- Carmo, Hit the Road written and dir. by Mirlo Pasta
Written and directed by Mirlo Pasta
Produced by A Contraluz Films
Distributed by First Run Features
Within recent years interest in Border Studies has extended beyond academia into the realm of popular culture. Such disparate films as Sin Nombre (2009), Machete (2010), and Babel (2006) have used the geographical setting of a border region in order to explore the ways in which borders, both physical and metaphorical, establish and enforce personal identity. The best of these films can help us to better understand the limits placed upon individuals in how they are allowed to define themselves; the borders here become potential zones of transgression against restrictive social identities. Taking place along Brazil’s borders with Paraguay and Bolivia, Carmo, Hit the Road appears interested in exploring the relationship between geopolitical borders and identity, but shallow characterization and an extremely uneven tone prevent the film from successfully carrying out this exploration.
The film begins with Carmo (played by Mariana Loureiro) searching for a way to escape her border town as well as the restrictions placed upon her as a woman in society. Meanwhile her love interest, the paraplegic smuggler Marco (played by Fele Martínez), is hauling cheap electronics across the border into Brazil. After saving Carmo from an assailant at a local bar and subsequently rebuffing her sexual advances, the two are forced to team up in order to fence his merchandise. When Carmo takes him to his designated rendezvous point, and is robbed of his merchandise, the two begin a wild chase along the Brazilian border to recover his goods so that they can both escape the border town. In some ways the film’s narrative provides a fascinating exploration of the ways in which individuals can become marginalized, with the geopolitical border regions of Brazil functioning as a zone of potential liberation.
Indeed, much of the film suggests that director Mirlo Pasta is concerned with the ways in which individuals might escape the identities forced upon them by the metaphorical borders established and enforced by societal norms. Every character is given a label via text superimposed on a stylized still-frame of the character, often during his or her introductory scene. As one example, the text introducing Marco, defined by his disability for much of the film, labels him as “Shot three times by his ex-wife.” In other words, the text reinforces the fact that society reads Marco’s disability as his primary identity. Other characters are variously labeled as “Amateur Magician,” “Chicken Thief,” and “The Boss of it all.” This stylistic technique sets up an interesting means of exploring the ways in which physical borders establish and interact with the societal boundaries of how individuals are allowed to be defined. The film also plays with the border setting through its use of language; the characters speak in a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, and a hybrid of the two commonly referred to as Portuñol. This blending of languages helps to establish the ways in which borders and identities within the film are transgressed by the characters.
Underdeveloped characters ultimately weaken what could have been a fascinating study of geopolitical and identity-based borders. The [End Page 89] secondary characters never rise above one-dimensional stock types. Amparo de Jesús (played by Seu Jorge) never becomes more than a stereotypical (and deeply problematic) portrayal of the male homosexual as a sex-obsessed threat to hetero-masculinity; in one inexplicable scene he even goes so far as to attempt to rape Marco. Amaparo’s partner, Diamantino dos Anjos (played by Marcio Garcia) is little more than a caricature of a bumbling criminal. From their female crime boss (who may also moonlight as Carmo’s guardian angel) to Carmo’s mother, the secondary characters can be identified by one or two stock traits.
Both protagonists suffer from this same lack of depth. Loureiro turns in a truly manic performance as Carmo, channeling all of the eccentricity of a 1930’s screwball comedy heroine but with none of the charm. Indeed, much of the...