Feriado, una película de Diego Araujo / Feriado, a film by Diego Araujo

This text was adapted from a piece I wrote for my Spanish class portfolio at university. It is quite lengthy but I tried to pick the most important parts. It was originally written in Spanish, but I have (freely) translated it into English. Scroll down for the English version. Trailer in Spanish with English subtitles 

Este texto es una versión corta de un ensayo que escribí para mi clase de español en la universidad. Es bastante largo, pero intenté presentar aquí solo las partes más importantes. Lo traduje al inglés, y la traducción está después de la versión en español. Trailer aquí 

Hace varias semana pasé un fin de semana entero viendo películas en el Cornerhouse. El motivo fue el Viva Festival, que cada año presenta varias películas del mundo hispano. En los años anteriores duraba casi dos semanas, pero como este año el Cornerhouse se mueve a otro sitio (HOME en Whitworth Street), solo duró cuatro días. A mi me encanta el Viva Festival, porque presenta una selección de películas españolas y latinoamericanas de muy alta calidad cinematográfica, que no se estrenan en cinemas convencionales. Este año mostraron 5 películas, de las cuales vi solo cuatro: Os Fenómenos (España, Alfonso Zarauza), Feriado (Ecuador, Diego Araujo), Ruido Rosa (Colombia, Roberto Flores), y María y el Araña (Argentina, María Victoria Menis ). De esta fantástica selección, que consta de unas de las mejores películas que se estrenaron recientemente, una en particular sobresale. Feriado, el primer largo metraje del director ecuatoriano Diego Araujo me llamó la atención por varios motivos. Voy a destacar varios temas y aspectos de la película que me interesaron. Revelo algunos elementos de la trama que no se encuentran en el trailer, pero no cuento el final de la historia, para los que no la han visto aún.

Feriado se desarrolla en 1999 en Ecuador, con telón de fondo el dicho ‘feriado bancario’ durante cual se derrumbó el sistema bancario del país entero después de su (neo)liberalización por el gobierno de Sixto Durán Ballén y Alberto Dahik: se congelaron fondos de pensiones y de ahorros, y cuentas bancarias, y miles de personas se hallaron arruinadas. Es en este contexto de malestar generalizado que está ambientada la historia de Juan Pablo – “Juampi”, interpretado por Juan Manuel Arregui, un joven ecuatoriano de 16 años de clase media alta. Va a pasar el feriado, o las vacaciones, en la hacienda de su tío, quien es el director de uno de los bancos principales de Ecuador, con primos de su misma edad. A lo largo de la película se nota la intranquilidad de cada uno de los personajes. Se entiende que la familia está dividida por asuntos supuestamente relacionados con la practicas poco éticas del tío banquero. Juan Pablo se siente desconectado a este amenazante mundo de mentiras, fraude, y violencia moral y física. Con sus 16 años, todavía es un niño, enfrentado a un mundo que no le entiende y que choca con su inocencia. Durante la fiesta organizada por el tío pilla a dos hombres robando los tapacubos de los coches y es testigo del castigo corporal que infligen al que encuentran, y eso le traumatiza. Al huir de la escena, encuentra por coincidencia al otro ladrón y le ayuda a escapar. La amistad que nace entre los dos jóvenes después del encuentro va a cambiarle la vida a Juan Pablo. Al encontrarse con Juano (interpretado por Diego Andrés Paredes), un joven mecánico de origen modesto, Juan Pablo se enfrenta con un mundo muy diferente al que está acostumbrado, y ahí empieza para él un proceso de descubrimiento personal y de cuestionamiento identitario. A medidas de que se van conociendo los dos chicos, Juan Pablo descubre un universo diferente al suyo, pero también descubre su atracción hacia Juano.

