Review: Misericórdia (2019)

Screenshot from Xavier MarradesMisericórdia

In a few of the Romance languages and in the Catholic terminology, the word “misericórdia” is the translation of the term “mercy” and mercy itself comes from God (or some other sort of higher power). In Xavier Marrades’ film of the same name, the titular location could be seen from a highly religious and spiritual point of view: God had mercy on the people of that place, rewarding them with a beautiful nature, weather and the opportunity for leisure.

Misericórdia premiered at the last year’s edition of New Directors New Films Festival in the United States, before playing at Sheffield Doc|Fest. More recently, it competed in the shorts selection of IceDocs.

The place itself is a village on the Itaparica Island in the Brazilian state of Bahia and its inhabitants of different age, race and gender are the principal subject of the documentary. Marrades’ approach is quite clear and straightforward: while the “reality” is filmed in a series of static shots both from up close and from afar, rhythmically edited and put together, the protagonists are engaged in an off-screen narration on the subject of their dreams. Some of them dream to leave, the others want to stay eternally, and the life goes on and on.

The catch is, however, that in Misericórdia the line between the dreams and the reality is blurred by the beauty of the nature and the joyful nature of the town. Sometimes, there is a sensationalist or even a bit absurdist tone to it, like it is the case with the succession between the shot of the ethnically coloured church mass and the painted sign that advertises the offers of the local funeral home and the body-building contest followed by a transgender parade. But the biggest shout-out has to go to the neon-lit disco-truck that operates like a nightclub on wheels and its unique ship-like horn.

Xavier Marrades did most of the work on the film himself. He was his own cinematographer, editor and the sound designer, excelling in all of the components individually and in blending them together for an exemplary poetic realist documentary. The only question remaining comes from the fact that the feature-length version of Misericórdia is announced and is already in the works. Have we already seen the best, the most concentrated, cherry-picked slices of life and dreams or the director has some more surprises for us?

Runtime: 21’09’’
Countries: Brazil, USA
Language: Portuguese
Directed by: Xavier Marrades
Cinematography by: Xavier Marrades
Editing by: Xavier Marrades
Sound by: Xavier Marrades
Sound editor: Jordi Ribas
Colourist: Jerome Thelia
Produced by: Jerome Thelia, Xavier Marrades
Supported by: The Sacatar Foundation, China International Short Film Festival, Prefeitura de Itaparica