DIRECTOR: LUIS ALBERTO LAMATA
COUNTRY: VENEZUELA 1991
CINEMATOGRAPHY: ANDRES AGUSTI
CAST: Cosme Cortazar, Francis Nueda, Alexander Milic
SUPER FEATURES: Interesting Story
Seen at the Portland 16th Annual International Film Festival
Aside from the fact that this film appears (technically) to be a bit of an amateur effort, at least a few things standout as very good. The cinematography is actually very good and well thought out, and were it not for that this film would pass as a mediocre effort.
However, it isn't a bad film. It is hampered, and obviously so, by the lack of quality (state of the art) equipment with which a well done film could have been made. For an American audience, this will look a bit like the films of the fifties, in that almost the whole thing is simple, and straight forward. But it is the director's first film, and as such shows excellent promise for many years to come, despite a country whose economy is horrendous. There are times when the film appears to have been shot with rather old stock of film, which is about all they probably had.
JERICHO is the story of Friar Santiago who is becoming frustrated with the way the church does things. They don't seem to have the enthusiasm for the environment like he does, or seem to care about anything except their own expansion. And for this, he is sent away with a group of conquistadores into the jungle, hoping to find new people to deliver the message. And no sooner do they cross the first river, does he
find the first obstacle. The river causes him to lose the books and most of his stuff. And after the first night, the group gets split when a band of thieves decides that following a German commander into the jungle is not what they want. The gold is stolen in the middle of the night, and the priest happens to overhear it and goes out to see it. He gets caught and has to go with the thieves or lose his life. He goes. This group begins dwindling one by one until they get attacked by a group of Indians, who kill all those running away. The friar, sits and prays. the Indians spare him, because they find him funny.
He is taken in, and begins his job of teaching the Indians Christianity. All is not well. They are not agreeable to learning a new word or language. So he bides his time, and watches the naked Indians walk around. One night, he can't sleep, and one of the couples is in the
process of making love. The Indian sends him a woman. Fade to black, much to his embarrassment. He is laughed at, because he does not take the woman. Eventually, the tribe gets tired of having an outsider constantly trying to change them. So they do something about it. They
inhale a mixture which makes them 'crazy' (as do so many of those Indians in the area) and this time they force it up his nose. Since the priest is a stubborn one, he gets several extra doses, until he finally breaks down his defenses.
In the next event of the tribe they are seen going around a totem pole, and the priest is going nowhere. He gets in the middle and is moving in the wrong direction. He meets up with the woman who has taken a liking to him. The group continues its dance until we notice that the priest has gotten rid of his garb, and joined them in their dance. He has joined the tribe.
Later, he finally gets to meet another set of conquistadores, and they take him away. The priest is now rejoined with another order, and is encapsulated in a square mud room, where he must remain until he is rid of the Indian ways, and become a holy man again. He does not. Basically, he will die in this hut, rather than switch back to a faith that really doesn't care about anyone, except their own motives.
This film is not for the squeamish, for it does have a few scenes which are untactful, like a cannibalistic scene, and some violence, which is an obvious comment on the ugly invaders next to the peaceful Indians. And there is a good amount of violence, in that the conquistadores are merciless in many ways.
GOOD FILM. ONLY FOR THE FILM STUDENT.
RATED RRR FOR ITS MMMM MOMENTS.
FUNNY IN MANY SPOTS.
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