Uno de los temas principales de Feriado, a mi parecer, es lo de “contraste”. Primero, hay un contraste tremendo entre el universo de Juan Pablo y el de Juano: uno es de clase media alta, de “origen” europeo, educado en una escuela privada, y el otro es de clase popular, de “origen” indígena, y trabaja de mecánico en un pueblo. Cuando Juan Pablo se enfrenta con esas diferencias, empieza a descubrirse a él mismo, a explorar lo que constituye su identidad propia, lo que percibe, y lo que empieza a ser capaz de entender y expresar. Juan Pablo se encuentra entre dos mundos contrarios y tiene que dar el salto y elegir de qué lado está. Emprende este proceso de descubrimiento y auto-definición también con respecto a su sexualidad, ya que siente cierta atracción sexual hacia Juano, algo que está aprendiendo a aceptar y expresar. Siente que es diferente a los demás pero aún no sabe si es algo que debe considerar como positivo o negativo. En una escena que me encantó, está  tumbado bocarriba en el techo de su casa, mirando la calle al revés, y dice: ‘Me encanta verle a la ciudad así…. bocarriba. A veces le veo, le veo… le veo tanto que ya no sé, si soy yo él que está al revés o es la ciudad.’ A medidas que se desarrolla la película, Juan Pablo evoluciona, crece, aprende a conocerse a si mismo, y a negociar las contradicciones de su propio entorno e identidad. Juan Pablo es consciente del carácter subversivo de su relación con Juano, que desafía los límites de la divisiones de clase social y de género, y las relaciones étnicas, y construye su identidad probando hasta qué punto puede cuestionar estos límites.

El feriado de Juan Pablo, tanto como el feriado bancario nacional es una etapa crucial cada uno en su manera, en la historia personal del protagonista y en la historia nacional ecuatoriana. Así se puede relacionar el entorno global con la historia personal del chico: en este momento crítico se revela la corrupción que plaga el país, y de eso resulta una tensión omnipresente y un cuestionamiento de los fundamentos de la sociedad ecuatoriana. Además, la razón por la cual Juano y su primo están robando tapacubos durante la fiesta es la responsabilidad del tío banquero de Juan Pablo en el colapso bancario, ya que la tía de Juano, Mama Rosa, perdió todo sus ahorros por la crisis. Sin este acontecimiento Juan Pablo y Juano nunca se hubieran encontrado.

El último tema que quisiera destacar es la representación y critica de la sociedad ecuatoriana en la película. Tras la historia de Juan Pablo, Araujo pone de manifiesto varios aspectos subyacentes en la sociedad ecuatoriana: divisiones étnicas y racismo, homofobia, desigualdad social y económica, el peso de la religión, y la intolerancia latente, además de la corrupción y del disfuncionamiento del sistema. Lo que separa Juan Pablo de Juano es una gran brecha social y étnica, en una sociedad todavía marcada por el eurocentrismo característico de las sociedades Latinoamericanas, idea que el sociólogo y humanista peruano Aníbal Quijano desarrolla en varios estudios y obras académicas. De la misma manera, se nota la separación social entre los de origen europeos y los mestizos ya que corresponde a las disparidades económicas. En la fiesta del tío banquero aparece un elite europea adinerada, y en las fiestas de Juano y sus amigos solo aparece gente mestiza de clase popular: los dos mundos no se mezclan. Cuando Juan Pablo ‘desaparece’ en varias ocasiones, los primos suponen que tiene un relación con su amiga “La Flaca”, ya que la posibilidad de que él tuviera otra relación, además con otro chico es impensable. Choca la realidad social y moral del país con el idealismo de Juan Pablo, quien lucha para afirmarse en un mundo ‘al revés’, donde la gente pobre lo pierde todo en una crisis provocada por la elite dominante, y donde un joven tan maravilloso como él llega a sentirse alienado.

El genio de Araujo radica en el hecho de que logre abordar temas muy serios con una película muy suave, poética y sensata. De hecho, Feriado es la película más sensible y bella que he visto en muchísimo tiempo: me emocionaron mucho el personaje y la historia de Juan Pablo. El final de la película, tan emocionante y doloroso, es la culminación de esta obra maestra que sin duda no deja a nadie indiferente.

English Version 

A few weeks ago I spent a whole weekend at the Cornerhouse, for the Viva Festival. For those who haven’t heard of it, this yearly festival presents Spanish and Latin American films. It usually lasts a couple of weeks, but as the Cornerhouse was being moved to the new HOME buildings (just off Whitworth Street), it only lasted four days this time. I love the Viva Festival because it shows films of very high cinematographic quality, that you wouldn’t otherwise hear of. This year they showed five films, but I only saw four of them: Os Fenómenos (Spain, Alfonso Zarauza – I could not find a trailer with English subtitles), Feriado (Ecuador, Diego Araujo), Ruido Rosa (Colombia, Roberto Flores), and María y el Araña (Argentina, María Victoria Menis ). From this fantastic selection of some of the very best films in Spanish that recently came out, one of them really called my attention: Diego Araujo’s Feriado, the director’s first full-length feature film. As in the Spanish version of this post, I am going to highlight a few aspects of the film that I found particularly interesting. I reveal part of the plot that isn’t obvious in the trailer, but I don’t tell the end of the story, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.

