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While filmed in Brazil amidst the run-up to the country’s hosting of the World Cup soccer tournament in the summer of 2014, Maria Augusta Ramos‘ seventh feature-length documentary is refreshingly short of references to the sport itself. In fact, Future June defies the convenient representations of Brazil as a nation of festas, futbol and favelas by casting a glance on one of the less charted (and much less exotic) developments in Brazilian society today: that is, the growth of a middle-class in a country which is part of the BRICS bloc and — perhaps for once — a much-trumpeted economic hope in a fast-evolving capitalistic world.
Quietly contemplative, powerfully insightful and thoroughly humanist, Future June uses the daily travails of four seemingly very different individuals — a financial analyst, a trade unionist, a worker on an automobile assembly line and a dispatch rider — to examine the costs of Brazil’s over-ambitious plans in hosting international sporting events. More importantly, Ramos goes beyond this line of inquiry by exploring the challenges for Brazilians in connecting with the drastically shifting socio-economic patterns and mindsets brought about by such grand follies of nation-building.
Bowing at the Rio festival (where Ramos eventually won a best director in the documentary section) before its international premiere at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, Future June poses a difficult question about the contradictions in the discourse of modern-day economic development. While tentpole international events offer short-term boosts followed by long-term payback for Brazilians, opportunities and aspirations of upward social mobility also come with doubts about how society is to fare when everybody is — or has forcibly become — bourgeois.
Going beyond the convenient portrayals of the have and have-nots from different social strata, Ramos deftly reveals how her subjects, though from very different walks of life, have become components of a vastly growing middle class in a system spiraling out of control. It’s not just the unionist who is seething with fury: the others are just as angst-ridden, with Ramos poised enough to let it all bubble rather than boil over. After its return to home turf at the Sao Paulo film festival in late October, Future June could well expect clear skies ahead on the international circuit.
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If only the same could be said for the protagonists in Future June. While the sun is always shown shining on screen in Sao Paulo — that’s the extent of national stereotyping that Ramos would concede — the future is not exactly bright. Ramos lays down the battle lines fairly quickly at the start of the film, when Sao Paulo reveals itself on screen as a heaving organism of shiny skyscrapers, multiple-lane boulevards and packed underground trains.
It’s from this interconnected social system that the four individuals emerge. Andre Perfeito is a high-flying economist in an investment firm where brokers go into overdrive trading financial derivatives; the documentary’s title, in fact, alludes literally to the “futures” being bought and sold under Perfeito’s watch. With his major worry in life seemingly being the gridlock he has to navigate to go to work, the analyst indulges in fine dining and high art, and talks about how Brazil’s future is hindered by a collective complex in which Brazilians “struggle to believe Brazil can forward; we are ashamed of Brazil as a nation”.
Perfeito’s attachment to his cars segues to the appearance of Anderson dos Anjos, who specializes in installing car doors in a factory. Living with his also-working wife and daughter in a small but neat townhouse with a garage, a car and a motorcycle, he, as well as his fellow workers and the curiously pragmatic shop steward, have been inducted into workplace management, as he attends meetings which examine the company’s future in terms of the impact of tentative, confirmed or lost business deals.
Compared to this assimilationist mode of union activity, Alex Fernandes looks very old-school as he leads his disgruntled co-workers at the city subway system for sit-ins, strikes and confrontations with ridiculously over-armed police squads. Risking dismissal for his actions — and he is indeed sacked later in the film — he articulates through the megaphone how profit-first public services harm the well-being of employees and citizens alike. Principled and audacious, Fernandes’ life — with his pregnant wife — is much more complexly layered, as the working-class hero is seen doing the very middle-class thing of bemoaning costs of living (diapers, in his case) with his friends over glasses of wine.
Dissolving further previous preconceptions of class traits is Alex Cientista, a motorcycle courier living in a more impoverished hillside neighborhood in the city. Belying his seemingly low standing on the economic food chain, Cientista — whose wife works in telesales — is also a homeowner with a mortgage and DIY plans for the house, while crunching numbers so as to purchase burial vaults for his family. But far from just looking out for himself and his family, he’s also a budding community organizer, as he helps organize open-air screening of World Cup broadcasts while also maintaining his alternative persona as a socially-conscious rapper.
Very much aware of the paradoxes at play, Ramos and her editor Karen Akerman excell in weaving the revelatory moments in the lives of these characters —framed with tightness and poise by Camila Freitas and Lucas Barbi — into a coherently structured piece. Incredibly, soccer is nearly relegated to insignificance, becoming merely the one unifying subject that the people sometimes talk about on screen. But to her credit, Ramos does not offer the contrived montage of the beautiful game bringing everyone together in spirit. While Perfeito cheers from his expensive seat in the arena and Cientista watches the projection of the game on his local village square, dos Anjos is shown working an extra shift while Fernandes is, again, busy battling baton-wielding police on the picket line.
Holding back on judging her subjects, Ramos lays bare how flawed economic strategies and their corresponding social values seep into the hearts and minds of everyone concerned, be it the privileged yuppies or the fiery street warriors. Uncertainty certainly looms ahead, but Future June offers a enlightening and gripping view of humans grappling with the forces at work on their lives in a sometimes messy, often contradictory present.
Venue: Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (Competition)
Production Company: Nofoco Filmes, Selfmade Films, VPRO
Director: Maria Augusta Ramos
Producers: Jan de Rutter, Niek Koppen, Maria Ramos
Director of photography: Camila Freitas, Lucas Barbi
Sound designers: Gabi Cunha, Ricardo Zollner
Editors: Karen Akerman
International Sales: Nofoco Filmes
No rating; 100 minutes
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