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Foreign Film - Uruguay - The Pope's Toilet / El bano del Papa

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The Pope's Toilet / El bano del Papa
Cesar Troncoso, Virginia Mendez, Virginia Ruiz
Directed by Enrique Fernandez and Cesar Charlone
Spanish with English subtitles
Uruguay 2007
Film Movement 2009
97 minutes

The Pope’s Toilet / El bano del Papa is a charming, original movie. Though quite interesting, this foreign film DVD is best suited to those with a predisposition for this genre: the rather fluid story and the pacing do not make it an entry level experience. An official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, The Pope’s Toilet / El bano del Papa won awards at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival and the San Sebastian International Film Festival (to name a few). Film Movement always adds a short to its releases: Video 3000 is brilliant.

In this foreign film DVD from Uruguay (Spanish with English subtitles) the people of the very small village of Melo are all anxiously waiting the visit of Pope John Paul II.  They are motivated by their faith but also by the dream of getting rich from all the expected visitors. Each villager has his or her own get improve your fate quick scheme but small-time smuggler Beto has perhaps the best scheme of all: building a toilet to accommodate all the tourists who will come see the Pope.

This foreign film is about how hard life can be in small border towns and in South America. Beto and his pals are all bicycle couriers who smuggle dry goods from Brazil into Uruguay. This is rough work and a difficult way to eke out a living what with the border guards and so on.

The Pope’s Toilet / El bano del Papa is also about dreams. Beto is always looking for a way to improve his fate.  So is his daughter who is hoping her mother’s laundry service will provide enough funds to send her to journalism school.

The reason this DVD is not an entry level foreign film is a lot of it is about the daily grind and the anticipation of the pontiff’s visit. The story does not advance but the main characters become more and more complex as they and their dreams are revealed. Beto’s scheme to raise the funds to build the toilet is also on the complex side. The movie’s pace does pick up a bit towards the end on the big day.

As all other Film Movement releases, this DVD comes with a short film as a special feature. Video 3000 is a claymation and animation short about a guy who buys a VCR that does not work and a remote that does. This animated short film is quite cinematic with some very interesting camera angles and shots. It is also absolutely and totally stunning visually: the “special effects” alone make this one stand out.

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