Critics' Pick

Oblivion (NR)

Documentary 93
By Scott Foundas
Born in Lima, the child of Polish Jewish refugees, Heddy Honigmann studied film in Rome, lives in Amsterdam, and has made documentaries in Paris, Rio, and New Jersey. With the provocatively titled Oblivion, the 58-year-old cosmopolitan returns to her hometown for the first time, at least cinematically, since Metal and Melancholy, her 1992 portrait of the city’s resilient taxi drivers. It’s a casual city symphony that, like Metal and Melancholy, focuses on ubiquitous yet invisible urban types. Oblivion is populated by impoverished “forgotten ones,” albeit here oddly hopeful in their largely hopeless attempt to extract a few nuevos soles from drivers and passersby. Haunting the neighborhood’s shabby, genteel posadas, the filmmaker engages middle-aged bartenders in conversation, looking for the oral history of the times and never failing to ask these courtly gentlemen if they ever waited on El Presidente (“Oh, yes”) and if they were ever treated badly (“No, never”). In its engagingly roundabout way, Honigmann’s documentary is a history of perpetual economic downturns, endemic underemployment, and corrupt, autocratic leaders—as personified by the nation’s current and recently recycled president, Alan Garcia. The result is a tender, poetically aimless home movie by someone who no longer dwells among these stoic people, but feels like she might be the only one who remembers them.
Heddy Honigmann


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