¡Viva! has now started and our screens are alight with Spanish and Latin American cinema. Digital Reporter Jen Tomlinson reviews Migas de pan…
I tend to be drawn to films with gritty plot lines, and Migas de pan – which translates to English as Breadcrumbs – hits the mark for its bold retelling of a factual part of Uruguay’s history. The political drama genre it is assigned has one of those titles that makes you think, what is this going to be about? I found out towards the end of the film that it’s a literal reference to the breadcrumbs that were left as a sign to show support to a fellow detainee. This message of solidarity runs firmly throughout.
The film brings a brutal aspect of Uruguay’s past to the audience as it confronts a dark period for the country during the dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s. It’s intent to not just shine a light on this period, more thrust it to the attention of the viewer, begins just a few minutes in during a scene in which a video is opened showing the rape of a boy. There is no escaping the uncomfortable past that director Manane Rodriguez wants to show you.
The story of Liliana, the female protagonist, traversed between the present to the past as the barbaric treatment she endured for her dissident political views are shown in – at times – gritty and hard to watch realistic scenes. The present story shows Liliana seeking justice with a collective of the other women who had the same harrowing experience. The two different stages of Liliana’s life are played by Cecilia Roth and Justina Bustos, both justly demonstrating her defiance and stoic nature, yet missing some of the emotion I’d have expected of a woman grappling with her own past and its impact on her present.
The burden of Liliana’s ordeal on her family is pivotal to the story, most notably her son being taken away from her; consolidating the experience of a female choosing to fight an abusive regime some years earlier. The weighty, incomprehensible, decision between a woman’s own family and that of political activism isn’t explained fully and I was left wondering why, even after her release in present day, Liliana couldn’t be reunited with her family properly if she was seeking justice in the present? Perhaps this is something that would resonate more if you have direct experience or knowledge of Uruguayan history; for me, it left me wanting more of an explanation.
The film’s pace was consistent, and the darker scenes – although shocking to view – were curtailed just enough to not allow the film to be enveloped by gratuitous scenes. If you’re interested in a not-too-distant part of Latin America’s history, Migas de pan offers you sobering yet worthy viewing, with the underlying message being to not forget about the past, but to correct any wrong-doings where possible.
Migas de pan screens as part of ¡Viva! on Fri 13 & Thu 26 April. Book tickets and find out more here.