Entre Os Dedos

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San Sebastian Film Festival Zabaltegi New Directors

Portuguese directors Tiago Guedes and Frederico Serra shoot much of their potent new film in tight close-ups, with very few establishing shots of the urban environment where the characters work and live. Many viewers will not be certain in what city or country the film takes place, and this ambiguity seems intentional. The directors want to make the point that the financial and familial struggles that plague the central characters might be taking place almost anywhere in the world. This striking black-and-white production impressed audiences at San Sebastian. It's too grim to attract large audiences, but it deserves wide exposure at festivals.

The film opens with Paulo (Filipe Duarte), a construction worker, discovering a body buried under a pile of rubble at his construction site. When Paulo speaks out about the accident, he loses his job, placing added burdens on his family. The film follows several other characters, including Paulo's sister Bela (Lavinia Moreira), a nurse who lives with their father and also takes care of a terminally ill patient.

As Paulo's financial problems mount, his marriage founders. He and his wife area at each other's throats, and each suspects the other of infidelity. Paulo also has a difficult relationship with his bitterly combative father. Despite all their conflicts, the film convinces us that these people genuinely love each other; their ties are frayed by the economic hardships they face. The picture's theme is enhanced by the fine performances and taut filmmaking. The handsome Duarte holds the screen effortlessly and burns with anguish and intensity. As his outspoken wife, Isabel Abreu also gives a commanding performance.

While the film is uncompromising, it ends on a guarded note of optimism that proves to be extraordinarily moving. It's gratifying to see an honest film about poverty that doesn't leave you wanting to slit your wrists. These filmmakers and actors are definitely worth watching. They remind us of the humanity we share with the legions of people all over the world who are fighting a daily struggle to survive.

Cast: Filipe Duarte, Isabel Abreu, Lavinia Moreira, Goncalo Waddington, Fernanda Lapa, Luis Filipe Rocha.
Directors: Tiago Guedes, Frederico Serra.
Screenwriter: Rodrigo Guedes de Carvalho.
Producer: Paulo Branco.
Executive producer: Roberto Tibiriga.
Director of photography: Paulo Ares.
Production designer: Isabel Branco.
Music: Jorge Coelho.
Editors: Mair Tavares, Mariana Gaivro.
No MPAA rating, 100 minutes.

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