Memory House follows Cristovam (Antonio Pitanga), a middle-aged indigenous man, as he navigates the racial tensions that have impacted the indigenous peoples of Brazil. Utilizing folklore and mythology, the film takes a familiar cinematic framework and presents it in a unique fashion.
The opening scene involves Cristovam meeting the new Austrian owners of his workplace. They have moved the factory to a chiefly Austrian town in southern Brazil. Cristovam, part of a poorer area in the north, has no choice but to move as well to maintain employment.
The new owners go through a long and condescending list of factory changes that will greatly impact workers like Cristovam. Put simply – his pay will drop – the first of many humiliations he will endure. Moments like these serve as apt and modernised analogies of the lingering effects of colonialism.
An outsider inside his own country, Cristovam soon discovers the ‘Memory House’, filled with ancient relics such as a large bullhorn. Gradually these help him reconnect with his land, culminating in a hallucinatory and confronting final act.
Despite being based on local issues, Memory House will appeal to viewers worldwide due to its depiction of isolation and racism. Director João Paulo Miranda Maria’s is unapologetic in his art-house approach, the film’s slow pace and mysterious nature will no doubt turn some viewers away. Intensely original, Memory House is a haunting and spiritually charged debut feature.
Many thanks again to Tracey Mair as well as everyone who made the Adelaide Film Festival possible in 2020 during such confused times.