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Boy & the World

(2013) *** 1/2 Pg
80 min. GKIDS. Director: Alê Abreu. Cast: Vinicius Garcia, Marco Aurélio Campos, Lu Horta, Vinicius Garcia.

/content/films/4886/1.jpgIf you have precocious children starting to investigate the international and ask questions that broach the socioeconomic, Boy & the World is the picture to share with them. Nominated for Best Animated Feature at Sunday’s Academy Awards, this Brazilian film uses deceptively simple elements to paint a complex picture of globalization.

Written and directed by Alê Abreu, Boy & the World concerns a boy whose bucolic village life may not brim with plenty, but it’s plenty enough for him: play, wonder, and the love of family keep him happy. Trouble intrudes when rural life becomes unsustainable and the boy’s father feels compelled to depart for the big city and industrial work. The boy trails his father, on a journey of discovery about the modern world, where the natural has nearly been subsumed by the mechanical, begging the question “Is this what civilized means?”

Abreu’s handmade, abstracted aesthetic will help kids to see our complex world in an invitingly creative and intellectually digestible manner. The whirlwind “world tour” that makes up the eighty-minute film is nothing if not colorful, and kaleidoscopic in its opening up of brilliant color and of the troubling interaction between corporate “people” and flesh-and-bone people, between the environment and civilization. It’s a film for our tipping point, although it doesn’t hit that nail on the head like a typical American animated feature would.

That’s partly due to Abreu’s tack of using played-backwards Portuguese instead of comprehensible dialogue, giving the film something of the quality of mime or silent film, in spite of a lively soundtrack crammed with dancing rhythms of samba and hip-hop, along with folksy pan flute (the score is by Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat). The emphasis on the effects of capitalism lives front and center in Boy & the World, but the picaresque is, at heart, a clean-lines tale of the mutual, inseparable love of a parent and child, its unconditional character tested and proven in sacrifice.

Sure, nothing can get in the way of that, but that doesn’t stop the world from trying, with its artificial borders and walls and designations social, economic, racial, and political. Taking a boy’s eye view of it all won’t just speak to kids on their level, but to their parents in an eye-opening reawakening of innocence. If, as Abreu suggests, growing up means acceding to socioeconomic injustice, or having to work so hard for family that the family pulls apart at the seams, maybe adults should be taking their lessons from children in learning to look at the world in a new way.

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