The Pope's Toilet takes place in Uruguay and leads up to Pope John Paul II's May 8, 1988 visit to the country. This is just one of four films being screened this weekend as part of the Latino Film Fiesta presented by the Latino Community Association. The fiesta celebrates Latin American culture and recognizes the artistic contributions of Latinos in the form of narrative cinema.
Other films screening during the festival include: Viva Cuba, a story in the vein of Romeo and Juliet, Forbidden to Forbid, about an architecture student and a med student and Madeinusa, a film focusing on a town that doesn't believe in sin from Good Friday until Easter Sunday. The films span Latin America, from Cuba to Uruguay to Peru, giving viewers various tastes of Latin American culture.
The Pope's Toilet, which is ostensibly based on actual events, is set in the poverty-stricken town of Melo, Uruguay as the city prepares for the papal visit by baking fritters, buying chorizo and buns, painting banners for sale, all for the anticipated business the event will bring. Citizens do all they can, hoping to make big bucks. They procure bank loans and sell off pieces of land to pay for the goods they're to sell.
The main character, Beto, makes his living as a smuggler and rides his bike across the border to Brazil and brings back goods, which he sells to a local merchant. All of the smugglers must watch out for Meleyo, a mobile patrolman who acts as a customs agent near the border. Beto wants to get a piece of the papal pie. After all, rumor has it there will be between 20,000 and 60,000 people coming to hear the Pope's speech, which means plenty of money to be spent. Beto comes up with something completely different than his neighbors: he, his wife Carmen and his daughter Silvia will build a nice bathroom and charge visitors to use the new facilities, which includes an actual toilet. Beto and his family run into troubles and he isn't able to go to Brazil to get the toilet until the morning of the Pope's visit. But don't worry; I won't spoil the ending for you.
The Pope's Toilet portrays the desperation of Beto and the town's citizens realistically. The film tells an at times humorous, yet heartbreaking story, which is worth a viewing. The Beto character has some issues, but you can't help but root for him as he runs into town carrying, what he hopes to be, his porcelain piggy bank.
This type of story is ever present in not only Latin cinema, but across the globe. Whether it's a teen from the projects trying to make something of himself, or a boy from the slums of India getting on Who Wants to be a Millionaire so the love of his life will see him, throughout all national cinemas hope is a dominant theme. The Pope's Toilet takes its differences from realism, in that hope doesn't always triumph.
An after party follows the final screening on Saturday. The suggested donation of $15 for the 8pm showing of The Pope's Toilet gets viewers into the after party at the Tower, which includes Latin American cuisine prepared by El Rodeo and Hola! Live music, margaritas and Argentinean wines round out an evening celebrating the cultural influences of Latinos.
Latino Film Fiesta
Thursday, March 5 - Redmond High School: Viva Cuba 6pm; The Pope's Toilet 8pm
Friday, March 6 - Hitchcock Auditorium, COCC: Madeinusa 6pm; Forbidden to Forbid 8pm
Saturday, March 7 - Tower Theatre:Viva Cuba 4pm; Forbidden to Forbid 6pm; The Pope's Toilet 8pm