It struck me that it’s not in every country you can pick up an abandoned baby on a rubbish dump, and simply keep it as your own. But that’s what the young Venezuelan mother and her little son did in the film Hermano. That means brother, and that is what the abandoned baby became to the young boy.
This was the second Venezuelan film for me in this year’s ¡Viva! film festival at Cornerhouse. There are many similarities between Hermano and La Hora Cero; the poor quarters where life is cheap and gun crimes and other violence are of the everyday kind. Where the young start out much as other young people do, only to find that too much is against them and they stand very little chance of getting out successfully, or of living to an old age.
Hermano is also an incredibly good film, but with an ending which took me by surprise and I am certain it was meant to, because of the way it was done. If not, we’d have been more aware of how the penultimate scene played out, and the element of surprise would have failed.
So, it was sad, and although much of the film was sad, there was hope for most of it, too. The foundling, who turned out not to be a cat after all, went by the nickname Gato, and he and his brother Julio (who really wanted a cat) are top football players in their barrio division, about to play in the final. They are discovered by a talent scout and have hopes of signing with Caracas.
Julio deals in drugs, while Gato is an innocent, who doesn’t even quite understand how the girl he’s in love with ended up pregnant (by someone else). Their mother works hard looking after them and she helps them live and breathe football.
And then disaster strikes, and the question is how this will affect them. Because it is fiction and a film, you expect that something will work out, despite all the signs to the contrary. It does, but not as you imagine it.
Wonderful for the football, and a wonderful film. Sad, but scary, when you consider the very real reality of life in Venezuela when you are poor.