The continuity between “Acqua Movie” and the previous “Árido Movie”, from 2005, is evident — in both, the South and the North, or the Southeast and the Northeast, meet. In “Árido”, someone leaves Rio de Janeiro to visit his family, in a city in the interior of Pernambuco. This time, the migrant, a nationally known TV news presenter, suffers a heart attack and dies right in the opening sequence.
The son’s resentment, say, runs all through the early part of the film, and perhaps it’s not an exaggeration to call it somewhat academic. Lírio Ferreira lingers for minutes on the initial roughness of this relationship. This is not the problem, but the non-inventive or synthetic character of this segment. Images don’t vibrate: they obey conventions.
Then, fortunately, comes the trip —which mother and son make together, of course— and arrives at Nova Rocha. There is the family of Cicero’s father, who, by the way, is in charge of the region. There, his uncle, the mayor of the city, stands out. The seduction game around Cicero pits Duda against her ex-husband’s relatives. And the mayor is an excellent type, as affable as he is menacing.
Or, if you prefer, the dispute takes place between the southern reason against the use and abuse of power that the film verifies in the interior of Pernambuco. The abuse of power will be seen by the action of the jagunços in the service of their uncle, whose main objective is to take the land where the Indians live as soon as possible. It is not by chance that he believes that the family arrived at the place before the Indians themselves.
On the side of reason, we have Duda’s arguments – the father never liked the family, he never wanted to go back or see his relatives, they are dangerous people et cetera.
In the middle of this are, of course, the waters. Waters that symbolize the new Northeast here, as well as the name Nova Rocha derives from the fact that the original city, Rocha, was submerged in order to build a dam in the place. Waters that come, in large part, from the transposition of the São Francisco River. They seem to guarantee a prosperous, modern and, of course, backward country interior.
The Pernambuco part of the film is by far the most interesting. The most inventive one too. With just one shot we know the boy is seeing a transposition channel. Three more plans for electronic devices and we already know the essentials about Nova Rocha (or Novo Nordeste), modern and rustic. A quick intervention by the jagunços in a demonstration by the Indians and we know which side the local power is on. Et cetera.
The struggle between Duda and the coronelesque family also involves this – tradition versus transformation, form versus reason. These opposing instances immediately fight for the ashes of the illustrious journalist — the mayor wants to bury him with a band, presence of the governor and everything else. In the long run, it is Cicero’s soul that is in dispute.
Whose side will the young man stand? Of his relatives, with the gallery of menacingly illustrious portraits, or of his mother, for whom the existence of the Indians means knowledge and progress, and not the other way around?
With this, we can divide “Acqua Movie” into two distinct parts, which follow the introduction, which is by the way very synthetic and effective following a tormented phone call between Cicero’s father and mother, followed by the confirmation of his death.
In each sequence, the fight for Cicero’s soul is at stake. Which seems to make the boy a beautiful and current metaphor for today’s Brazil. He seems to embody a young country that does not know the direction to take – whether that of a difficult evolution based on reason or that of a path of power founded on ignorance and backwardness. That is how the fight that seems to occupy Lírio Ferreira is defined – not between North and South, but between light and darkness.