The village of Jutuomba in Found Memories is like an earthly (if more beautiful and exotic) purgatory. It is a waiting room between life and death for the dozen and aging citizens which comprise the entire town. Jutuomba is solely and entirely them that even the train has stopped stopping there. The citizens are so close to death that they have shed their titles and simply are – the only titled person left is their priest, who dutifully performs mass every day. In this purgatory he is their intercessor, their mentor for the afterlife. So fragile is this waiting room, so fraught with anticipation, that he has actually closed up the cemetery, so that no-one dies. In some way, they postpone their death because there will be no town left.
This startling and powerful conceit, is partly about death, but mostly it is about memory – who will remember them when they all die? They have outlived their children and are disconnected from the “civilized” world. In whose memory will they live on? Their reluctance to leave is understandable, for who doesn’t want to be remembered? The repository for their memory/being comes in the form of a young photographer, Rita, who, having no place of her own, wanders into their town. She records them and their village with a light box, whose shadowy, gauzy photographs perfectly illustrates their fragile temporality. They and their town look like ghosts.
The original Portuguese title of this film roughly translates into “Stories that Only Exist When Remembered.” Luckily, and through photography and through the passing down of oral history, the citizens of Jutuomba will exist in someone’s memory.
Found Memories is a New Directors Prize Contender at the SFIFF.
Found Memories (Historias que so Existem Quando Lembradas). Dir. by Julia Murat. MPM Film et al., 2011. In Portuguese.