There’s some really interesting stories coming from Brazilian filmmakers right now - a push towards female protagonists that’s well ahead of Hollywood’s trend, some fascinating independent voices, and a blossoming LGBTIQ+ sector. Combining all three in ‘The City of the Future’ (‘A Cidade do Futuro’) seemed like an exciting adventure into foreign cinema, and I was very keen to catch it for this year’s Melbourne Queer Film Festival.
Gilmar (Gilmar Araujo) and Igor (Igor Santos) have a secret relationship going on, hidden from their small town of Serra do Ramalho - but Gilmar wants to get married, though Igor is scared to. However, Gilmar is also seeing Milla (Milla Suzart), and when she falls pregnant, the three form an unconventional relationship, despite the strong opposition from their community and family.
The film isn’t so much concerned with homosexuality or bisexuality, rather the concept of a polyamorous relationship. The story is also set against the backdrop of the town and its formation - the families here were forcefully relocated to this dry and unforgiving region in the 1960s in order to make way for a hydroelectric power plant - hence ‘The City of The Future’. The film plays with these concepts of the upheaval of the past and the controversial relationship of the future, the struggle to accept change, and the idea of tradition versus new and unexplored paths.
All three main actors do a solid job, all the more impressive given that none have acted professionally before. Their relationship is complex, but that doesn’t hinder the love they show for each other, nor the pain when they’re pushed apart.
Their relationship is complex, but that doesn’t hinder the love they show for each other, nor the pain when they’re pushed apart.
Unfortunately the story itself, despite its apparently simple premise, is a struggle to comprehend. The timeline jumps around so much, with little to guide us in these movements, that it’s unnecessarily confusing. There are big holes in time missing from the film, with no explanation of what happened, and without any real way to gauge their size. We’re left to fill these gaps in for ourselves, as we jump from event to event with the context missing. For instance, in one scene Igor is looking for work, 15 minutes later he’s working selling insurance door-to-door, and ten more minutes on he’s a DJ at a radio station.
It’s hardly groundbreaking work, and a little slow-paced, with a story that’s too black-and-white from writer Cláudio Marques who co-directed with Marília Hughes Guerreiro, both having previously collaborated on ‘After The Rain’ (‘Depois da Chuva’). However, ‘The City of the Future’ does raise an interesting question, one which will no doubt start to be discussed more in queer cinema. Fascinating performances and watchable characters can’t save this perplexingly-paced script, but it does have a nice message of being true to who you are.