Sunday, 2 November 2008
El Baño del Papa
To see Cesar Charlone's charming film El Baño del Papa showing as part of the Bath Film Festival last night. The Uruguayan tale of a town near the Brazilian border called Melo, where a petty smuggler Beto (César Troncoso) comes up with a cunning plan to cash in on the Pope's impending visit in 1988 to give his family a better future: as his neighbours plan to set up food stalls, he will build a first class toilet for the expected surge in visitors to the town. The film is utterly charming and beguiling, with a poignant humour in which we get a remarkable insight into the lives of the villagers. Despite the title, this is not an anti-religious film; as Charlone says it is as much about people's attitude to authority and the media. The women of the film are strong independent-minded characters, not least Beto's ambitious daughter. And what emerges is a story of huge emotional depth, where we are all rooting for Beto despite his flaws and the inevitable results of his enterprise.