GOODBYE MOMO (Leonardo Ricagni, 2006)

Obdulio Varela (Mathias Acuña, appealing), an eleven-year-old African-Uruguayan, sells newspapers on the streets of Montevideo. Obdulio lives with his two sisters, to pay for whose school uniforms he is saving his income, and their superstitious grandmother, who, when she is not praying, presses her grandson also to go to school. (If the film explains the parents’ absence, I missed this.) We see Obdulio help a blind man across a hectic street. This man asks Obdulio to read to him about the current bus strike from the day’s newspaper. We watch this kind, polite youngster steal away without a word to the blind man. Obdulio, we learn, cannot read or write.
     Dedicated somewhat pompously to missing children and those upcoming children who will change the world, writer-director Leonardo Ricagni’s A dios MoMo takes place during a marathon Carnival that lasts forty nights. Obdulio is taken under the wing of Barrilete, the night janitor at the newspaper office building, who teaches him to read and write, as well as make him promise to go to school, before—literally—vanishing into thin air. (Characters of the night tend to do this in this “magical” film.) The film is coy as to whether Barrilete even exists; this “Maestro” may be the boy’s self-projection as Obdulio hews to the hard road of achieving literacy on his own. Presumably Barrilete writes lyrics that Obdulio relays (on anonymous sheets of paper) to the Murgas, singers at Carnival, and presumably Obdulio learns about things from the contents and sheer beauty of these lyrics; but, again, Obdulio may be doing all this entirely on his own. For a film many of whose frames are crammed full of human characters and activity, this one does have an oddly solitudinous “feel” to it.
     Boring, insipid film.


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