Opening 18 Jun 2015
Fourteen-year-old Raphael lives on one of many waste dumps in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is also his place of honest employment. He and his friends Gardo and Rato sort through the stinking, rotting, smoking mess, hoping to find something to sell. And they do find an expensive-looking leather billfold, which contains some cash, photos, and a key. The police, who treat poor people as “trash,” are confounded when the boys reject their offer of money for the billfold. Obviously, there is more to the find; it must be valuable. The three boys decide to locate the owner, whose name is in the billfold: José Angelo. This puts them in even greater danger, which includes corrupt politicians, especially one named Santos. They seek safety in Rato’s “home” in an underground sewer. They also go to the priest, Father Julliard, who runs a help center in their neighborhood, supported by Olivia, who teaches them English. They work out a plan which involves smuggling one of the boys into prison to talk to a certain prisoner.
Trash is tense from beginning to end, puts you on the edge of the seat, as the boys work toward an impossible goal. There are tortuous scenes and they “fight battles that make you bitter or make you dead.” They must figure it out, but what is a poor boy to do? The only small island of hope is truly the Catholic help center, which could also be endangered. Naturally, this must be a good film, not only because it won a main prize at the 2014 Rome film festival, but because it is by Stephen Daldry, who is responsible for those other good films: Billy Elliot (2000), The Hours (2002) and The Reader (2008). Christiane Amanpour, journalist for CNN, plays herself. The title Trash indicates the real garbage that people throw away, which eventually can be valuable to someone, as well as the impoverished people who rise to an occasion and prove their worth. (Becky Tan)