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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.
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