QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM TALLINN
Father and son live in a precarious dwelling in the ancient Sumapaz Paramo highlands of Colombia, the world’s largest Alpine tundra ecosystem. Colombo (Mario de Jesus Viana) is blind and mostly catatonic, while his son F (Sebastian Pii; the film’s protagonist) has some type of physical disability, with a disfigured face, crooked feet and a scrawny body. His grotesque appearance is gentle and endearing, similarly to the surrounding landscape.
Director, screenwriter, editor and producer Augusto Sandino provides viewers with a very intimate peek into the lives of two indigenous men and peculiar characters. They speak their native indigenous language, Sandino often depriving viewers from subtitles, thereby creating a sense of exoticism and alienation. F’s connection to his land and its animals is both spiritual and physical. Carnal even. He eats a strawberry in both the culinary and the sexual sense. He caresses the vagina of a cow. And he disrobes the local women with his gaze, staring firmly into the landscape through their genitalia. This is not an exercise of bad taste. These depictions are graphic and crude yet warm and tender-hearted.
Colombo and F have been stripped, too. Bar their language, very little remains of their indigenous legacy. Christian traditions have replaced much of their creed, they live in a bricks and mortar house with electricity (if extreme poor and derelict). F dances to Spanish-language music (including a cathartic closing scene), and he learns English with the help of a tape in which an eerie voice asks him to repeat: “the morning is sunny”, “the afternoon is rainy”, and “the night is cold”. The language lesson is very descriptive of their gloomy and seemingly inevitable fate, as they slowly succumb to the devastating impact of urbanisation and industrialisation.
The Sumapaz Parramo highlands have become mostly lawless, controlled by ruthless criminals. The soil is covered in lead, dynamite and gunpowder. Most of locals have already fled, while others have been executed. Colombo and F are offered dollars in order to leave. Will they too surrender their colourful, grassy, cold, foggy and mostly treeless land, or will they become guardians of their sacred land? Their frail physique suggests that they have very little choice. Father and son attempt to light a flying lantern, but fail miserably at the small task – laying bare their helplessness and fragility.
The splendid cinematography combined with ghostly, sinister sound engineering make A Vanishing Fog a hypnotic experience. The highly saturated colours of nature are whitewashed by the milky fog. A river of blood swallows the mountains. A mysterious escalator invites F into the purple sky. Clouds swirl is kaleidoscopic fashion. A distant drumming, a persistent humming and a gurgled chirping insist that these highlands are indeed detached from this planet. This landscape is both enchanted and cursed. It will likely vanish as soon as the thick fog subdues. Perhaps F and his father should take the money and run up the escalator as soon as they can.
A Vanishing Fog has just premiered in Competition at the 25th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. A strong contender for the event’s top prizes. Unlike the land it portrays, this movie is unlikely to vanish anytime soon. This fog will probably envelope a film festival near you soon.