Feriado is set in March 1999 in Ecuador, with the “feriado bancario”, the “bank holiday” as a background. What is called the “bank holiday” in Ecuador is the time when the country’s banking system completely collapsed, following its (neo)liberalisation by Sixto Durán Ballén and Alberto Dahik’s government. Pension funds, savings, and current accounts were frozen, and thousands of people went bankrupt. It is in this atmosphere of general malaise that Juan Pablo’s (Juan Manuel Arregui) story is set. Juan Pablo, or “Juampi” is a 16 year old teenager from an upper-middle class family, who visits his cousins in their countryside house for the holidays. His uncle happens to manage one of Ecuador’s biggest banks. Along the film, the nervousness of all the characters is noticeable, and it is implied that the family is divided because of the uncle’s unethical banking practices. Juan Pablo seems to feel disconnected from this threating world of lies, manipulation, and physical and moral violence. As a 16-year-old, he is still very young to face this world that does not understand him and clashes with his candidness. During a party organised by his uncle, he catches two men stealing wheel covers from the guests’ cars, and witnesses the violent punishment inflicted to one of the thieves, a sight that traumatizes him. As he flees the scene, he runs into the other thief and helps him escape. The friendship that develops between the two boys after this event changes Juan Pablo’s life. Upon meeting Juano (Diego Andrés Paredes), a young mechanic of modest background, Juan Pablo discovers a very different world from his, and there starts for him a process of self-discovery and questioning of his own identity. As the two of them start to get to know each other, Juan Pablo starts to be attracted to Juano.

One of Feriado’s main themes, in my opinion, is that of contrast. First, there is a huge contrast between Juan Pablo’s universe and Juano’s: on is middle class, of European descent, and goes to private school, while the other is of working class and mestizo background, and works as a mechanic in a rural area. As Juan Pablo faces these differences, he starts discovering himself, exploring what constitutes his own identity, what he perceives and starts to be able to understand and express. Juan Pablo finds himself in between two contrary worlds: he has to take the plunge and choose a side. This whole process of self-discovery and self-definition also has to do with his sexual orientation, as he feels attracted to Juano. This is something he is learning to accept and express. He feels different, but cannot tell whether it is a positive thing. In a scene I particularly liked, he lies on the roof of his house, looking at the street upside down, and says: ‘I love seeing the city like this… lying on my back. Sometimes I watch it, I watch it… I watch it for so long that I don’t know anymore, whether I am the one who’s upside down, or the city.’ As the plot unfolds, Juan Pablo evolves, grows up, learns to know himself and deal with his own contradictions and those of his environment. Juan Pablo is conscious of the subversive nature of this relationship with Juano, which challenges the social, gender, and ethnic cleavages. He seems to be building his identity upon teasing these limits.

Juan Pablo’s “feriado”, or holiday, as well as the national “feriado bancario”, are in their own way crucial steps in the main character’s individual story and Ecuador’s national history. In this way the boy’s story can be linked to the larger context: it is at this very moment that the corruption that plagued the country is revealed, and the consequence of this is an omnipresent tension and deep questioning of the founding principles of Ecuadorian society. Moreover, the reason why Juano and his cousin are stealing wheel covers during the party is because of the involvement of Juan Pablo’s uncle in the collapse of the banking system, which made Juano’s aunt lose her savings. Without this particular event Juan Pablo and Juano would have never met.

The last theme I want to bring up is the representation and critique of the Ecuadorian society that is made in the film. Through Juan Pablo’s story, Araujo highlights several underlying aspects of society: ethnic cleavages and racism, homophobia, social and economic inequalities, the influence of religion, and latent intolerance, as well as corruption in a dysfunctional system. What separates Juan Pablo and Juano is a big social and ethnic gap, in a society still influenced by eurocentrism (for more on this read post-colonial scholar Aníbal Quijano). In the same way, we can notice the social and economic cleavage between those of European descent and the mestizos. In the uncle’s party, the guests are from the wealthy elite of European descent, while in Juano’s parties everyone is mestizo and less wealthy: the two worlds do not seem to mingle. When Juan Pablo disappear several times, his cousins assume that he is secretly seeing his girl friend “La Flaca”, since it is inconceivable that he might have a relationship with another guy. The social and moral reality of the country clashes with Juan Pablo’s idealism. He fights to assert himself in a world that is “upside down”, where poor people lose everything in crisis provoked by the elite, and where such a wonderful young man ends up feeling alienated.

