From April ’12 Spotlight: This year the 28th annual Chicago Latino Film Festival (CLFF) brings us Reus from Uruguay. Barrio Reus is the name of a Jewish enclave in Montevideo, now a slum near the waterfront docks, and one of the highlights of the film is a bar mitzvah ceremony set in Montevideo’s oldest shul. In some ways Reus is a standard gangster flick, but the acting is excellent and the interfamily dynamics have an intimate, lived-in quality that makes the inevitable deaths truly heart-breaking.
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I usually don’t comment on my colleagues’ reviews. (After all we’re all entitled to our own opinions, right?) But sometimes they make mistakes & I decide you should know. In this case, Ben Sachs writes in the READER: “…observations of barrio life are generally illuminating, focusing on the sort of neighborhood landmarks that are usually overlooked. The filmmakers even stage a few scenes in Uruguay’s oldest standing synagogue for a superfluous subplot that nonetheless conveys a strong sense of place.” He’s wrong. The synagogue scenes are part of an integral subplot. “Don Elias” still has deep ties to his old neighborhood, so if you don’t get that, Ben, then I’m afraid you’ve missed the point…
Reus es un barrio de comerciantes judíos, es imposible que se pase por alto esa parte de la trama. De hecho, es parte de la trama fundamental. Creo que el problema de comprensión puede pasar por el hecho de que es una historia localista. Todos los uruguayos sabemos que es REUS y quienes viven ahí.
Reus is a neighborhood of Jewish merchants, it is impossible to overlook that part of the plot. In fact, part of the basic plot. I think the problem of understanding can go through that is a parochial history. Everybody in Uruguay knows REUS and those who live there.
Leho (REUS`s Production Designer)
Thanks much for weighing in Leho! I do have friends from Uruguay so I checked with them when writing my initial piece for the JUF News, but even when I first watched REUS I was sure that identifying Don Elias as a Jewish man with deep ties to his neighborhood was a critical plot point. The argument with his wife about where to hold their son’s Bar Mitzvah was a defining element of his character, therefore not the least bit “superfluous.”
And to you: great production design! Bravo!