Pope’s Toilet, The (DVD Review)8 Mar, 2009 By: John Latchem
Prebook 3/10/09; Street 4/7/09
In Spanish with English subtitles.
Stars Cesar Troncoso, Virginia Mendez, Mario Silva, Virginia Ruiz, Nelson Lence.
The effects of poverty on the human spirit are on display in The Pope’s Toilet, a wonderful little film co-produced by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener.)
Cesar Troncoso (XXY) stars as Beto, a petty smuggler living in Melo, Uruguay. Each day, he and his pals bike 40 miles across the Brazilian border to purchase cheap supplies, which they transport back to their village. On occasion they are hassled by customs agents who are more interested in lining their own pockets than actually stopping contraband.
Business is picking up, for it is 1988, and Pope John Paul II is about to visit the area. The residents anticipate a huge crowd from Brazil and are stocking up on food they plan to sell to the visitors, as if the Pope represents God lifting them from their destitution.
Beto hopes to send his daughter to college to pursue her dreams of becoming a journalist, but an incident with a checkpoint officer sullies his reputation with the local shop owners. Desperate for a quick peso, Beto hits upon the idea to build a public toilet in front of his house, and charge the tourists for its use.
Troncoso delivers a terrific performance, likeable yet pitiable in a way that really inspires the viewer to cheer for him. This is the kind of film that sheds light on issues facing blighted communities around the world, while at the same time helping those of us fortunate to live in America appreciate how good we actually have it.
The film has won several awards on the festival circuit and was an official selection of the Cannes and Toronto film festivals, among others.