They are sitting outside the house of the former president of Uruguay José Pepe Mujica. Pepe and Kusturica. The film director lights his cohiba cigar, Pepe is preparing his mate, spitting out the first tasting, too strong it always is. No words are said, they look at each other, they take their time, smiles are on their faces – an excellent start of a film, where the film director expresses his admiration for the modest man, who after being one of the leaders of the Tuparamos guerilla group that robbed Banks, performed kidnapping and later also went into violence, including killings, was caught and kept 13 years in prison. After his release – after the fall of the military dictatorship – he went into politics and became president of the country 2010-2015. A very popular one as demonstrates the film. Kusturica followed the President on his last day on duty with huge crowds celebrating him – and after the change, in his active retirement where he initiates housing projects and gives money from his own salary to help poverty decrease.
The years in prison were good for me, it made me think, he says in the film,
that is built around Kusturica and Pepe in conversation, with archive material of his travelling the world as the president and clips from Costa-Gavras film “State of Siege”, the fiction serves as documentary archive material in this context.
Pepe is a charismatic old man with a warm heart. He talks about changing the culture, fighting capitalism, he is in love with nature, he cultivates flowers, he cooks and talks about his dog Manuela, and he rides his blue old VW Beatle. He loves life and connects this love to his “deep solitude” in jail that made him reflect on the values of life.
Not to forget the most important, his life with Lucía Topolansky, also an ex-tupamaro. The film end with a collage of photos of the two, sitting in a café listening and singing quietly along one of the many beautiful pieces of tango music that goes with the main character(s). Topolansky is now vice-president in the new government.
Kusturica is not interested in giving the audience a solid background in terms of what happened in Uruguay during the dictatorship, it comes in bits and pieces and through interviews with two of Pepe’s companeros,
Mauricio Rosencof and Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro, the latter also analysing current international politics with no good words to Putin and his involvement in Ukraine.
Contrary to the film he made on Maradona, Kusturica lets Pepe come to the viewer without too mush focus on himself, just sitting there with a cigar trying to look like Che Guevara. It’s all right and he deserves credit for this sketchy homage to a man you can only love.
The film had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival 2018.
Uruguay, Serbia, 2018, 74 mins.