First screening of “Macondo” at RiverRun today

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by Eric Ginsburg

Macondo first shows at RiverRun today at 11 a.m. and again on April 26 at 10 a.m., both times at UNCSA Babcock.

This story of Chechnyan refugees living in an Austrian housing project is so well acted that it would be easy to forget it isn’t a documentary. The film opens in such a way that it actually takes a minute to decipher the genre, a fact that is less surprising considering that director Sudabeh Mortezai’s previous films are both docs about Muslims in Iran.

The film orbits the life of Ramasan, an 11-year-old boy played by Ramasan Minkailov, and his character — a well as his mother and his neighbor Isa — is absolutely engrossing.

Ramasan and his family are struggling to make it, with the boy acting as a father figure to his younger sisters, grocery shopping for the family and interpreting for his mother. Isa, who moves into the housing complex, knew Ramasan’s father, which sets the scene for an initial friendship that unravels as Ramasan deals with what kind of person his father really was. And his life only complicates further as legal troubles arise.

The decision not to track the film with moody music, or at all, was a risky one, but it’s a choice that adds to Macondo’s power. Magnificent camerawork follows Ramasan at close proximity, adding intimacy to a film. It is full of beautiful imagery too, with scenes like the boy stabbing a couch in the woods that, to him, represents Isa and another where neighborhood kids turn an old mattress into a makeshift trampoline.

Mortezai has created a truly magical and moving piece, so much so that watching her previous films feels like a must.

Dir. Sudabeh Mortezai, 98 min., Austria, 2014