El Baño del Papa

Movies
4 out of 5 stars
El bano.jpg
A harsh admonishment of organised religion is wrapped up in one of the sweetest films you’re likely to see this year in the unfortunately (but appropriately) titled ‘El Baño del Papa’ (‘The Pope’s Toilet’).Dazzlingly directed by Fernando Meirelles’s regular DoP César Charlone alongside first-timer Enrique Fernández, this charming and colourful work documents the wavering fortunes of a deprived Uruguayan family at the announcement of a 1988 visit by the Holy Father to their poverty-stricken village of Melo. Scraping together a meagre existence by smuggling contraband on a push-bike from a Brazilian border town, family patriarch Beto (César Troncoso) – with thinking-cap firmly in place – decides to cash in on the potential flurry of pious activity by building a first-class latrine into which the congregants can pay to relieve themselves.

As the on-screen hysteria mounts, so do our hopes that Beto’s hare-brained scheme will come to fruition. As we’re rooting for this lovable fool, we begin to realise that this man is not just placing his family’s future in needless jeopardy, but is being forced into doing so by years of abject poverty (which the Church seems blind to) and the desire to offer his daughter a better life. There are some rough edges, notably a hastily sketched sub-plot involving Beto’s dealings with a bullying customs officer, but these are quibbles in what is overall an emotionally rich and tender film, beautifully played, with heart and head in massive abundance.

By: David Jenkins

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Release details

Cast and crew

Director: Enrique Fernandez, Cesar Carlone
Screenwriter: Enrique Fernandez
Cast: Cesar Troncoso
Virgina Mendez
Virginia Ruiz