Ask just about anyone who lives there, especially someone who wasn’t born here, and we will tell you that New York is not an easy place to live. Of course, it has so much to offer in terms of culture, entertainment, people, but it also just so happens to be one of the most expensive cities in the US, with (typically) tiny apartments costing an arm and a leg. Not to mention the fact that the competition for literally all jobs, not just high profile ones, is insane. Carlos, one of the main characters in Peter Azen’s Calidris sums it up as follows
“When you arrive, you are dazzled. Everything is so cool. Which is great. A lot always happening here. You’re like ‘Fuck, I have things to do all the time.’ The city that never sleeps, the city is always happening. When you arrive here, and the city consumes you…in a way in which it can give you opportunities…but it doesn’t give you the opportunity not to do anything.”
“…we follow their separate journeys of discovering how to exist in this strange city.”
That is possibly the most accurate description I’ve ever heard of trying to live in this crazy place. Though, no matter how hard living in the city that never sleeps may be for Americans, the cultural and economic divide between the US and many foreign countries is an incredibly harsh reality that newcomers get hit with pretty hard. The disparities in income and the obvious overarching addiction to capitalism is thrust upon a person with brute force, and many immigrants end up returning home.
Being from Brazil originally and now living in New York, director Peter Azen knows all the strangeness of changing worlds, and he imbues the world of the film with this knowledge. Jane (Yasmin Santana) and Carlos (Rodrigo Fischer) have lived in New York for six months, and we follow their separate journeys of discovering how to exist in this strange city. Jane is a baby and dog sitter, while Rodrigo works in a kitchen and passes out flyers. Their friends are all mostly Brazilian too, and they all gather to talk about how insane New York is and also how things are going in the world they left behind.
While Calidris could have stopped as just a piece on two immigrants’ struggle, it bursts wide open into a critique of capitalism, the Brazilian government, the US government, racism, and more. The imagery and subject matter evokes comparison to Godard and Makavejev, while the narrative qualities, especially in a group setting call to mind Fassbinder or Cassavettes. While a casual viewer may seem daunted by the thought of seeing an experimental political film, it’s incredibly fun and weird, with a lot of great set pieces including a very awkward interaction between someone who doesn’t understand why Carlos isn’t speaking English because THIS IS AMERICA!
“It’s a powerful thesis on immigration and capitalism and the effect it has on humanity shown through a charming personal lens…”
I wouldn’t be so bold to say that this is an autobiographical piece because the film doesn’t stand still long enough to be something like that, but you can see the outline of Azen’s personal feelings about the world weaved into the fabric of Calidris, while still having a very fierce political stance. It’s interesting to see the opinions of a native Brazilian on the whoring out of the Amazon rainforest and the whitewashing of the country (especially in the world of arts and entertainment).
I absolutely think you should check this film out if you admire experimental film. I haven’t seen one that I’ve enjoyed this much since…I don’t even know when. Most people are either afraid to make them…or they’re not but the finished product is terrible and pretentious, so maybe they should’ve been? Calidris thankfully never falls into either of those wheelhouses. It’s a powerful thesis on immigration and capitalism and the effect it has on humanity shown through a charming personal lens. I really hope you check it out.
Calidris. Written and Directed by Peter Azen. Starring Yasmin Santana, Rodrigo Fischer, Laila Garroni, Kareem Ghaleb, James Herron, Cornelio Romano, Patricia Marjorie, Dominic Clarke. Calidris recently screened at the Munich Film Festival.
9 out of 10 stars