Review: ‘On the Margins’

A tough documentary look at a group of young Uruguayan slum dwellers, "On the Margins" paints a vivid, non-judgmental portrait of a hidden world. Filmmaker Mario Handler, a film prof who founded the Uruguay Cinematheque, adopts a neutral approach to these outsiders in open-ended scenes without closure or conclusions.

A tough documentary look at a group of young Uruguayan slum dwellers, “On the Margins” paints a vivid, non-judgmental portrait of a hidden world. Filmmaker Mario Handler, a film prof who founded the Uruguay Cinematheque, adopts a neutral approach to these outsiders in open-ended scenes without closure or conclusions. His subjects — a prostitute, a garbage scavenger, a thief and drug addict — offer his hand-held DV cam seemingly total access to their lives. The overall feeling is objective yet compassionate, presenting a realistic view of life in Latin American slums without sweetening the pill. It’s hoped interested pubcasters will give it a better airing than Venice did, in a screening interrupted over and over by a broken-down projector.

Neno, a petty thief of 17, describes how his time in juvenile detention centers has “toughened him up.” His sister Carina, 21, has recently become a prostitute like her mother. Like Carina, Milka is a single mother of 17. With her boyfriend in jail, she rummages through trash cans for things to sell. Fortunately, docu shows their lives are not all bleak drama, but contain moments of dancing and celebration, too.

On the Margins

Uruguay

Production

Produced, directed, written by Mario Handler. Camera (color, B&W, Beta SP), Handler; editors, Handler, Daniel Marquez.

Crew

Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (New Territories), Sept. 6, 2002. Spanish dialogue. Running time: 91 MIN.
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