Bless This Dump

After a holiday hiatus, the San Francisco Film Society Screen is again primed to fire up its projector. Curated by the same clued-in programmers who scour the planet for the annual S.F. International Film Festival, the SFFS Screen unreels a steady stream of recent small gems overlooked by the bigger art-house distributors. This week’s humanist treat, The Pope’s Toilet, unfolds in 1988 in the backwater Uruguayan town of Melo. The upcoming visit by John Paul II, promising a one-day influx of well-off Brazilian tourists crossing the border and a once-in-a-lifetime windfall ignites Melo’s entrepreneurial spirit. The would-be profiteer at the center of the film is Beto, a minor-league smuggler who (in the great movie tradition) is maybe half as smart as he thinks. Alas, his daughter Silvia’s goal of studying in Montevideo -- and qualifying for life’s better opportunities -- hangs in the balance. When Springsteen sang just a few years earlier, “Is a dream a lie if it don't come true/Or is it something worse?” he was thinking of the Silvias of the world.
Jan. 30-Feb. 5, 2009

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