Rain is singing in the village of the dead
Scene from "Rain is singing in the village of the dead". Photo: Disclosure.

*originally published in Esquinas Magazine

"Fson, get in the water and I'll catch a fish for you”. Enchanted and conflicted, the young Krahô Indian faces the churning water near the waterfall, but does not join in the dance of the dead man who calls him. If he did, he would go up in flames like the branch that flings into the waters to test them. Illuminated in silver tones by the moon, it goes back into the forest. That's how Rain is Singing in the Village of the Dead begins, with a poetic and somewhat timid introduction to a gigantic theme hidden in Ihjãc's “hero's journey”. Is this the death of the father? Our relationship with the dead?

Scene from “Rain is singing in the village of the dead”. Photo: Disclosure.

Our hero is just a 15-year-old boy, married to Kôtô, father of a baby, Tepto. He needs to organize the funeral ritual of the one who tries to seduce him into the river, his father. Once the ceremony is complete, however, the son's link with his father needs to be broken, and Ihjãc is not prepared for that, let alone to become a shaman. Even so, the “mecarõ” would come for him if he did not accept his fate, as Crate, the elderly shaman, warns. In the hope that the spirits would forget him, Ihjãc goes to the city to return when the rain is already falling on his village of Pedra Branca.

Rain made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival – where it won the Un Certain Regard award – in 2018, the same year it was selected for competition at the São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro festivals. The feature is a Portuguese-Brazilian production due to its directors pair, Renée Nader Messora and João Salaviza, from Lisbon, and classified as fiction, although we can broaden the reality of this definition keeping in mind a notable documentary concern in the film, a duality that according to Messora “allows a different approach to each sequence”.

Scene from “Rain is singing in the village of the dead”. Photo: Disclosure.

The direction intersperses a more ethnographic approach (although the filmmakers emphasize that they do not intend to portray indigenous peoples in their entirety, not even the krahô as a whole), less intrusive – reminiscent of the documentary’s aesthetic – with more poetic scenes. The camera in some scenes follows the characters closely, follows them backwards (like one of the spirits that pursue Ihjãc), portrays profiles in the umbra of the bonfire in a ritual, faces glowing in the light of the golden hour, or children dancing with tree leaves. on fire. 

More than an enrichment of the sensorial experience, the sound in the work is always an ensign of something that is to come – the macaws, the fire, the rupture by the sales announcements in the city or by the rhythm of forró, the rain, the truck on the road. . It works as a reminder that even without the photographic image, something is present in that scenario, at that moment; a third eye for its director duo. The sound capture was made by Vitor Aratanha, who together with his partner Amxykwyj, also took care of the translation from Krahô to Portuguese during filming. The ceremonial chants are the only untranslated passages. According to Salaviza, their language is a ritual language, an ancient dialect of which it is possible to understand parts and themes, but not its completeness, like Latin. 

"And after we cry, it's over." In the film's coda, Ihjãc needs to return to Pedra Branca, his father's log is still waiting to be decorated and a funeral ritual needs to be performed. After an intense dive into Krahô culture, a succinct critique of the agribusiness that has been threatening indigenous peoples for decades, Messora and Salaviza return to the central topic of the work: the Krahô's relationship with death and longing. “Don't date your widower even in your dreams. In your dreams, refuse the food of the mecarons.” For them, the dead are seen as a threat to the living, hence the rush to perform the final ceremony, a mark of the end of mourning for the loved one and the beginning of oblivion.

Rain is Singing in the Village of the Dead it's part of Show Brazil Cinema Now! promoted by Itaú Cultural on its website. Until August 1st, it presents four films that symbolize the current and the power of Brazilian audiovisual. The selection is curated by Francesca Azzi, from Zeta Films. Besides Rain, the films Arabia are available for free (Affonso Uchôa and João Dumans, 2017); Azougue Nazaré (Tiago Melo, 2018); and Inferninho (Guto Parente and Pedro Diógenes, 2018).

Read also Indigenous perspectives point to another possible future, article published in issue #50 of arte!brasileiros which deals with a change of view by museums and major art institutions in the country towards contemporary indigenous production, for their programming, at a time when attacks on native peoples in Brazil are increasing.

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