In the foreground of “El Gran Movimiento,” the second feature by Bolivian director Kiro Russo, who also wrote the screenplay, the camera zooms in from the top of La Paz toward a half-standing building. As the image gets closer to ground level, the sounds below – traffic, construction, possibly voices – become louder. Throughout the opening montage, Russo peers into the city through a defamiliarizing lens, surveying the buzzing wires of cable cars or reflecting on the reflections of vehicles and people in glass.
Yet “El Gran Movimiento” cannot simply be described as an urban symphony – or just anything. You’d be forgiven for assuming that long stretches consist of a truth documentary, but this enigmatic and experimental film, shot on 16 millimeters, unfolds in a never-quite-identifiable mode that mixes non-fiction and performative elements. That much of it is carefully staged and framed is certainly clear by two-thirds, when the main subjects suddenly engage in a synth dance sequence.
The oblique, difficult-to-grasp plot of the film itself involves Elder (Julio César Ticona), a member of a group of miners who trekked seven days to La Paz to find work; he and his friends work carrying produce, but Elder has a bad cough. Separately, for a time, Russo follows Max (Max Bautista Uchasara), a disheveled man who lives in the woods and makes folk remedies for problems like Elder.
“El Gran Movimiento” was clearly designed as an intuitive experience, and some frustrations are to be expected. Russo is more interested in found surreality than storytelling. But as an incantatory exercise, “El Gran Movimiento” is pleasantly exotic.
El Gran Movement
Unclassified. In Spanish, with subtitles. Duration: 1h25. In theaters.