“You know why this is my favourite tree…’cause it’s tipped over, and it’s still growing.”
Not long ago I spent a summer in Florida. After a year of travelling alone through South and Central America, I was basically broke when I got there, which meant that my favourite places to be in were the gas stations where I could buy coffee and cheap food, and the public libraries with free internet where I could escape from the heat.
There, in the libraries, I connected with the other side of the American Dream. Every morning I met homeless people who were reading books, watching movies or just hanging out waiting until they could take the bus to a shelter or an indeterminate destination.
This environment slowly became familiar to me, and those people who walk the streets pushing a supermarket trolley stopped being reflections of the fictional characters that I had seen in movies, they became part of my daily landscape.
The Florida Project, the third movie written and directed by Sean Baker, took me back to those days, to those desolate streets that look like asphalt deserts, where nothing is as it seems.
The film follows a group of children who live in Orlando, just minutes away from Disney World, but in a reality that is far from a fairy tale. Whether it is the style of the movie or the way that those characters had already stopped seeming fictional to me, but the movie felt more like a documentary than fiction.
The film’s protagonist is Moonee, a six-year-old girl who is curious and jovial, but also haughty and aggressive, perhaps due to the environment she lives in: the cheap motels and housing projects along the highway where the forgotten people live. Her neglectful mother is struggling to make ends meet, so Moonee and her friends run wild in an urban landscape that they’ve turned into their own version of a theme park.
Willem Dafoe plays Bobby, the manager of the motel where Moonee and her mother live, a sweet man who seems to have seen everything in life. He truly shines in this role, which is why he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
The greatest thing about this movie is that it gives us a close up of the misery, but also offers colour with absurd and funny moments that can still make us laugh. Baker leads us to conclude that nothing in this life is black and white, that while some live in fantasy world, others live in shades of grey, waking up every day with little more than the anguishing need to get by.
The final sequence of the movie is simply amazing, a scene full of adrenaline and fear leading to a poetic and unexpected ending.
I am surprised this movie was not nominated for best picture – it’s one the best films of 2017. Authentic and real cinema that is impossible to ignore. Even with its darkness, it is the kind of film that makes you fall in love with life again and again.
The Florida Project will be in theatres on March 21 and will be one of the movies in the Gems Section of Cartagena International Film Festival #PuroVoltajeFICCI58 from February 28 to March 5. @Caro_Escarlata