Weatherman from a TV network goes back to his hometown, Vale da Rocha, a place in Northeast Brazil, devastated by the drought. He is forced to face the geographic elements and his own memories.
Jonas (Guilherme Weber), TV weather man working in São Paulo, returns to his native small village in the poor, desolate sertão (hinterland) of Pernambuco (Northeastern Brazil) to attend the funeral of his estranged father (Paulo César Peréio), murdered after having seducing young Native Indian girl Wedja (Suyane Moreira). Once there, Jonas becomes aware of the cultural clash between urban Southern Brazil and the “honorability” tradition of the sertão, which includes clan/family feuds, matriarchal power and a sort of Brazilian omertà. Side stories stretch to illegal marijuana crops, religious fanaticism, political corruption and racism against Native Indian Brazilians.
Eight years (!!) after his only feature film, the impressive “Baile Perfumado” (which he co- directed with Paulo Caldas), there were great expectations concerning Lírio Ferreira’s “Árido Movie” — after all, “Baile Perfumado” was the most important film produced in Brazil’s Northeast in a very long time and it singlehandedly resurrected the agonizing feature film production in Pernambuco, of irregular but powerful cinematic tradition. Unfortunately, these 8 years’ wait may have taken their toll: when a filmmaker has to wait THAT long to finally raise funds to make another movie — as is the rule among most Brazilian filmmakers — it’s understandable that he ends up packing his film with so many issues, characters, situations and side stories that he loses track of unity and focus, and putting all these different pieces together becomes a huge, very difficult task.
The film plays rather like a series of vignettes, with far too many characters and stories thrown in to be really impacting. But what “Árido Movie” ultimately lacks are two essential things: a strong central character and a “tone”. The protagonist Jonas — a cross between a prodigal son and Camus’ Meursault — is so bland and uninteresting we soon get tired of him (even considering he is a TV weather man, so he’s supposedly bland already) , especially in the way he is played by a miscast (what about that accent!!) and unimpressive Guilherme Weber (who, by the way, is a dead ringer for Tim Curry). The other actors have to struggle with their episodic parts, clashing between “intense” vs. “tongue-in-cheek” key, leaving them and the film toneless.
Subtitles:English, Spanish and Portuguese (Brazil)