At first glance, Carlos Osuna’s Gordo, Calvo y Bajito (Short, Bald and Fat) seems out of place at a Latin American film festival. Speaking for myself, I go to an Argentine or Chilean or Colombian (as is the case here) film looking for some exoticism, or at least a notably different way of looking at the world than my own. But Antonio (Alvaro Bayona), the short, bald, fat man of the title, is about as exotic as last night’s Hamburger Helper. And his plight—a lack of self-confidence and fear of life—seems to me far more typical of northern Protestant climes than of the land of magical realism. But what do I know?
This in fact is one reason why Latin Wave is such a valuable festival. Bogotá is far from the swamps and jungles of Gabriel García Márquez, so for me to assume that everything from Colombia should somehow reflect his work is absurd. But, come to think of it, Antonio is all wrapped up in solitude.
“In France they said this film must be about France. Russians said it must be about Russia. But it’s funny because I was trying to tell the most Bogotano story I could.”
Actually, director Carlos Osuna gets this reaction all the time. “In France they said this film must be about France. Russians said it must be about Russia. But it’s funny because I was trying to tell the most Bogotano story I could.”
That was not the only surprise I got from meeting Osuna. Antonio’s pain and isolation are so deeply felt that they seem autobiographical, but Osuna is a good-looking, slim young man with a luxurious head of hair. He laughed when I made this observation, as if he’d heard it many times before as well. “I know. I’m not fat, bald, or short.”
But he said the story did have some autobiographical underpinnings.
“When I was a student in high school I wanted to be a rocker. There was a guy a few years older than me who was a big time rocker, so I modeled myself after him in every way, until I lost my sense of who I was. It made me think about questions of identity, and how people look at each other.”
The film is animated in the rotoscope technique that Richard Linklater used to make Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. That is, an actor does his or her work, then an animator draws over the image. Antonio is depicted as bone-white here, and the rotoscoping definitely adds to the viewer’s perception of his pain.
“I thought it was the best way to show his inner life,” Osuna agreed.
The film itself is something of mixed bag. Antonio plays a little like George Costanza without the humor, and at times I felt unhappily trapped in his world. But it’s impressively made, and certainly an eye-opener about life in Bogotá.
The film opens shortly in Colombia. Is Osuna excited?
“I’m terrified,” he said, in apparent sincerity. “I’m a pessimistic person.”
These are qualities that he successfully projected onto his character.
Gordo, Calvo y Bajito (Short, Bald and Fat) will be shown at 3 p.m. Sunday. Director Carlos Osuna will be in attendance. For details, click here.