Somewhere in between a Werner Herzog mind trip, an ethnographic documentary and an oblique fiction, Mexican director Yulene Olaizola's third feature arose from her artistic residency at the Canadian island of Fogo, off the coast of Newfoundland. Essentially, it's a dazzlingly shot, opaquely moody tone poem, loosely fictionalizing a possible resettlement of the island's inhabitants to the mainland, and following a couple of locals who decide to remain behind and reminisce about their hard lives. Ms. Olaizola frames it as a sort of poignant farewell to a harsh, unforgiving frontier, and as the end of an era, employing local residents and their patchwork of accents and traditions to record the demanding conditions of the island and the desolately wondrous landscape, breathtakingly photographed by Diego García.

     Much like the snowy, empty landscape itself, the residents are stoic, craggy rocks, but the film gently and genuinely reveals their fragility and their doubts, wondering how much stoicism can a man take, asking what's the point of staying in a place where there's nothing worth staying for. Fogo doesn't really answer the questions it poses (it's worth asking if it ever meant to), and its shifting, floating lack of definition (neither entirely immersive documentary nor openly fictional) can play against it. But even if there's not much of an idea where the film wants to go, it's a journey well worth taking.

Cast: Norman Foley, Ron Broders, Joseph Dwyer, Louise Broders, Tim Wilson, Mayles Penton

Director: Yulene Olaizola
Screenplay: Ms. Olaizola, Rubén Imaz, Diego García, with Messrs. Foley, Broders and Dwyer
Cinematography: Mr. García (colour, processing by Labo Digital)
Sound: Samuel Larson
Music: Pauline Oliveros
Editor: Mr. Imaz
Producers: Ms. Olaizola, Mr. Imaz (Malacosa Cine in co-production with the Mexican Film Institute and the Fogo Island Arts Corporation)
Mexico/Canada, 2012, 61 minutes

Screened: DocLisboa 2012 official competition advance screener, Lisbon, October 8th 2012


Ed Healy said…
Fogo did not resettle in the 1960s, although unsubtly encouraged to do so. We formed a Fishermen's Cooperative, built some bigger boats, and pressed on into the future. Fogo Island remains a determined and optimistic fishing community.
Sra. Olaizola and Diego Garcia took as their premise that the resettlement process had in fact succeeded, and that we had all left, but for a few rugged individualists. Norm and Ron still live there as does Ron's mother Louise. I think Cameron does too.
Most of us love the film, as it reminds us how close we came to losing our beloved island home.

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