Thanks to indie distributor Grasshopper Film, one of the most unassumingly striking Latin American films in recent memory is currently playing in the United States. Arábia (Araby), directed by João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa, is an exquisite Brazilian wonder that turns road-trip tropes into a melancholic ode to working class trials and tribulations.
As seen in the trailer, the naturalistic feature follows Cristiano (Aristides de Sousa), a man on a quest to redirect his life away from the bad decisions in his past and into more hopeful pastures.
Narrated by the protagonist himself, this unforgettable poem of a movie sees him take on a wide assortment of jobs from those in rural areas to more industrial tasks in the southern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. During each stop, Cristiano’s path is marked by lessons learned from the fellow laborers he encounters, as well as those in power that force him to grapple with his place within the exploitative system.
One of those temporary friends, whom Cristiano remembers for a lifetime, is seen in the trailer sharing the notion that “everything a man accumulates in life, first into four little cardboard boxes that aren’t worth a hundred bucks at the pawnshop.” The phrase points to the insignificance of material possessions and fits right in with the drama’s overall philosophy about living in the moment.
The evocatively edited clip also shows local teenage boy Andre (Murilo Caliari), whose life in the lethargic town intertwines with Cristiano’s through a notebook where the hardworking wanderer wrote down his observations about a world ridden with injustices, the brevity of youth, and life’s simple blessings.
Handsomely featured throughout the preview is the beautiful song Raízes by Renato Teixeira, whose lyrics champion unpretentious joy in the countryside. The track is the perfect complement to Leonardo Feliciano’s ethereal cinematography and de Sousa’s poignant voiceover. Considering all its qualities, it’s not hyperbole to say Dumans and Uchoa’s first directorial collaboration is not to be missed.