Buladó - Opening Film NFF
24 September 2020
Buladó - a family affair
Eché Janga's Curaçao-set Buladó, which tells a powerful, moving and magical realist story of a girl growing up with her widowed father and spiritual grandfather, opens the 2020 Netherlands Film Festival. The director talks to See NL.
Netherlands Film Festival opener Buladó*) is a film with family at its heart, telling of a girl's transition to young adulthood, a grandfather's preparation for his own passing and a father still mourning the death of his wife. It is also a story that was created very much within the bosom of director Eché Janga's own family.
"It's a short story, just five pages, that my uncle wrote and gave to me, about a man who wanted to choose his own way to die," explains Janga.
In the film, supported by the Netherlands Film Fund and the Netherlands Film Production Incentive, Kenza lives with her father Ouira and grandfather Weljo on a wrecking yard in Curaçao. She gets into scraps at school with kids who try to bully her, or frequently skips school altogether to visit her mother's grave. Ouira is a rational and kind dad (and cop) who wants to sell their plot of land to a developer, but is increasingly frustrated by a daughter he doesn't understand. Grandfather Weljo knows that the land was venerated by his spiritual ancestors, and opposes the sale, at the same time explaining the island's folklore to the young and eager Kenza. As Weljo prepares for his passing into the world of spirits, Kenza fully opens up to these mystical and comforting traditions. All the while Ouira must find a way to resolve his own dilemmas.
Janga stresses how Buladó feels like his first film, even though he has previously made the TV movie Hallali (2019) and the theatrically released two-time Golden Calf winning feature film Helium*) (2014), in which he developed a magical realist aesthetic in telling of a gangster wrestling with his desire to die.
"Buladó is from my own family, it's really personal," says the director. "I can really relate to Kenzo, because she doesn't know if she is behind her father or her grandfather. Myself, I have the same thing. I am the agnostic type. I don't believe in God but I can't reject it either. So I feel a lot for her character. It's the first film that I have written, and I wrote it from the heart." The film is co-written with Esther Duysker.
Janga further tells how he is more motivated to write when he experiences and understands the film's physical and geographical setting. "We went to Curaçao with the DOP to find our locations and then we started to write. I am a filmmaker who needs to see the locations before I can write the scene."
Lensed beneath the Curaçao sun and within the island's fertile terrain, the film is visually stunning and audacious in its ability to deliver with clarity on fundamental subjects such as mourning and mortality, growing up and re-birth.
Much of the time the story is told in bold meteorological metaphor whereby cloud formations and the wind play meaningful roles, as do animals in the form of iguanas, dogs and horses. A fabulous construct is the giant tree of the spirits, made out of metal car parts firstly by Weljo before its completion by Kenzo, which will sing when the winds return and thereby herald the dramatic and final act of the film.
The director admits to apprehension before Buladó's highly prominent world-premiere at the Netherlands Film Festival. "Yes, I was really thrilled when I heard, but I am also a little bit tense because everybody is going to look at this film with a microscope. Why is it the opening film? People will be critical. It is a big honour but I will be very nervous."
Watch the Buladó trailer: https://youtu.be/R0mUJwLRtbo
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*) film supported by the Netherlands Film Fund