Hermano – Lincoln Center Film Society Latinbeat Film Festival Review

Good football action and an inside look at the Caracas barrios cannot save this film from a thin script and sport drama predictability.

Writer/director Marcel Rasquin’s football dram (co-written with Rohan Jones) is a high-pitched look at life in one of the most dangerous cities of the world, Caracas, Venezuela.

In truth, the whole city is not this dangerous, but the neighborhood of teenagers Daniel and Julio is treacherous. Street cred is the only thing that keeps kids alive and a lot of that street cred comes from how a young player handles himself on the football field.

By the way, by football we mean what the Americans call soccer. In many countries of the world, people hang their hopes on their soccer team the same way that Americans hang theirs on their baseball, American football and basketball teams.

The only difference is that free soccer games between neighborhood teams draw large and enthusiastic crowds, perhaps as it was in the old days in the US.

Julio (Eliú Armas) is the team captain for one of the hundreds of neighborhood clubs punching it out on the filthy and dangerous football pitches of Caracas. There are few referees and the referees make few calls.

Legs and broken and heads are cracked. Even so, the pitch is safer than the streets of the barrios with their mob driven economies and glue sniffing tweens. More importantly, the pitch is the ticket to get out of the barrios and into a social class that is able to provide security and education for its families.

As a five year old kid, Julio heard a cat in the garbage dumpster and rushed to grab it, against his mother’s wishes. The cat turned out to be a child that Julio’s mother took home and named Daniel (played by Fernando Moreno). The two boys became closer than if they were identical twins. In the ghetto a brother is one’s only friend; everybody else is suspect.

Julio is a born leader, but the scrawny Daniel, nicknamed “Cat” by his brother is the football player. A natural talent, he can put the ball into the net against all odds. However, he lives under the shadow of being an unwanted child, an orphan without so much as a real last name.

Unfortunately, this film cannot decide whether to concentrate on social injustice or sport. There are great action scenes on the pitch and even better scenes in the claustrophobic, crumbling alleys of the impenetrable inner city neighborhoods.

Being caught between these two powerful sources of inspiration, filmmakers Rasquin and Jones do not do justice to either one. The film is a great, low budget work. However, the director/writer team needed to concentrate on one or the other.

The film is a good lesson in growing up but will not have action that teenagers crave, at least teenagers in the USA. The unvarnished look at life in the ghettos is great but will only be appreciated by adults. The film is good in that territory, but not as good as, say, “City of God” or “Turtles Can Fly.”

Nonetheless, a finer example of film with nearly limitless ambition. A work that combines minimum funding with maximum dreams. That is the most important part of either football or cinema.

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Directed by: Marcel Rasquin
Written by: Rohan Jones and Marcel Rasquin
Starring: Eliú Armas, Beto Benites and Gonzalo Cubero 
Release Date: None—Screened at Lincoln Center Film Society Latinbeat FF—New York
MPAA: Not Rated
Runtime: 96 minutes
Country: Venezuela
Language: Spanish (English Subtitles)
Color: Color