Thursday, October 7, 2010

Anita--a movie review

Recently, John and I were fortunate to attend one of the movies shown during the 14th annual Jewish Film Festival of Dallas. The film, Anita, has won several awards at film festivals. Unfortunately, the film is in Spanish and in my very abbreviated google search I couldn't find a list in English so I could share what those awards are! It was filmed and is set in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and used subtitles because naturally the actors were speaking Spanish.

The star and main character of Anita is the actress Alejandra Manzo who has Down syndrome. Alejandra did an amazing job. She was in almost every scene and I could scarcely look away from her captivating eyes.  The other main characters are Anita's mother and grown brother, as well as the odd assortment of people who look after her--an alcoholic, a Vietnamese family, a bitter nurse and her brother.

I'm getting ahead of myself. An accomplished movie reviewer I am not, but I did love this movie.

It begins with Anita in bed and shows her beautiful mother gently waking her for the day. The love they have for one another is sweetly depicted in that scene and later that night, when after entertaining Anita's brother and his wife, mother and daughter lie down on their twin beds, holding hands across the space as they sing.

The following day, as Anita's mother walks over to the Jewish Center (they are also Jewish) Anita is left to sort items in their stationery store. She turns to put some items on a shelf and, in a startling scene, a bomb detonates in the nearby Jewish Center and also blows their shop to bits. Anita regains consciousness as the scene is still chaotic and she stumbles out on the street where she is quickly put on a bus and taken to a hospital. At the hospital, Anita is treated and, unnoticed, she wanders out, alone.

The remainder of the movie shows Anita trying to get home, trying to communicate, trying to eat, trying to get help. Anita's brother is also shown waiting for news of his mother and sister; he is eventually under the impression that Anita has died.

As the first few minutes unfolded after the bombing, I wasn't sure I would be able to continue watching the film. Anita is dazed, clearly injured and lost; I was inwardly frantic for her, urging someone to help her. (My earliest blog readers may remember this post which explains why.) Fortunately, for most of the rest of the film she is helped by a succession of scarred and hurting people. In them, we find the heart of the movie. Some are selfish, some are angry, some are alternately helpful and resentful but all are moved by Anita. All of them, at certain points, are willing to put their selfishness aside in order to care for her and, eventually, to take steps to give her back to her brother. They were each healed to some degree by their time with Anita.

Shortly after I gave birth to Emma I was given the memoir Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck, which relates the amazing story of her pregnancy with Adam, who has Down syndrome. She writes in the book that she always felt that acts of decency have clustered around her son, Adam. She can't explain why that is, but it always happens: people are happier just for having known him. Anita drives that point home again; she made people do the right thing in spite of themselves by approaching them without guile, without fear, without the judgment they had come to expect in their lives.

I love that. I have felt, from the very start of our journey with Emma, that she brought out a better part of me, sometimes a fiercer part, sometimes a sadder part, but overriding it all, a joyful part. She, and now her sisters, approach me with love, without guile or condemnation, without fear but with absolute trust that I am going to do right by them.

Because of that, nothing on earth would make me want to break their trust. Like no movie I've seen before, Anita captured that love.

I included a trailer from the film, but it is not subtitled and it also includes the very shocking bomb blast. It isn't gory; it just catches you by surprise. I still enjoyed watching it and seeing again how wonderfully the actress played her part. If you do speak Spanish, be warned that obscenities were used overmuch and were very distracting, in our opinion.

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