Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Oblivion

Like all of Heddy Honigmann’s films, Oblivion, set in her native Lima, Peru, obliterates any previously held notions we might have had about the subjects she confronts, which, in this case, are intentional forgetfulness and the forgotten of Lima.

April 10, 2009

-By Maria Garcia


filmjournal/photos/stylus/78662-Oblivion_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Heddy Honigmann’s documentaries are about lives that most of us don’t lead—like those of subway musicians, taxi drivers or U.N. soldiers. If we are moved to distance ourselves from Honigmann’s subjects, the impulse doesn’t last because the subway musicians, for instance, turn out to be exiles, the taxi drivers are professionals battling Peru’s inflationary economy, and the U.N. soldiers do what many of us do to escape the harsher side of life—they listen to music.

In Oblivion, Honigmann returns to her native city of Lima, Peru, to speak to restaurant workers, craftsmen and street jugglers, all pushing against the pathos that threatens to engulf them. In the subtext of the film, there is Honigmann’s hallmark critique of irresponsible political and social institutions, but this documentary, unlike the others, seems to settle mostly in that hollow part of each of her subject’s souls. What we see are personalities formed around a fragile shell of heedlessness, which is inborn and original to Peruvians, an “oblivion” that is their destiny. For explanation and history, Honigmann turns to every society’s social scientist, the bartender: Jorge Kanashiro opens the film by mixing and serving a Pisco, a blend of lemons and sugar cane syrup, the national survival kit in a glass.

Piscos, we soon discover, sustain only the well-heeled; the rest of Lima can barely afford its ingredients. Honigmann, characteristically, seeks out those whose options don’t include anesthetizing themselves, like the restaurant workers who regularly serve the cocktail, and child acrobats and jugglers who perform at Lima’s busy intersections. The latter live on pennies a day, and sometimes they don’t survive their childhood at all. Unlike Honigmann’s Metal and Melancholy, also set in Peru’s capital city, Oblivion offers a picture not of conscious survival but of lives built upon an ability to forget. Decades of poverty, abandonment and isolation have apparently crystallized to form a nation where memory is deferred. When Honigmann encounters a 14-year-old shoeshine boy who tells her that he never dreams, she finds the consummate expression of that spiritual “oblivion”—and defies any abstract or oversimplified notions we may employ to explain it.

In the final sequence of Oblivion, we see a young man juggling small, clear balls in busy evening traffic. The balls appear hollow, but their reflective quality—they glisten in the headlights of the stopped cars—lends charm and magic to their appearance and to the boy’s performance. The balls are a metaphor for that crystallized core of inattention and hopelessness which characterizes Lima: The lights and the camera brought diversion, and even ignited the spark of life and humor that remains in the city and its people, but when they’re gone, Lima disappears. It’s swallowed up in the vortex of South America which, for most of the world, is a jumble of dictatorships, poverty and disappearing rain forests. If Oblivion is a little less engaging than Honigmann’s other documentaries because rather than having heart it seems to slowly lose heart, it nevertheless provides a glimpse of previously unseen lives—people who have endured disenfranchisement for so long that intentional forgetfulness is almost instinctual.


Film Review: Oblivion

Like all of Heddy Honigmann’s films, Oblivion, set in her native Lima, Peru, obliterates any previously held notions we might have had about the subjects she confronts, which, in this case, are intentional forgetfulness and the forgotten of Lima.

April 10, 2009

-By Maria Garcia


filmjournal/photos/stylus/78662-Oblivion_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Heddy Honigmann’s documentaries are about lives that most of us don’t lead—like those of subway musicians, taxi drivers or U.N. soldiers. If we are moved to distance ourselves from Honigmann’s subjects, the impulse doesn’t last because the subway musicians, for instance, turn out to be exiles, the taxi drivers are professionals battling Peru’s inflationary economy, and the U.N. soldiers do what many of us do to escape the harsher side of life—they listen to music.

In Oblivion, Honigmann returns to her native city of Lima, Peru, to speak to restaurant workers, craftsmen and street jugglers, all pushing against the pathos that threatens to engulf them. In the subtext of the film, there is Honigmann’s hallmark critique of irresponsible political and social institutions, but this documentary, unlike the others, seems to settle mostly in that hollow part of each of her subject’s souls. What we see are personalities formed around a fragile shell of heedlessness, which is inborn and original to Peruvians, an “oblivion” that is their destiny. For explanation and history, Honigmann turns to every society’s social scientist, the bartender: Jorge Kanashiro opens the film by mixing and serving a Pisco, a blend of lemons and sugar cane syrup, the national survival kit in a glass.

Piscos, we soon discover, sustain only the well-heeled; the rest of Lima can barely afford its ingredients. Honigmann, characteristically, seeks out those whose options don’t include anesthetizing themselves, like the restaurant workers who regularly serve the cocktail, and child acrobats and jugglers who perform at Lima’s busy intersections. The latter live on pennies a day, and sometimes they don’t survive their childhood at all. Unlike Honigmann’s Metal and Melancholy, also set in Peru’s capital city, Oblivion offers a picture not of conscious survival but of lives built upon an ability to forget. Decades of poverty, abandonment and isolation have apparently crystallized to form a nation where memory is deferred. When Honigmann encounters a 14-year-old shoeshine boy who tells her that he never dreams, she finds the consummate expression of that spiritual “oblivion”—and defies any abstract or oversimplified notions we may employ to explain it.

In the final sequence of Oblivion, we see a young man juggling small, clear balls in busy evening traffic. The balls appear hollow, but their reflective quality—they glisten in the headlights of the stopped cars—lends charm and magic to their appearance and to the boy’s performance. The balls are a metaphor for that crystallized core of inattention and hopelessness which characterizes Lima: The lights and the camera brought diversion, and even ignited the spark of life and humor that remains in the city and its people, but when they’re gone, Lima disappears. It’s swallowed up in the vortex of South America which, for most of the world, is a jumble of dictatorships, poverty and disappearing rain forests. If Oblivion is a little less engaging than Honigmann’s other documentaries because rather than having heart it seems to slowly lose heart, it nevertheless provides a glimpse of previously unseen lives—people who have endured disenfranchisement for so long that intentional forgetfulness is almost instinctual.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

BBoy for Life
Film Review: BBoy for Life

The dancing is familiar but the stakes are higher in this moving documentary set in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world. More »

Manakamana
Film Review: Manakamana

An observational documentary in which the camera captures the passengers of a cable-car cabin in Nepal. More »

Visions of Mary Frank
Film Review: Visions of Mary Frank

Deeply loving, if too slight, documentary about one of the great beauties of the New York art world, who always forged her own path. More »

The Jewish Cardinal
Film Review: The Jewish Cardinal

Informative, absorbing, but as obvious as its title and a bit too glib for its own good, this French import will appeal mainly to religious addicts fascinated by the feverishly agenda-ridden internal workings of the Catholic Church. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Draft Day
Film Review: Draft Day

Pro football manager faces crises on the most important day of his career in a well-tooled vehicle for Kevin Costner. More »

Rio 2
Film Review: Rio 2

Busy sequel to the popular animated feature follows the original's blue macaws on a journey from Rio de Janeiro to an endangered rainforest. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here