Varsity World Film Week: “The Boy and the World” – An Epic Coming of Age Tale Without Words
– by Lee Greene
This is Ashland Independent Film Festival’s Varsity World Film Week (October 2-8). Twelve films from around the world are being screened daily at the Varsity Theatre in Ashland. And they are all wonderful films. Unlike the ordinary fare being shown at your local cinema, which has little choice but to show whatever their distributor delivers, be it good , bad or indifferent, films get specially selected to be in a festival like Varsity World Film Week. Only the cream of the crop get in. I was invited to screen and review a couple of the films being shown now in Varsity World Film Week and the first one I saw was a 2013 Brazilian film, The Boy and the World (O Menino e o Mundo).
Before you decide maybe you’ll pass on this one due to the inconvenience and struggle of having to deal with Spanish subtitles, let me clue you in, there are NO subtitles. The film has been described in some quarters as “silent”. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s true that the film doesn’t have any dialogue, but it is filled with wonderful music and entertaining sound effects. The Boy and the World is a beautiful animated film; beautiful in all senses of the word. It’s certainly beautiful to look at – gorgeously drawn, colored and animated. The sound track is equally appealing. And the story is a beautiful coming of age tale, spun in a very unique, effective and powerful way.
The film opens with the protagonist, obviously a young boy (not so obviously named “Cuca”, but take my word for that, and it makes it easier to discuss the tale), drawn simply in a simple world, standing over and looking at a colorful stone. His world is what we would describe as a rural one, with open fields, simply drawn creatures like a butterfly, chicken & chicks, geese, a horse, a squirrel, etc. He walks along a simply drawn blue river, all to the sounds of pleasant rhythmic music and appropriate sound effects.
A bell begins to ring, and he must return to his home. There we see his father, standing outside the home with a packed suitcase, beside his mother. There is a brief aside (apparently a flashback) of Cuca’s father playing a simple flute, making sweet music and blowing colored bubbles (of music) from the flute. The father goes to a simple train station, where he boards a whimsical caterpillar-like train and disappears into the distance. In another flashback of Cuca with his father playing the flute, we see Cuca chasing and capturing the music bubble and storing it in a canister. Several times later in the film. Cuca fetches the canister, opens it, and on placing it to his ear hears the memory of his father sweetly playing the flute. A dream sequence follows. Cuca is in bed, dreaming that his father has returned and the family is enjoying a meal together. But he wakes, and the father is not present. He then packs a photo of the family (Cuca with father and mother) in a suitcase and sets off on his journey.
If you thought I was going to continue to give you a blow by blow of the journey, well, think again. I will tell you that it’s an epic journey, and exposes him to, and teaches him about, the bigger world. He discovers that people are leaving the countryside to go to the city for work. The city is not as simple and bucolic as the countryside of his origin. It’s much more cluttered, dark and foreboding. He encounters all sorts of technology, which is creating upheaval – including television hawking consumables, war machines wreaking havoc during battles, machines of the industrial revolution displacing people from jobs (the same people who migrated to the city from the countryside for those jobs). He comes across many of the diversions people create to entertain themselves and distract them from their troubles – cocktail lounges and sports arenas in the city, music festivals outside the city, etc. All of this is beautifully rendered on the screen – colorful, entirely comprehensible in all its simplicity, and very well done. And eventually, we see Cuca back in the home where he began, though if you want to know the circumstances of his life upon his return, you’re going to have to see the film, as I won’t be providing any further spoilers here.
I will give you the opportunity to see the trailer for the film:
The film has showings at the Varsity Theatre, 166 E. Main Street, Ashland, on Oct. 2 at 3:50 pm, Oct. 3 & 4 at 1:10 pm, Oct. 5 & 8 at 6:10 pm, Oct. 6 at 3:30 pm and Oct. 7 at 12:50 pm. Get tickets at the Varsity Theatre box office or online at http://bit.ly/1VbIdF1. For information and schedules for all 12 films being shown during Varsity World Film Week, see online at http://bit.ly/1YDYO3A.