Delicate Balance


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Declicate Balance
"López knows how to look and how to encourage us to see the parallels between these situations."

Most documentaries are about a specific subject or issue but Guillermo García López is interested in the balance of the title, the concept of connection, or lack of it, and of humanity as a whole. These are big ideas and he shows no fear of them in this Goya-winning film, presenting us with three very different snapshots of life, which, helped by the words of former Uruguay president José Mujica, expand to create a much bigger picture of a world in socio-economic crisis.

Mujica is a good choice to talk about balance, given that when in power he gave away around 90 per cent of his salary to charity and eschewed many of the trappings of office. His thoughts on equality - or the world's lack of it - offer a backbone of argument illustrated by a triptych of stories involving Spain, Morocco and Japan.

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In Japan, we first see someone throw themselves under a train. This may be the most direct example of desperation in this film but, as López will show, it can take many forms and be driven by many causes. Also in Japan, we become immersed in the flow of commuters and encounter some overworked salarymen, with so little free time that they tend to look for instant gratification rather than forging deeper relationships.

Across the world, in Morocco, there is a different desperation - that of African migrants who are trying to cross into Europe. Here, some might also view as nigh-on suicidal, the repeated attempts to climb the razor wire fences, which come with the risk of being beaten, or worse, by border guards, but these men, like those in Japan struggling to escape the pressure, are also looking for freedom.

Finally, López considers the recession in his homeland of Spain, where it's easy to fall through the cracks and where there is an eviction every 30 minutes. Using footage of brutal evictions, you are left with the big question of who is benefiting from these callous expulsions?

López knows how to look and how to encourage us to see the parallels between these situations, carefully editing the footage (with the help of Victoria Lammers) to illustrate Mujica's argument without making the issues seem forced or sentimental. So, for example, we see the Japanese men have a roof over their heads but so little time to sleep that they might as well be as homeless as the African men in the Moroccan woodland or the Spaniard forced to live in a squat.

Despite all this, this is not a downbeat film, Mujica expresses hope that as the poor are in the majority, change must and will come, and there is a sense of solidarity between many of those captured on camera. This is a profoundly thoughtful film, that encourages you to think about more than just an immediate connection - about the deeper ties that bind. If there is one small criticism to be made, it is the lack of women's perspectives in the film - an indication that men, no matter what their problems, still hold the balance of power when it comes to making their voices heard.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2017
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Delicate Balance packshot
The stories of a Japanese executive, a sub-Saharan community and an evicted family in Spain are intertwined in this documentary.

Director: Guillermo García López

Writer: Guillermo García López

Year: 2016

Runtime: 83 minutes

Country: Spain


EIFF 2017

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