Directed by Papu Curotto
Screenplay by Andi Nachon
Released May 27, 2016 at the Toronto Inside Out Film Festival
Review by Stephen O. Murray
May 16, 2017
Esteros, the title of Papu Curotto’s 2016 feature film debut refers to the estuaries on the Argentina/Brazil border. It is set entirely on the Argentine side in a town and on a farm owned by Jerónimo’s father.
In showing the reconnection of childhood friends, comparison with Moonlight is inevitable. Esteros is more like the original (never-produced) play In the Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue in that the different time periods are intercut. It is simpler in that there are only two, when the Argentine boys are (I’d estimate) 12 and 24 (in contrast to Chiron and Kevin at ages 11, 17, and 24). And the Argentines’ childhood friendship is way more idyllic than the Liberty City, Florida ones.
The Argentine boys, Jerónimo [Blas Finardi Niz] and Matias [Joaquín Parada], spend all their time together, including sleeping together, kissing, dancing, and handjobs (a similarity to the middle panel of Moonlight). Moreover, the young adult Argentines [Esteban Masturini as Jerónimo and Ignacio Rogers as Matias] resemble their childhood avatars, unlike the black adults who look not at all like their childhood incarnations in Moonlight.
One other resemblance between the two movies is that both rely extensively on looks rather than on words. In particular, Matias’s father says nothing about his son’s intimacy with Jerónimo, but his facial expressions make me think that part of the reason he takes a job in Brazil is to separate his son from Jerónimo.
Similarly, Jerónimo’s mother never says anything about her son’s relationship but clearly recognizes, accepts, and even encourages it. And the coolness of Matias for his girlfriend (I think fiancée) Rochi [Renata Calmon] is shown rather than talked about (when she realizes Matias is gay, shortly after he realizes it, she rejects talking about it and rejects his feeling sorry for her).
The virulent homophobia extending to fag bashing of Moonlight is missing from Esteros, along with the poverty and the crack-addicted single mother. The young proto-gay men are materially better off and from intact marriages. And the making-of featurette for Moonlight increased my appreciation (not to mention understanding) of the movie, the shorter one for Esteros not very much. I was disappointed that the Esteros one did not include anything about finding and directing the “niños” (male youngsters).
P.S. Moonlight and Esteros were both released in 2016, and neither could have influenced the other. Esteros was the expansion of a short Curotto made in 2016, Matias and Geronimo; Moonlight was based on In the Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarrell Alvin McCraney.
©2017 by Stephen O. Murray.