Directed by Alexandre Moratto
70 min | 2018 | Brazil
Presented in Portuguese with English subtitles.
Cast: Christian Malheiros, Tales Ordakji, Caio Martinez Pacheco
Screened at more than twenty festivals with some fifteen awards and nominations on three continents since its 2018 release, Brazilian-American Alexandre Moratto’s gut-wrenching, heart-rending debut feature is one we won’t soon forget. Sócrates, an impoverished 15-year-old in a coastal São Paolo region ghetto, struggles to survive the unexpected death of his mother without money or meaningful family support. The boy’s initial attempt to keep her death a secret and pass as an adult unravels in a welter of grief, desperation, and sexual awakening. The narrative clips along at an unrelenting pace, offering us a little shelter from the raw pathos that intensifies throughout. Despite the intensity, moments of counterbalance arise in the visual artistry, in the film’s quiet portraiture of person and place.
The gritty screenplay, cinematic realism, and subtly effective soundtrack emerge all the more remarkable for being largely the work of at-risk youth, aged 16 to 20, from local São Paolo municipalities. The director’s decision to partner with Brazil’s Querô Institute and UNICEF to have these young people co-write, shoot, and act in the film merits our attention. With no weak performances among the cast, 19-year-old newcomer Christian Malheiros in the title role delivers a particular tour de force, for which he has won a best male actor award at the Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival and garnered a Spirit Award nomination for the same.
– Robert Doares
Winner: Someone to Watch–2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards, Jury Prize for Best Feature–2019 OUTShine Film Festival