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Alamar, shown in the U.S. as To the Sea (2009), is directed, written,
produced, filmed, and edited by Pedro González-Rubio. The film follows
a young man from Italy, Natan Machado Palombini, who joins his father,
Jorge Machado, and his grandfather, Nestór Marín, in a fishing village
on the coast of Mexico.
As would be expected, this represents an immense change in culture and experience for Natan. However, his father and grandfather are so gentle, and their life--as portrayed in the film--so full of dignity, that Natan makes the transition smoothly and well.
This is an independent film that works, mainly because the characters are likable, the setting is new and different for U.S. viewers, and no artificial problems or disasters are introduced to move the plot forward.
This film will be acceptable on a small screen, but will work better on a large screen, because the sea and sky are an integral part of the film's composition. (We saw it at the Rochester 360- 365 film festival.) However, in any format, it's worth seeking out and viewing.
This movie, in my opinion, is a true movie: It makes you go to another
place, feel life at a different pace. And once you're there, you can
smell the salty water. You can feel your feet touching the sand. You're
there, experiencing life with that other human beings (may they be as
real as humans or fiction characters, they are alive). If you are open
to what the film is showing, soon it will seduce you.
The mood of the film fits perfectly to the images you see. It doesn't have that structured narrative so usual to more commercial films. It doesn't really matter if it's documentary or fiction, it's sensibility.
May you like it or not, it's cinema as its best.
This short film is a beautiful breath of fresh air amidst the current popular cinema. Pedro González-Rubio reveals the daily life of a young Italian boy, Natan, who has gone to visit his father and grandfather in Mexico, where they live at sea as fishermen. The film is more of a documentary, not following any intense plot, but rather, reflecting on the beauty of nature and the loving relationship between father and son. The cinematography is breathtaking, and I found myself wishing I could live at sea along the Banco Chinchorro as well. The absence of any music or soundtrack throughout the film is both interesting and compelling, because it forces the viewer to focus on the natural sounds of water, wildlife, and simple human interaction and conversation. There is a deep tranquility to this film, a sensation that washes over the audience as well, and one that I particularly enjoyed.
If you're in the mood to experience beautiful "National Geographic" quality images of untouched nature and simple humanity, then yes, let this movie wash over you as a tranquil meditation of what life is really like without the amenities of modern day life. Three generations of boys, each turned into men, survive and thrive on a fishing trip off the world's second largest coral reef off Mexico. There is nervous tension when observing the barefooted boy explore his surroundings and react with his real-life father. Will the little one fall off the front of the boat, or be eaten alive by an alligator? Will they weather the storm together? This quiet contemplative film restores our faith in the basic fundamental principles of family. Their ideal lives of free living are however tinged by abandon and sacrifice. Attempt this trip to sense an existence freed of material possessions but filled with the joy and purity of heart.
The unconditional love of a father for his young son is paramount in
Pedro Gonzales-Rubio's cinematic tone poem, Alamar, a lyrical film of
rare natural beauty. Set in the Banco Chinchorro, the largest atoll in
Mexico and the habitat of hundreds of different species, director
Rubio's 73-minute part fiction and part documentary film is imbued with
a love of the sea and respect for the environment. According to the
director, "By photographing and developing a story based on the current
relation between man and his habitat in Chinchorro (declared in 1996 a
Natural Reserve of the Biosphere by UNESCO), I intend to portray my
love for this region and the admiration and respect I have towards the
lives of its fishermen." Though the young boy, Natan (Natan Machado
Palombini), will soon leave for Rome, Italy to live with his Italian
mother Roberta (Roberta Palombini), she agrees to let him spend time
with his father Jorge (Jorge Machado), a spear fisherman, but it will
not be for an extended stay. "We'll be gone for a while, and when we
come back, you'll go with Mommy," he tells Natan sadly. Jorge lives
with his own father, Matraca (Nestor Martin), in a house built on
stilts in the middle of the water and their simple life is in harmony
with nature. Together they show the young boy the way to reel in a
fish, how to spear lobster and barracudas, and how to scale and clean
fish for consumption.
Initially seasick, Jorge holds Natan lovingly until his sickness disappears and they are free to navigate the luminous blue-green waters. Together, Jorge, Natan, and Matraca dive under the water where, according to a travel guide for the Costa Maya region of Mexico, "the diving is spectacular with large blue sponges, many fish, turtles, sea walls full of life, and a clear sunlit scenario that includes many sunken ships." What soon becomes evident, beyond the simple satisfaction in life that they experience, is the bond between Jorge and Natan that develops between sleeping in hammocks, drinking strong coffee, and engaging in playful wrestling matches. Natan's new world is far from the challenges of living in a big city. Here there are no I-pods, cell phones, or high-definition TV, only the stark beauty of unspoiled nature.
Important lessons about life are also learned. Natan has his first experience of loss and impermanence when the white bird they named Blanquita which they have been feeding every day, suddenly disappears. Alamar is a hypnotic and poetic film that is a welcome change from the never-ending assembly line of films about social dysfunction of one kind or another. An ode to fatherly love, it is a poignant reminder of the phrase of the Roman poet Ovid who said, "Everything changes, nothing dies." Joy turns to tears, which again turns to joy in an endless cycle, yet, though circumstances change, love is a constant that endures.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's true that not really very much is going on in this movie, so if that's what you're looking for, this is definitely not a movie for you. I usually prefer that something is going on, but I found the movie to be very interesting and very sweet. The relationship between the father and his young son seemed so real, genuine, and loving. Things were always shown in a very understated way, which also contributed to its realism. Movies like this can never be made in Hollywood, for the mass audience would be running out of the theater asking for their money back after the first 10 minutes. But because the critical reviews were primarily positive, and it was only 73 minutes long, I wanted to give it a chance. I'm glad I did. It's definitely worth a look.
