By Mostafa Ismail
Screened at Zawya during the fourth edition of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) in April, I Travel Because I Have to, I Come Back Because I Love You is a stunning journey of love, life, and pain set against the remote landscape of Sertão in Brazil. With its unique blend of Super 8, DV footage, and still photography, I Travel Because I Have To is a genuine experiment of story and method that feels like an intimate travel journey.
In this award-winning and eloquently despondent film, geologist José Renato voyages to Sertão, a remote area in northeastern Brazil to study potential paths for a waterway. For many, the waterway will be a source of hope, but for those living on its direct path it only means occupations, parting, and hurt. As the ride develops through impressionistic scenes, the despair of the environment reflects Renato’s own life, making the journey progressively more difficult. His geological exploration is gradually diffused by a perception of groundlessness, a non-stop obsession with his ex-wife, and a longing to go home.
With its marvelous design, I Travel Because I Have to, I Come Back Because I Love You is a road-movie in its purest form. It is a journal-like journey through the losses, breakdowns and breakthroughs of one man’s life. This fictional travelogue of our star – whom we never see, but always hear – is a combination of creative snapshots and portraits that capture genuine and moving emotions.
The title may sound long and even cheesy, yet anyone who sees the film will rally in its defense. The movie is shot from the perspective of our star, geologist José Renato (played by Irandhir Santos). The camera portrays Renato’s journey through the underprivileged Sertão region in northeast Brazil and follows him as he conducts an analytical study of the tectonics for a canal waterway project that will cut through the area and displace many of its residents and inhabitants.
Throughout the journey, we hear Renato narrating as he drives through the dry, infertile landscape, talking about the nature of the area, naming geological foundations, and sporadically telling his own personal stories.
Ultimately, Renato has a one-sided conversation with the wind about his beloved wife. Through the conversation, we learn that she suddenly left him, and his trip gradually becomes tedious, as his mind is crowded with thoughts of mourning for his loss and escalating desperation. Eventually, the unbearable loneliness of the terrain sets in, and Renato ventures into a small town where he fills his void with drinking and prostitution.
Out of the dire space he was in, José starts his progression through the various stages of loss, finally reaching a more peaceful place. In the film, the grieving process is accompanied by the visual stimulation of a journey in an open landscape that develops from blunt loneliness through a cathartic journey to a gradual, genuine connection with people; there really is light at the end of the tunnel.
The prostitutes, which feature prominently in the film, are portrayed as real people with real emotions, although when the camera first encounters them, they are still photographs. When the camera shifts to Renato’s perspective, we meet Patricia, who dreams of leading a leisurely life; this scene humanizes the experiences and people as we watch them.
The film is a combination of formats, including but not limited, to Super 8 and DV footage, which gives the film the intimate feeling of a journey through the personal experiences of our main character. The film is so expertly edited, however, that at times it feels as though we’re going through a person’s memories and moving thoughts, accompanied with an exquisite selection of music that is fully synced with the open journey.
About the Directors
Marcelo Gomes was born in Brazil. His first feature, Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures, premiered at Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2005, and received France’s Award of the Ministry of Education. His second film, The Man of the Crowd, was co-directed with Cao Guimarães, and screened at the Panorama Section of the Berlin International Film Festival in 2014.
Karim Aïnouz is a film director and visual artist. His most recent feature, Praia do Futuro (Futuro Beach), premiered at the 64th Edition of Berlin International Film Festival in February 2014. Aïnouz also contributed to the 3D film project about the soul of buildings, Cathedrals of Culture, which premiered at the Berlinale Special Section the same year.