Amama: When a Tree Falls

This award-winning film "Amama: Quando cae un árbol" (English captions) was submitted to the 2016 Seattle International Film Festival by Spain. Because it features a Basque family, I assume the mountainous terrain is in the Pyrenees.

Directed by Asier Altuna, the tree of the title is one of three that were each planted when a baby was born. The trunk of each tree is painted a particular color which signifies the personality of each newborn infant (!) The babies' grandmother made the decision and the children were typecast at birth. The Red trunk meant that the firstborn boy would be strong, passionate and a leader. The Black trunk meant that their only daughter would be a rebel. The White trunk branded the younger boy as lazy and ineffectual. Personally, I find that brutal. But when one of the trees is cut down, we were shocked!

The cast:
  • Iraia Elías is Amaia, the poor man whose tree trunk branded him lazy and good-for-nothing. The more we see him, the more we like him. He says if you want to be happy for a day, get drunk. If you want to be happy for a week, go on a trip. If you want to be happy for a year, get married. If you want to be happy for the rest of your live, plant a vegetable garden!
  • Kandido Uranga is the hard-working father Tomas, who clings to tradition despite all the warnings from his more modern children.
  • Amparo Badiola is the Amama who decided which baby would have which personality. Whether or not she's right is immaterial, when Tomas hears his mother speak, her word is law.
  • Klara Badiola - Isabel works as hard as her husband, but Tomas should beware, because if she finally gets angry...
  • Ander Lipus is Xabi, whose tree trunk is painted red. He wants nothing to do with it.
  • Nagore Aranburu is Sara, an artist who is preparing a collection of photographs of her grandmother for an art gallery. Her tree was painted black...
Our SIFF screening audience had a variety of reactions, from tears to boredom. I was somewhere in between. I thought the photography was elegant but I have never watched a family that said LESS in my life! I just wanted them to please, please communicate! When something is done that may be interpreted as a loving gesture, even though it's vague, we cling to it!