Araby starts with the young Andre, growing up close to an aluminium factory in the industrial town of Ouro Preto. Following a fatal accident in the factory, he is sent to the house of the dead factory worker, Cristiano. Next to clean clothing for the deceased, he finds a diary describing the last twenty years in the life of this hard-working man. This forms the story of Araby: Cristiano’s wanderings, adventures, love and desperation. Seldom has the life of a worker on the margins of society been depicted so calmly, movingly and with such engagement.
Told almost entirely in voice-over, the film pulls us into the stories of Cristiano and the loners and fortune-seekers who cross his path. Life throws them few opportunities, but you can always up sticks and start again somewhere new, and choose whether to raise your voice or remain silent. The lives of the poverty-stricken, oppressed, hard-working people who have contributed so much to Brazil’s now-booming economy have previously been portrayed in contemporary cinema, but seldom with the freshness, inventiveness and respect shown here.
With their first venture as co-directors, Uchoa and Dumans have succeeded exceptionally well in combining an epic, neo-realist biographical style with crystal-clear formalism. In their hands, the expansive hinterland of the state of Minas Gerais is brought to life like a red-and-green version of the American West (with an industrial complex here and there), appropriately supported by a country-folk soundtrack.