The FIPRESCI Jury of the Viennale 2005 had the tricky mission of deciding between outstanding fiction feature films and wonderful feature-length documentaries. Happily, it was saved from the dilemma by the amazing creative power of the Brazilian director Marcos Prado who turned his documentary into a poignant meditation on the human condition, proving once more that this genre can be as captivating as any fictional story.
Estamira is the sad story of a once pretty and respectable wife cursed by destiny to lose her mind and survive in the apocalyptic environment of a garbage dump on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. A tragic marginal case, from which the fabulous camera work and script of Marco Prado, who spent two years shooting in that inferno, provides a terrible indictment of our merciless world. On a planet on which 20 billion people live on less than $2 a day, Estamira is an ultimate cry of anguish and revolt. Even if at the end of the movie, a brief line informs us that the Brazilian “Jardim Guamacho” garbage dump was closed, we know that in thousands of other such places around the world, human beings continue to live amidst eagles and dogs, as Estamira did.
Cleverly integrating shocking ciné-verité shots and revealing interviews, director Marcos Prado uses his camera as a fabulous investigative tool but also as a fascinating metaphoric vehicle. In rapid, almost subliminal shots, human shadows creep like armies of famished ants among mountains of disgusting garbage just dumped from trucks. Fires light the night with sinister rays and the horizon is nothing less than a land of despair. A land from which God has vanished, abandoning His creatures, punishing the poor for the sins of a crazy world that pushes more and more fragile souls beyond the limits of despair, as happened to the psychotic Estamira.
In fact, we are faced with a real film d’auteur since Marco Prado has daringly assumed the triple function of director, script-writer and director of photography. One can feel he is deeply in love with the camera work, since the sophisticated colouring or the incredibly beautiful sepia images turn the entire film into a rewarding trip to the very core of film art.
At a time when most cinema production is dominated by dull and impersonal commercial pictures, the work of this Brazilian artist, revealing the deep inner wounds of our world, offers much hope for the future of cinema.