The fact that Araujo manages to introduce such heavy themes in such a gentle, poetic and sensible film is a mark of his genius. In fact, Feriado is the most sensitive and beautiful film I have seen in a very long time; the main character and his story really moved me. The very touching and almost painful end to this film is the culmination of this true masterpiece, which will undoubtedly leave no one indifferent.

Advertisements

Sunday out: Altrincham Market and Blackjack brewtap

DSCF0882

One of the most frustrating things about the weather in Manchester is that the few sunny days are never when you want them to be. Almost every day that I had to spend in the library, the weather was gorgeous. But as soon as my dissertation was finished, hello rain. This time, however, I was happily surprised. As I was on the verge of having a panic attack a week before my dissertation was due, I made plans to go to the Altrincham Market House on the following Sunday, to have something to look forward to. To my dismay, the weather, which had been glorious, was supposed to be at its worse. However, to my delight, the weather forecast was wrong, and that Sunday was as sunny as it could possibly be. I grabbed my sunglasses and headed to Altrincham, which is a 30-minute drive away from Manchester (also accessible from Piccadilly Gardens by bus (X41) and tram). Altrincham is a snazzy suburban town in Southwest Manchester, with big, pretty houses, leafy gardens, and nice little shops.

We first had a look at the covered market, which welcomes a wide range of traders every Sunday; you can find artisan bread, vegan cosmetics, handmade cards, and all kinds of gourmet bits and bobs. I could not resist buying a pistachio and chilli dark chocolate bar from Cocoa Nut Grove, and handmade orange and poppy seeds biscuits from Carlos’ Biscuits, all delicious! Upon my recommendation, my friend bought cheese from a cheese maker I recognised from Levenshulme Market, whose name I cannot remember unfortunately. I spotted Madame Françoise’s stall, from whom you can buy French crêpes made on the spot. However they were out of savoury galettes, and by the time I had eaten my lunch I was too full for a sweet one. Next time!

After roaming the covered market for quite a while, we decided to have a look at the food hall, located in a recently revamped market house next to the Sunday market. The result is quite impressive: a dozen of long wooden tables, surrounded by tastefully decorated stalls, from which you can order food and drinks. After having a look around, we settled for a fennel pepperoni pizza from Honest Crust, a Cesar Salad from Little Window and a glass of house white wine. The pizza was heavenly: a very thin crust and deliciously seasoned toppings. The Cesar Salad was made with anchovies, which is not common I believe, but nonetheless delicious, with homemade croutons and lots of Parmesan. All the ingredients were very fresh and wholesome, and the wine was good as well. It all came out pretty cheap, about 25£ altogether.

DSCF0867

DSCF0864

We had no room for dessert, but I spotted some pretty good-looking cake, and chocolate truffles from Sam Joseph. Every stall was very tempting, each offering something different from traditional English pies to Middle Eastern inspired dishes. The crowd was made out of families, elderly couples as well as groups of friends in their twenties. There is a children area with colourful wooden toys, for those of you who wish to go there for a family day out; it is very child-friendly.

DSCF0890

DSCF0886

After lunch, as it was still early in the afternoon and the weather was too good to be wasted by spending any time inside, we drove back to Manchester and went to Blackjack Brewery’s monthly brewtap. Blackjack is a local brewery located North of the city centre, somewhere between the Northern Quarter, Ancoats and Victoria station, which throws a three-day party every month from March. We had a little bit of trouble finding it, as it was quite far off, and almost gave up. However, when we finally made it there, we were happy to have persevered.

DSCF0894

It was all very simple: a few tables and benches, a couple of deck chairs and a DJ playing good music, all under a railway arch. Although we had got there at the very end of the week end, the atmosphere was still good, everyone was soaking in the last rays of sun and drinking the last pints of beer of the week end. Mac Daddies’ truck was there, providing gourmet mac and cheese, which we did not have the pleasure to try, as we were still full from the pizza we’d had. We had a pint of lager and stayed for quite a while, enjoying every moment of that surprisingly sunny day, ready to face another week at the library.

DSCF0896

Altrincham Market: Greenwood Street, Altrincham WA14 1SA

Blacjack Brewery and Brewtap: 36 Gould Street, Green Quarter M4 4RN