Thursday, June 10, 2021

Notes on Una Escuela en Cerro Hueso (A School in Cerro Hueso) by Betania Cappato, Argentina: 2021-Berlin Filmfestival II.-Generationkplus


The first thing which came to my mind when I saw this film was a memory in an almost forgotten masterpiece from Japanese cinema Shiinomi gakuen (The Shinomi School, 1955) by Hiroshi Shimizu. It is about parents who are founding a school exclusively for their children suffering under polio. One of the main reasons was to protect their children against discrimination. Betania Cappato´s film Una Escuela en Cerro Hueso is inspired by her own family story, the Autism spectrum disorder of her little brother.

In her film, the couple, Julia and Antonio (both are biologists) tried several times without any success to find a school for their autistic daughter Ema. Finally they find a special school in the countryside where teacher and parents have to work very close together. Around the school, parents, teacher and children form something like a community like in Shimizu´s film. But as the school in Shimizu´s film seems almost a paradise-like refugium for outsiders (Shimizu loved children and filming in open air locations), the school in Cerro Hueso is still affected by the problems of our contemporary world. The natural environment is endangered. The species extinction caused by the global warming and other ecological problems. The community has as well to take care for their economical surviving and if possible economic independence. They need access to fresh water and finally a garden for growing their own vegetable. The radio news tells often about ecological disasters which finally affects the food chain. This paradise is obviously threatened. The film is as well about the hard work which is necessary for preserving this protected zone.

The film has two different currents which complement each other. The first one is a sober, nearly documentary narrated one. We see teachers and parents often at their meetings or the work of Antonio and Julia as biologists often carrying samples into their lab. They discuss why a vegetable garden is necessary or how they install a pipe between the nearby river and their place. A forthcoming music festival must be prepared. The need for solidarity among the community members is for now a very factual thing. The film itself becomes an alternative draft to the world like it is.The second current is an explicit poetic one. Here hope tries to resist the harsh reality. But most striking this other current reveals a lot of tenderness. I can hardly remember much films where so much caresses are exchanged like in this one. Ema is often hugged and kissed by her parents and the parents nonverbal communications with each other is full of tenderness. There is a wonderful moment when Ema and her mother pet a horse. In this moment it seems that love and tenderness is the only answer to a world which goes apart. Even the other children try with tender patience to integrate the silent Ema into their activities. In this counter draft of the world the film seems to turn always towards the right and good things.

The film is sad and blissful at the same time. Traces of happiness are here the results of hard work and solidarity. A horse is recognized pregnant. The world is not yet doomed.

There is nothing more capable for drawing an alternative draft against the world like it is and like it should be than cinema. Like in Shimizu´s masterpiece from 1955, Cappato´s film is in itself something like a protected zone and it is a personal film with a very unique vision of what cinema can be.

At all, Betania Cappato´s Una escuela en Cerro Hueso is one of the right films for the summer screenings of this Berlinale-edition. To see this film in Cinemascope on the big screen is something we can look forward to after the terrible 14 months we went through.

Rüdiger Tomczak


Fri, 11.6, 17.30, Neue Bühne Hasenheide

Sam, 19.6, 21.30, Freiluftkino Rehberge

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