Review: ‘Estamira’

A sweeping portrait of a schizophrenic woman who scavenges in a garbage dump outside Rio de Janeiro, "Estamira" can't decide whether it's about the scavengers whose existence revolves around the reeking dumps or mental illness. It's still fascinating enough to be worth a look by fests and TV nets with an eye and heart for socially-themed material.

A long, sweeping portrait of a schizophrenic woman who scavenges in a huge garbage dump outside Rio de Janeiro, “Estamira” can’t decide whether it’s about the scavengers whose existence revolves around the reeking dumps or mental illness. Directed by Marcos Prado, who produced the notable 2002 doc “Bus 174,” pic is badly in need of more structured editing to bring out the apocalyptic vision that one feels is lurking under the surface. It’s still fascinating enough to be worth a look by fests and TV nets with an eye and heart for socially-themed material.

At 63, Estamira has been suffering from psychoses for 20 years. First hour of the film shows her picking through the Jardim Gramacho garbage dump. In pic’s second half, we learn the horrific origins of her illness and that she has children and grandkids who have sought psychiatric treatment for her and tried to keep her out of the dump. Yet she seems at ease there, with other outcasts from society. The film’s powerful imagery, which retains its ability to startle in spite of less-than-ideal DV origins, was filmed by Leandro Lima.

Estamira

Brazil

Production

A Zazen Producoes production. (International sales: Zazen Producoes, Rio de Janeiro.) Produced by Marcos Prado, Jose Padilha. Directed, written by Marcos Prado.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, DV-to-35m), Leandro Lima; editor, Tuco; music, Decio Rocha. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Cinema of the World), Jan. 28, 2005. Running time: 121 MIN.
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