Manaus, an industrial city in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. Justino, a 45-year-old Native American, is a security guard at the commercial port. Her daughter is preparing to leave for Brasília to study medicine. Confronted with the loneliness of his modest home and persuaded to be pursued by a wild animal, Justino is seized with a mysterious fever.
Chronicle of an erasure, Fever retraces, through the course of Justino, the progress of the native Amerindians who came to populate the city of Manaus. On the border between documentary and fiction, the film deploys an anthropological concern which constitutes both its beauty and its limits.
Maya Da-Rin knows that fairness is loyalty. Coming from the documentary, the director, for her first feature film, has woven a fictional framework that does not sacrifice anything to the real material from which she is inspired. Non-professional actors participated in the script, their choice determined the ethnicity of the characters. The film also benefited from the gaze of anthropologist Pedro Cesarino. The result is a very great sensitivity in the portrait of Justino and his family. The image conveys a form of absolute sincerity which, from the outset, establishes a contract of trust proper to engage the viewer in following the inner journey that awaits Justino.
Justino left his village in the Amazon rainforest about twenty years ago. He first contributed to the construction of the industrial zone of Manaus then found a less tiring job by integrating the company in charge of the security of the commercial port. Through effects of repetition, time loops, the film draws wear accentuated by a mixture of infra-ordinary patterns (a crack observed in a wall) and dramatic lines (a professional warning, the information of his recent widowhood). It is this same arrhythmic movement which situates the film between daily life and permanence to express the dilution of Amerindian culture in the gap of the city.
“The capitals have all become the same
Facets of the same mirror
Dressed in steel, dressed in black
Like a Lego but without memory ”
Nothing sums up the general feeling of the film better than this stanza from Like a lego, Gérard Manset’s song.
The city, machine to isolate in the middle of the multitude, imposes a uniformity: same supermarket food, same traffic, same fatigue …
The film advances in trompe l’oeil, in a movement of permanent suggestion, both exciting and destabilizing. These are disorganized situations which, little by little, reinject, in Justino’s mind, a presence of Native American culture: a wild animal that roams his neighborhood, a fever that never leaves him. His state of feverishness led him to follow a medical course unfit to treat him. His brother encourages him to use the powers of the shaman of their village. At the same time, his daughter Vanessa is accepted at the Faculty of Medicine in Brasilia. It is both an incredible opportunity and the promise of estrangement. A life of prescribing drugs ironises his brother.
As for the wild animal that puts the neighborhood in panic, Justino seems to hear it, to perceive it. He who spends his days watching a mountain of containers like a hunter without prey. During a beautiful dreamlike sequence, Justino enters the nearby forest inhabited by sounds very similar to those of port activity.
The confusion of these two universes so dissimilar a priori, is precisely the place that the film chooses to inhabit.
Abundantly rich, Fever however, does not fail to frustrate by his requirement to leave out of the picture everything that constitutes the anchoring of Justino’s identity. A way of underlining the inexorable erasure of Amerindian culture but also of keeping at bay the formidable aesthetic potential of a strangeness only sketched out.
June 30, 2021 – Of Maya da-rin, with Regis Myrupu, Rosa Peixoto