As I walked the red carpet into the Tribeca Cinemas last night for the New York City grand premiere of Nao Por Acaso (Not by Chance), I was eager to see renowned actor Rodrigo Santoro, aka “the Brazilian Tom Cruise” in this drama that is showing as part of the 6th edition of Cine Fest Petrobras Brasil.Even though I knew little of the film beforehand, I was pleasantly surprised with the psychological aspects of this unusual plot in which the two main characters never interact but have parallel stories. Before the opening credits, there was tremendo tumulto with most people in the packed theatre chatting in portugues. Then, everyone cheered when cinematographer Pedro Farkas proudly introduced the film and excused that director Philippe Barcinski couldn’t be present (unfortunately, Rodrigo was nowhere to be seen either!).
Nao Por Acaso, produced by Fernando Meirelles (City Of God, The Constant Gardener), tells the stories of two men in São Paulo : Ênio, (Leonardo Medeiros) and Pedro (Rodrigo Santoro) who become overly obsessed to reach the ultimate mastery of their professions. Ênio who works as a supervisor at a traffic control operation center, has gone crazy figuring out the mathematical calculations that time traffic lights in between street intersections to prevent traffic congestion. Likewise, Pedro, who builds pool tables at his father’s store, develops a mathematical mind-set as he obsessively struggles to reach the absolute mastery of techniques in snooker (a type of pool.) Even though both Enio and Pedro don’t know each other, a single, tragic event changes their fates forever: Pedro’s girlfriend and Enio’s ex-wife both die in the same car accident. Feeling that they are incapable of controlling their own lives, both men realize that their blind determination to excel have become nothing but an absurd obsession. As a desperate Pedro is haunted by memories of his beloved Teresa (Branca Messina), he meets Lúcia (Letícia Sabatella) a business woman who works at a coffee marketing company. Unintentionally, as Pedro gets involved with Lúcia he starts reviving with her the same habits he used to have with the late Teresa. Por su parte, shortly after the accident, Ênio is surprised by the sudden visit of his 16-year old daughter Bia (Rita Batata). At first, their relationship is awkward but, bonded by their joint grief, they start getting to know each other and slowly, Enio starts freeing himself from his self-imposed monotonous work life. In Nao Por Acaso, fate presents both Enio and Pedro new promising chances in life. Judging by the film’s open ending, Enio and Pedro might decide to move on from their long-lived obsessions and take advantage of what life has to offer, however hard that might be.
This is Barcinsky’s first feature film, after having directed documentaries and TV series, including City of Men. The film is beautifully and strategically filmed, with many shots of São Paulo, and cyclical scenes that reveal how love can break even the most controlling and obsessive of behaviors. As opposed to the tiresome plots and structures of typical dramatic Hollywood films, Nao Por Acaso is a difficult film to digest, with psychological puzzles and without a black-and-white happy ending. Because, just like Enio and Pedro discover, there is not an exact formula for life.
Nao Por Acaso is playing again on Thursday August 14th at 8pm at Tribeca Cinemas (54 Varick St, Subway: 1/A/C/E to Canal)