I can’t get over how many people pitch up to watch features screened by the Cheltenham Film Society. I trotted over to the Bacon Theatre on Tuesday to view, at the invitation of J, a Brazilian production, Linha de Passé and was stunned to witness throngs of gentlefolk flocking into the building. I genuinely believed there was something else on at the complex; I’m so used to watching films at Gloucester’s Guildhall in an audience of twenty or so (on a good night) that I was thrown by such a multitude. About 250-300 cinema lovers attend each screening at Cheltenham and this rather heartens me but, simultaneously, makes me a tad disappointed that my merry home city lags behind its more well-groomed neighbour. Anyhow, my visit was wholly positive and I’ll attend again and possibly even join.
The film itself proved engaging and thought-provoking. Linha de Passé transports the viewer into a rough and ready Sao Paulo ghetto and scrutinises the lives of an ageing and impecunious single mother and her four sons all of whom scheme and dream of ways out of their impoverished existences. One son dreams of becoming a top footballer and the resultant fame and fortune; one, a petrol pump attendant, is drawn to intense evangelical worship; another seeks money and women and is tempted to supplement a courier’s meagre income with the spoils of increasingly less petty crime; and the youngest, significantly darker skinned than his siblings, sporadically attends school, possesses plenty of streetwise impudence and obsesses about becoming a bus driver. Rich stories of the quartet intertwine offering dark glimpses of the despair that accompanies an inability to escape inequity and poverty; lighter moments indicating earthy humour and a reassuringly benevolent community spirit offer some relief. Hope and hopelessness arrive in equal measures but hopelessness always seems to vanquish.