Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oblivion (PERU)

(El Ovido)
Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Peruvian Panhandlers Find 15 Minutes of Fame in Offbeat Documentary

Remember what New York was like before Mayor Giuliani cleaned up the streets? Driving into the city back in the pre-Rudy days, I would invariably be besieged by beggars offering to wash the windows of my car, and on the return trip in the evenings my car would often be approached by topless prostitutes everyone referred to as tunnel bunnies. And in between, during the day, I would encounter all manner of panhandlers hustling in a variety of ways just to survive.
Anybody nostalgic for that sort of scary, local color might like to check out Oblivion, a picture directed by Heddy Honigmann about the bleak environs to be found around her beloved hometown of Lima, Peru. The film plays like a Spanish language version of American Idol on the first two days of a new season, when the show focuses mostly on pathetic also-rans who don’t stand a chance like William Hung.
Here, we have a smorgasbord of the world’s worst performers attempting to do everything from breakdancing to juggling to gymnastics to singing while scraping an afro-pick on the side of a tin can to balancing balls on their noses like seals to flag-waving, which I never knew was a form of entertainment. I am not making this up.
Besides these wannabe stars of tomorrow, the picture focuses on folks resigned to their miserable lot in life, such as 14 year-old Henry, an undeucated shoeshine boy with no education who when prompted by Ms. Honigmann admits that he has no dreams, and no nice memories. I think what the director is going for in this scene is a class-conscious contrast of the rich and poor, for sitting right next to Henry are some decadent, rich kids equipped with modern technology we take for granted like cell phones and iPods.
Slumming, South American-style.

Very Good (3 stars)
In Spanish with subtitles.
Running time: 93 minutes
Studio: Icarus Films

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