Brazilian cinema vet Eduardo Coutinho’s latest docu travels to northeastern state Paraiba on an improvisational mission to simply find interesting folk who’ll talk about their lives — and finds richly entertaining personalities in a single rural outpost. “The End and the Beginning” — the title signifies helmer’s apparent fear of and fascination with mortality, which few of his devout elderly interviewees share — is almost as unvarying in pace as life has been for these drought-ridden backland dwellers. Yet the docu will enlighten and charm patient viewers in offshore noncommercial settings.
Having no set game plan, Coutinho and crew luck out in finding Rosa, a young elementary schoolteacher who knows everybody within the radius of her volunteer Children’s Mission work. Decision is made to focus entirely on her native Aracas, where many of the residents aren’t just her neighbors but relatives. Exclusively focusing on elders (median age 70), the helmer doesn’t capture everyday life here. But there’s a wealth of humor, philosophy, folksy religious belief and sheer gumption. Even the most reluctant participants end up delighted by the attention paid them — as we are delighted by their irrepressible spirit, resilient despite poverty and toil.