Returning to his rural hometown after his father’s death, a fiery student activist finds himself forced to sort out his family’s very tangled affairs, in Uruguayan writer-director Manolo Nieto’s sensitive and poetic coming-of-age story.
A story about inheritance and all that comes with it, The Militant is the second feature from Manolo Nieto, a thoughtful, soul-searching companion piece to the Uruguayan writer-director's memorable feature debut The Dog Pound, which screened at the Festival in 2006.
At The Militant's centre is Ariel (Felipe Dieste), a student activist far more involved in activism than studying. Upon learning of his father's passing, Ariel abandons his life in Montevideo and returns to his hometown of Salto, just in time to witness his father's burial — and to be assailed by the man's notary, who gently insists they meet as soon as possible to discuss the many debts Ariel's father had accumulated. Ariel's father had a house, but it's being taken over by his father's mistress. He also had a cattle ranch, but the ranch hands haven't been paid in six months; the property is now co-owned by the notary, who wants to sell off the cattle to recoup his investment and settle some of the debt. More accustomed to negotiating protest strategies than balancing a ledger, Ariel is in over his head. He is also on the cusp of real adulthood.
With his orb-like eyes and oddly stunted
speech, Ariel is hard to read. He seems
always to be an outsider looking in. We
come to know him only gradually, through
Dieste's carefully controlled performance
and the patient, sensitive gaze of the camera,
which most often seems to strive for
something close to pure observation. By
The Militant's poetic resolution, we know
we have sensed a true coming-of-age story,
and that whatever path Ariel chooses, he
will follow it with conviction and a deeper
understanding of life.