Film Reviews

Review: ‘Donkeyote’

This ‘donkumentary’ is a steller documentary-fiction hybrid.


Donkeyote
(Germany, UK. 86 minutes)
Dir. Chico Pereira
Programme: Magnificent Obsessions. (Canadian Premiere)

A crowd-pleasing tale of an old man with a dream, a dog and a donkey, Chico Pereira’s Donkeyote is a stellar example of documentary-fiction hybrid. Pereira, who hails from La Mancha, Spain, the fictional birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes’ hero, Don Quixote, casts his uncle, 73-year-old Manoel, who enjoys sleeping outdoors and going on long walks around the countryside with his donkey and dog. Manoel also has his own version of Don Quixote’s impossible dream: To walk the Trail of Tears, the route taken, between 1830 and 1850, by various Native American nations who were forcibly displaced from their homeland in southeast United States to west of the Mississippi.

If Manoel’s two previous heart attacks and painful arthritis weren’t enough of a challenge, he is determined to share the walk with his dog and donkey; the travel agent he calls assumes he’s making a prank call.

Created in the comic-heroic spirit of Cervantes’ novel, there is no clear line in Donkeyote between what is “staged” and what is observed. Early in the film, conversations with Manoel’s concerned daughter and wife are, presumably, reenacted for the film. And Manoel, with his gruff voice emerging from beneath the shadow of his wide-brimmed cowboy hat, is a born performer: We see him telling stories to his daughter’s special needs class, reciting poems in a bar or singing improvised songs.

Pereira and talented cameraman Julian Schwanitz shoot Manoel’s journey from his home village to the seaside in wide and long shots evoking classic American Westerns. In a nice touch, the modern wind turbines evoke the ferocious giants of Don Quixote’s imagination. The long-shot scenes contrast with intimate moments of rest when the man, the dog and the donkey comfort each other with talk, songs, pats, brays, barks and nuzzles.