4 September 2020 | hof-4
Trouble in a small town
Tito, a worker in his forties just laid off goes back to his hometown (the fictional El Valle). He left the village 15 years ago, and remains in possession of the family house, vacant for years. He renews old acquaintances and finds out that El Valle is now in the grip of a cacique, the small time gangster Crespo that rules by intimidation supported by his son, a cowardly bully, and some tough looking retainers. The town is one of these that Spaniards call "vaciadas" (emptied) left by the wayside by "progress", without jobs or opportunities for the locals.
La Rusa (the Russian Woman) is Svetlana, a young Ukrainian from Odessa. Circumstances have thrown her under Crespo's power, and she is looking for a way out without much hope until Tito appears. Tito is the catalyst of the town's reaction to Crespo's abuses, and the film ends with hopes (however dim) of better things for all. The script is loosely based on 2008 happenings in Mirandilla, a small town in Badajoz, a province of Extremadura in Spain.
The town of El Valle stands for the real town of Valdetorres, also in Badajoz which is the hometown of the family of director and scriptwriter Aritz Ortiz. Many residents of Valdetorres appear as extras or in small roles. Some of the main actors are professionals (like Monika Kowalska, playing La Rusa) others have essentially this movie as only credit.
As for the film: acting is good, direction is fluid, and cinematography does justice to Extremadura's harsh summer landscape. The story is told in a straightforward and unpretentious way. There are some rough edges in the acting and some clumsiness in action scenes, but the balance is positive. Ortiz should be commended for limiting the length to one hour - it is what the tale warrants and avoids padding. The copy I streamed seemed unnaturally dark, including scenes in full sunlight. A problem with the copy or the streaming?