“Calixto,” whose sardonic Spanish title translates as “There is no land without an owner,” is reportedly the first feature film shot in Honduras. While pic is swept along by the kind of passionate conviction and magnificent black-and-white imagery that suffused the early films of Glauber Rocha, its problematic production history is almost as despairing as its scathing tale of feudal tyranny. Filmmaker Sami Kafati started pic in 1986 with no support and no crew, and died shortly after its final edit. It was restored and post-produced in France (it recently screened in Cannes’ Directors Fortnight). Despite its historic and aesthetic importance, “Calixto” is unlikely to find an audience outside academic venues.
Landowner Don Calixto rules his domain with patriarchal absolutism. His son, a chip off the old block, may be more modern in dress and mode of transportation than his cowboy-clad, pickup driving old man, but he can rape and pillage with the best. Combining the exploitative advantages of feudalism and capitalism, father and son meet with American investors and local politicos to divide the spoils, while the obsequious mayor, completely and happily in Calixto’s pocket, rewrites laws and documents to enforce Calixto’s dominion.
The peasants who work for him either have made themselves blind to his wrongdoings or cannot conceive of opposing him. The trusted cowboys who ride his range and enjoy his paternalistic supervision do not believe that their desire to build houses of their own on unclaimed land will precipitate the same sort of murderous reprisals that befell those who came before them.
Image quality is superb, as is the non-professional cast, but apparently some soundtrack elements could not be entirely reconstituted, resulting in occasional scratchiness and static.