Directed by: Alejandro Ibáñez
Written by: Alejandra Heredia, Alejandro Ibáñez, Carlos Bianchi
Starring: Alejandro Ibáñez, Carlos Urrutia, Clarice Alves, Enderson Souza Da Cunha, Francisco Lima da Costa, José Carabias, Jullie D'Arrigo
Directed by Alejandro Ibáñez
Spanish and Portuguese Language with English Subtitles
Screened at Grimmfest 2020
Wildlife photographer and ornithologist Tomás travels with his family to the Amazon rainforest to take photos of the elusive Albino Urubú but his expedition soon turns from a dream job into a living nightmare when his daughter disappears.
Directed by the son of Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, who wrote and directed 1976 horror-thriller Who Can Kill A Child?, URUBÚ is Alejandro’s own take on his father’s work.
Whilst I’m aware of the concept and idea behind Who Can Kill A Child?, I’ve never seen it so cannot compare the two, but from what I’ve read about the plot of the original, there are many things in URUBÚ which align with Narciso’s film but Alejandro definitely brings his own flavour to the movie.
URUBÚ starts off strongly with fantastic performances from the small cast, establishing the dynamic and relationships very early on in the film. One of my favourite bits is the restaurant scene where Tomás’ wife Eva meets his mentor, Professor Diaz, for the first time. It’s also where where a clip of Who Wants To Kill A Child? appears on the TV screen – a nice little acknowledgement and foreshadowing of what’s to come.
Leading the family is Tomás, played by Carlos Urrutia, who comes across as a very passionate and driven man where his work is concerned. His excitement about the planned expedition seems only to be shared by his mentor and not so much by his family. Photography, at least for me, is a very personal and solo hobby or profession, often involving yourself, the camera and the subject matter. Anything else outside of that is a distraction and it appears Tomás feels the same way. Although present physically, Tomás isn’t there for his family emotionally and it’s clearly affecting his young daughter Andrea as well as causing friction in his marriage. It says a lot when the captain of the boat they’re travelling on is spending more quality time with his daughter and wife, so much so that I thought Eva may try and have a bit of a fling with Captain Nauta, who happens to be played by the film’s director. Life doesn’t exactly improve when they reach their destination with Tomás’ sole goal to capture photographs of a rare, wild Albino Urubú (vulture) with Eva and Andrea just along for the journey.
Despite her father neglecting her, Andrea’s mother Eva is more attentive to the youngster but the arguments between Eva and Tomás don’t go amiss. Finding more comfort in her tablet computer, Andrea’s in a world of her own but out in the forest, it seems she may have found some other company to keep her occupied…
URUBÚ is beautifully shot with some terrific aerial captures of the rainforest canopies which really put into perspective just how isolated Eva, Tomás and Andrea are from civilisation and that, should anything go wrong, help isn’t around the corner. With tales of fishermen going missing and bloodied individuals being spotted along the river, you’d think it’d be enough for Tomás to turn back, but no. Instead, he’s adamant that they must reach their destination even if it means putting his family at risk. The dense foliage and network of trees creates a maze that one could easily get lost in and find themselves cut off from each other – the perfect situation for predators to hunt their prey. Being lost and unable to find others is enough to give me the creeps and the film effectively achieves the isolation in these parts with being characters being lost in unfamiliar territory that likely belongs to someone else.
Towards the final act of the movie, URUBÚ‘s momentum wanes somewhat as you stop caring about the desperate attempts at good parenting with the bickering continuing as the blame-game begins. Face-offs between other characters don’t quite have the punchy impact either even if they’re a little quirky and unnerving. However, as a whole, the film does well to throw the viewer into a nightmarish situation, especially one that will play on the heartstrings of those who are also parents.
I suppose it’s only right I give Who Can Kill A Child? a watch to truly see the similarities and differences between the two films. So stay tuned!