“BRIEF STORY FROM THE GREEN PANET” (“Breve historia del planeta verde”)— An Otherworldly Embrace of Tolerance

“BRIEF STORY FROM THE GREEN PANET” (“Breve historia del planeta verde”)

An Otherworldly Embrace of Tolerance

Amos Lassen

Santiago Loza’s low-budget “Brief Story from a Green Planet” is about three Argentine misfits on a self-fortifying alien rescue mission. Tania (Romina Escobar), Daniela (Paula Grinszpan) and Pedro (Luis Soda) as Pedro are our zany characters in this zany and fun film.

it sounds ostentatiously quirky. Headstrong trans woman Tania returns to her childhood home to discover that her late grandmother spent her final years raising a pint-sized alien as a surrogate child, and that the old woman’s dying wish was for the now ailing creature to be returned to where it first appeared on Earth. With friends Pedro and Daniela, Tania sets off across rural Argentina to take the alien to rest.

Writer-director Santiago Loza gives is an enigmatic, melancholy tone. We see the three protagonists moping around their respective apartments, each seemingly afflicted with a severe case of urban alienation. Daniela, is nursing a broken heart. Pedro seems at peace on the dance floor of his local queer club, but uneasy in heteronormative environments. Tania suffers the constant indignity of being objectified and harassed by men she happens to cross paths with.

The three find a reserve of inner strength, and begin to turn the tables on those that oppress them.. In one sequence,  we watch Pedro dances uninhibitedly in a backwater diner, showing his queerness in a macho space. He’s pushed to the ground by a local who makes it clear that such freedom of expression isn’t welcome there. Tania confronts the assailant, who turns out to be a former schoolmate, and, by establishing Pedro and herself as his equals, makes him quickly see his mistake. It seems that their connection to the alien has given them supernatural powers to combat prejudice.

We realize that this strange set-up is a simple plea for tolerance and that those who accept the unfamiliar, in whatever form it may take, have an easier time of it in this world than those who don’t.  As we move toward the film’s climax, we watch our three heroes eradicate a menacing, torch-carrying mob, simply by being a united front. It’s haunting and striking to see.  

As the title already suggests, this film is quite brief indeed, coming in at 70 minutes.  It recently won the prestigious Teddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. “Brief Story” uses sci-if elements in s a subtly-stylized film about respecting the other. Here, the word ‘other’ refers to a number of things but most notably to an alien being that the trio is attempting to bring back to its place of origin.

The other significant reference is of course towards the LGBT community as the film looks at what it means to be different in a world that can be hostile to them.  It has its surreal moments, but those are far and few between. “Brief Story”  is strange but that did not stop me from enjoying it. The disjointed nature of the narrative, as well as the uneven tone and style works beautifully.

Each of the characters is damaged but of the three, Pedro seems most at ease with himself, so long as he has the time and space to dance the night away at his local queer club yet forced back into more heteronormative space, he wilts. The first 20 minutes deals with the three in an almost wordless fashion, showing each individual world almost exclusively through music and light. There is a visual quality to the opening that contrasts sharply with what is to come.

After this gentle introduction the peace is broken by a phone call telling Tania that her grandmother has died and she must travel up-country/out of town to settle her affairs. Her friends accompany her and still there is next to no hint of what is to come.

Tania’s grandmother met and befriended an alien  who is now sleeping downstairs in a fridge in the basement. Perhaps they can respect gran’s last wishes by transporting the poor little alien back to where gran found him. What is really going on? It is all very unsettling, because whatever you expected to happen is not going to do so. What follows is every bit as provoking as what you just found out.

We see a lot of the trio just dragging the suitcase up and down highways and through woods and not getting anywhere. They do undergo a series of encounters and adventures that may or may not mean something.

The bigger message is about standing up for what you believe and asserting queer values over the local bigotry and ultimately the three of them seem to achieve something remarkable by the power of words.

This is an intriguing film which, for all its shortcomings, is great fun. Too often it cuts to scenes that don’t flow naturally, consequently disrupting the film’s flow to reset the film’s trajectory. While the alien is only intended to be a catalyst to explore other issues, but with no coherent connections or theme tying these sequences together, we only get a series of bizarre scenes without any sense of deeper meaning.

From a technical standpoint this is a beauty. Lighting, framing and sound are all used to the fullest to create a hypnotic atmosphere.

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