Daughter of Rage (2022) San Sebastián Film Festival 2022

September 16th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir/Wri.: Laura Baumeister: Cast: Ara Alejandra Medal, Virginia Sevilla, Carlos Gutierrez, Noe Hernandez, Diana Sedano; Nicaragua 2022, 90 min.

An eleven year-old girl is forced to make a living on Nicaragua’s biggest landfill in this passionate poetic realist feature debut from writer/director Laura Baumeister.

Everything from human clinical waste to the kitchen sink gets dumped into a massive crater at La Chureca the main rubbish dump near the capital Managua where a civil war is rumbling. Little Maria (Medal) scratches an existence collecting spare parts which can be cleaned and sold on for a decent profit. In reality Maria is a child from hell, she is lazy and aggressive but brave when the need arises. Her struggle for survival is an act of endurance and enterprise.

At home, her mother Lilibeth (Sevilla) has manage to salvage some puppies which have already been sold on to a gangster, who runs the site taking a cut by offering accommodation in makeshift huts. Recovering from a near rape attempt one night Lilibeth finds out that her daughter has fed the puppies contaminated food, which has inadvertently killed them. So Lilibeth will have to endure sex with the gangster – in front of her daughter –  to make up for the delay in delivering the puppies. Knowing perfectly well she will never be able to keep her side of the bargain she must disappear deep into the rain forest where Maria will be left – against her will – in the care of Raul (Hernandez), who runs a small processing site, cleaning and selling spare parts.

Although Maria desperately wants to leave with her mother she knows the consequences will mean a loss of income and no food. And this brings out the worst in her as she comes up against everyone in the plantation, fighting with a boy called Tadeo (Gutierrez) and smashing up a TV until the police arrive to raid the site.

Baumeister shows a country in chaos with smalltime gangsters controlling and exploiting the poor: every there are roadblocks and crime if rife. There is only one way out: mythical stories which will eradicate the depressing reality. Lilibeth tells her daughter the story of cat woman who prowls the forest. Maria just wants to escape, but where to and how?.

Daughter of Rage often feels like two films rolled into one, but DoP Teresa manages a seamless transition between realism and myth with intensely powerful images that overcome any shortcomings in the narrative leaving the audience in awe of a startling feature debut. AS

SAN SEBASTIAN FILM FESTIVAL | 16-24 September 2022

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