Latin Wave goes To the Sea: Alamar is a film between two worlds
Latin Wave film festival programmer Monika Wagenberg has said that in many of this year’s films, the setting is as much a character as the people. That’s certainly true for the Mexican film Alamar (To the Sea) by Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio.
If I admit that I’m using the word “story” somewhat loosely, then I can say that Alamar tells the story of a boy with an exotic lineage. His mother is from Rome (the Rome here is not glamorous, don’t come looking for La Dolce Vita) and his father is a Mayan from the Mexican state of Quintana Roo (where Cancun is located). In a brief prologue, we see how the couple met, fell in love, conceived a child, then fell out of love.
The mother returns to Rome with the boy, Natan. This all happens in the opening minutes.
The bulk of film covers Natan’s return to Quintana Roo to visit his father. I said earlier that I could only use the word “story” loosely. That’s because there’s no real story as such. It’s more apt to say the film is a pair of portraits: One portrait of the Mayan fisherman’s way of life, and one portrait of the father-son relationship.
The fisherman’s life is beautifully filmed, and makes full use of the area’s incredibly clear water, and of the spectacular Banco Chinchorro coral reef, the largest in Mexico.
Gonzalez-Rubio has said that his film “is about the ancient and basic relationship between father and son,” and about “passing on teachings by life itself, by activities in the wild.” By making it virtually wordless, he succeeds in making this father-son relationship seem elemental. The relationship mostly consists of the father teaching the son (who is maybe five) how to live the fisherman’s life.
It’s all very beautifully filmed. And, according to director Gonzalez-Rubio, the relationships depicted here aren’t as exotic as they might appear.
Gonzalez-Rubio has lived in Quintana Roo for seven years, at Playa del Carmen, and says that “culturally mixed” couples, usually consisting of a European woman and a Mexican man, are not unusual there. These couples are raising children who really are between two worlds.
But Gonzalez-Rubio doesn’t try to wring any drama out of the family situation. “Natan is happy in Mexico, but he’s happy in Rome, too,” he says. “It’s not that one reality is better than the other.”
Alamar screens tonight at 8 p.m. and Friday at 7 p.m at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.