Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
PSIFF ’15: NN
can you hide an extra body where it won’t be noticed? A mass grave might work,
if you have access. According to his solid intelligence, a forensic
anthropologist knows with certainty there is a surplus corpse at his latest
excavation, but identifying it will be the agonizingly tricky part. The past
becomes a torturous burden in Héctor Gálvez’s NN,
screens this weekend at the 2015 Palm Springs International Film Festival.
team had multiple sources identifying the location of the grave and its
occupants. The man in the blue sweater was not supposed to be there. There are
no papers or distinctive markings on the skeletal remains, except for a photo
of a woman in her twenties. Graciela is a presumed widow, who believes the body
might be her long missing husband. She gets some of its circumstantial details
correct, but others do not quite match up. Nevertheless, she holds out hope for
closure through a DNA test.
though Fidel is not a touchy-feely sort of person, he forms an ambiguous bond
with the haunted woman. In some respects, they are kindred spirits, tilting at
windmills, even though her grown son and his superiors in the justice
bureaucracy would prefer to let the past stay dead.
NN (a form of shorthand for “John Doe”)
carries all sorts of implicit criticism of the Fujimori era, it does not
belabor its political points (and fudges its dates, presumably for the sake of
ambiguity). Still, Fidel’s team could have just as easily investigated some
Shining Path atrocities as well. After all, there is a reason Fujimori’s
get-tough policies were so popular. Were he on the ballot today, he would
probably carry a sizable plurality, if not an outright majority.
part of NN’s virtue is its quietness.
Gálvez never hits the audience over the head, preferring to let them simmer in
murky intrigue. Yet, despite its reserve, NN
should not be dismissed as Slow Cinema. There is real plot here, entailing
serious stakes. As Fidel, Paul Vega scrupulously shuns histrionics.
Nonetheless, he is so tightly wound and deeply repressed, he looks like he
might shatter if he tipped over. While Antonieta Pari’s Graciela goes more for
the gut, it is still a rigorously disciplined, exquisitely dignified
Various descriptions make NN sound like CSI as
reconceived by Samantha Power, but it is more of an examination of grief and
the long term effects of living with death. It is a well put together package,
nicely underscored by Pauchi Sasaki’s subtle musical cues. Still, some wider
context would have given it greater perspective and resonance. Recommended for
its world weary restraint, NN screens
tomorrow (1/2) and Monday (1/5) during the 2015 PSIFF.
Labels: Peruvian Cinema, PSIFF '15