Once in a while, a film appears that restores one's faith in the cinema as a medium, and reminds one of its possibilities for opening a window on a magical world. This is one such film. The film is unconventional, and proceeds at a slow pace certain to madden even further the madding crowd. But for those who like to know more about 'real life', especially in unfamiliar surroundings, this slice of life provides a unique vision. The main characters are a man and his son, and the man's elderly father. It seems that the man and his son really are just that, whereas the grandfather is an actor. The man is a Mexican 'of Mayan Indian descent', though he does not look like a Lacandone to me, so he must be from another tribe descended from the Maya of this particular region (the Lacandone, who are pure Maya, being much further inland, living in depths of the forests), and his son has come to visit him on the Mexican coast from his Italian mother, who lives in Rome. It is the boy's introduction to a timeless way of life which in many respects is thousands of years old. The setting is the remarkable Mexican heritage site of Banco Chinchorro, a coral reef in the sea near the ancient Maya centres of Quintana Roo and Cozumel, in the Caribbean off south-eastern Mexico. The father and grandfather live the lives of simple fishermen in a hut on stilts just off the shore. The film features a great deal of undersea photography showing them spearing lobsters on the seabed without oxygen tanks, but only snorkels. The young Mexican director Pedro Gonzalez Rubio, who studied at the London Film School, has made this amazing film with himself as writer, cameraman and editor, and apparently the assistance of only two other people apart from the cast. He says he wanted to show life 'in the middle of the sea, in the place of origins'. He certainly succeeded in doing that, for there is a timeless quality to this film. It makes such a difference in a feature film which is not a documentary to see real people doing real things in real places rather than the perpetual parade of illusion which is what feature films normally are. The life portrayed here in the house on stilts and in the sea, the lack of any watch or clock, the entire immersion in 'what happens naturally' (often personified as 'Nature') is a salutary lesson to us all, prisoners as we are of a rigidly systematized and over-structured reality which is really a false reality. The people in this film are living a dream, and it is a true dream, whereas we are living a nightmare, and it is a false one, a monstrous parody of life invented and enacted by maniacs. One of the touching emotional details in this film is the friendship between the boy and a wild egret whom he names Blancquita. Although the little white bird has yellow eyes, when the boy draws it, he gives it blue eyes. Frigate birds and a young crocodile also feature as characters in the film. Rubio is a poet, and his filmed poem is a masterpiece.
Have you watched 'Fishing with John', John Lurie's tongue-in-cheek
series of short documentaries, in each of which he takes one of his
celebrity friends (Tom Waits, William Dafoe, Jim Jarmusch, etc.)
fishing at an exotic location? This documentary is similar, only it's
the real deal... There are no celebrities here and there's no messing
around. You're invited to watch three generations of men (the youngest
of which is a young boy called Natan) fishing freely off the coast of
Mexico. For just over an hour you can forget about Facebook or Twitter,
and observe what comes through as a beautiful, surprisingly bare way of
life that is intrinsically connected to the wildlife and nature.
Before Natan splits to Rome indefinitely with his Italian mother, his Mexican father and grandpa give the child a taste of what it's like to be a fisherman. Director Pedro González-Rubio does a great job at capturing on film the family's situation and a sense of the kind of memories that Natan is to carry with him across to Europe.
This film tells a beautiful story about a family divided my the absence of love between two parents and their common love for their son Natan. Natan travels from Italy to spend some time with his father and grandfather in Banco Chinchorr. Because Natan's father and grandfather are fishermen his spend much of his time in and on the clear blue waters of Banco Chinchorro, an atoll reef lying off the southeast coast of the Municipality of Othón P. Blanco in Quintana Roo, Mexico, near Belize. A lovely movie all can enjoy, especially if you are looking for a delightful movie at the pace of paradise. This film has my on the next flight to Mexico.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Feelings of great emotiveness immediately come to mind when thinking of
Alamar. A fantastic documentary style film, Alamar deals with human
relationships in a frank and moving manner.
Beginning with Jorge speaking openly about his self criticism as a Father, Alamar goes into a short montage of pictures, achieve footage and music setting the emotive tone of the film as we are given the back-story of Jorge's failed relationship with Roberta, in which they produced a son. It's both beautiful to watch whilst saddening as we know it all came to an end which leads to the core focus of Alamar, a brief holiday between Jorge and his son Natan before departing from each other once more.
The visual element of Alamar is the most powerful tool in conveying the relationship between Father and Son. The dialogue takes lower standing to this as the focus is placed on the pair interacting in the moment, Jorge holding his sleeping boy on a boat tenderly stroking his arm and later on teaching Natan how to swim underwater. These two examples are a small amount of organic situations in which Alamar focuses on making the viewing experience a vastly rich one. The hand held cinematography has to take credit also, making us become intimate with the people involved due to the cameras close proximity. One moment where Jorge's friend Matraca says directly to the camera, "I miss you, I adore you, I love you" makes us feel the love and lost he feels that would not have been achieved in any other form of cinematography.
As well as being taken on an intimate ride with Jorge, Natan and Matraca on a emotional level Alamar can also been seen as a film of self discovery as like Natan, we are strangers to the ways of life in his Father's home of Banco Chinchorro. Here we learn at the same pace as Natan how the locals fish for their food, knowing where to stay clear of Crocodiles and study the mannerisms of an Egret. Jorge instills into Natan much knowledge that we also gain.
If you are to fully understand and enjoy this feature then you have to require an appreciation of all that Alamar embodies. It is a film of such tranquillity, beauty, knowledge and raw human emotion that the viewer should let themselves be taken in by in order to feel Alamar's brilliance.
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