drama about people living in border-line third world conditions just trying to pull through; a harsh damning-come-exploration of supply and demand business ideologies; a light, non-causality driven comedy about a family man and his local friends; a terrifying drama about a man on the edge as he invests time and money in a venture for sake of Capital gain. It is a remarkable little drama, a deftly directed piece which changes gears and tones as easily as you like and retains a certain balanced sense of both joy and foreboding throughout.

César Troncoso plays Beto, the father of daughter Silvia (Ruiz), and husband of wife Carmen (Méndez). He is a man living with them under living conditions as basic as you like, persistent sights of burnt out cars and trucks sitting around on neighbouring lawns, peeling walls on a number of local buildings and dirt roads more often than not leading you off to wherever it is you want to go. When we first see Beto he is, like many people appear to do so, journeying back home to Uruguay from adjacent Brazil following some shopping; dealing and, ultimately, some smuggling. His pedal bike is no match for those surging by on scooters, his idea to skip around the checkpoint to avoid the authorities no match for their off terrain truck headed by a foul mouthed customs official whom takes sadistic glee in infantalising them via his verbal berating and then scuppering their plans. Times are tough, with even those whom are of similar ilk to you in the form of his class and predicament seemingly outranking him in the form of their transportation.

Opportunity strikes when it is announced Pope John Paul II is to come to their tiny town for a mass gathering; sessions of prayer and Catholic rejoice sure to follow. Devout Catholics themselves, Beto and the locals' true cause for celebration arrives in the form of business franchises and ventures that they feel they can set up so as to rake in money off of the large number of people whom will gather in their town as a result of this coming. The announcing of it is followed by a technique known as the gaze, which is applied to the film by Charlone and Fernández during which the lead's intense stare back at the screen is captured moments after the TV announcement. It suggests a look of longing, not in an erotic sense as usually is with said technique but in a manner resembling 'want' as ideas resonate. We sense he smells an opening after defeats to the state in the form of customs, with which a large legal cash flow will surely arrive given this fresh revelation, and it is here the film concentrates on his drive to do what he decides to do. Some are getting ready to dish out large amounts of food, others try selling clothes and Beto is stuck on constructing the titular lavatory: a public toilet located in his front garden in a booth complete with hand-wash and dry service at a counter just outside it.

Where others have gone down more familiarised, even normalised, routes; Beto has thought outside the box and gone into the constructing of a toilet out-house cubicle, one he reckons of only very few lavatory's within the area that will cater to those whom need it. As hype around the visit builds and they struggle to finish off the cubicle with mounting issues outside of this venture, a real sense of tension and something on the line is flawlessly inserted into proceedings. The thrill is in how the film puts mostly everything the family aspire to on the line at expense of this Papal visit, and Beto's charging around attempting to fulfil this dream and prove himself to his family as a pure, unadulterated Capitalist cash-bringer. Silvia appears to be headed for a career in sewing and stitching, something she would much rather substitute for a job within the media industry resembling working as an anchorwoman, but something that would require high university fees and the living in capital Montevideo. With Carmen, the arguments and disagreements that hint at near full-on disenchantment between the two of them in their marriage are papered over only by the odd uplifting exchange. You feel a greater extent of well being and positive attachment between the two is at stake.

Where a Spanish language film set in the 1980s about a poor Urugyuan constructing a public loo for a visit of The Pope may very well turn people off the idea of seeing this wonderful drama, those without a philistinery gene will surely warm to the piece. On a closing note, and when certain first round groups of the recent 2010 football World Cup concluded, there was a short VT on television about a South African woman and her one-off market stall franchise which would now have to be shut down. This was due to the leaving of so many foreigners and tourists whom come to where she was based but then left as the event shipped out of her home city. With it, all extra business gone too. I didn't think much of it at the time, but seeing this 2007 piece and recalling that woman had me see things a little clearer: a triumph.

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