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:: Behind The Sun (Abril Despedacado)

A young boy lives with his parents and older brother, Tonho, in barren part of the Brazilian badlands in 1910. The family extract sugar from the cane fields. They used to have slaves for this, but now they must do it themselves, with only the help of two oxen. Progress is advancing ceaselessly and the price of their sugar is falling. The young boy has no name, though he is given one later by a traveller, it is Pacu, a type of river fish. The family have been feuding with their more numerous and more prosperous neighbour family for countless years and one month ago Pacu and Tonho’s older brother was killed. Now the time has come for Tonho to avenge the blood of his brother by taking blood from the family of his killers, knowing that they in turn will do the same until there is no one left.

From the early shot of a bloodied shirt, animated by the wind as it hangs on the line, the images of Behind The Sun are stunning and powerful. The characters however remain mainly silent and unknowable. The story of feuding families is not a new one, and there are few twists in this simple tale. Directed by Walter Salles, who made the much awarded Central Station, the lead character is once again a young boy, but without an older character to see the action through, we are left with a simple, naive view of the story.

Rodrigo Santoro, who plays Tonho, is a beautiful, fragile screen presence, a Latin Jeff Buckley look-a-like, whom I can only hope will make the Antonio Banderas transition. The young boy, Pacu, played by Ravi Ramos Lacerda, is open and charming in his feature film debut. There is much skill in the way this film has been put together, and it is a pity that it does not evoke more or demand more from its audience. It seems the standard foreign film that is released internationally these days - a child, a tragedy, and beautiful pictures of remote landscapes. The travelling circus performers too feel typical, unoriginal, though a welcome diversion from the gloom and drudgery of Pacu’s family life. They would all doubtless have worked better in the novel upon which this film is based- Broken April by Ismail Kadare.

This film so clearly wants to touch its audience with the futile tragedy of revenge, but in order to do so we had to care about the characters, rather than simply enjoy looking at them.