“I’m leaving today,” Rita (Lisa Fávero) says, standing for the last time at the table where she and her host, Madalena (Sônia Guedes), have been making bread each morning. It’s early morning in the tiny Brazilian town of Jutuomba, and the sun isn’t up yet. “But you can’t leave,” Madalena says, turning toward Rita, her lantern providing the scantest of light on the younger woman’s face and white t-shirt, which is adorned with the cheesiest of cartoon hedgehogs. “I can’t keep pretending I belong somewhere else,” Rita doesn’t quite explain. Madalena sums up: “And where do you belong?”
The question is key in Found Memories, Screening 22 through 28 June at the San Francisco Film Society Cinema. Júlia Murat’s lovely film looks at how the rhythms of daily life form not only patterns and routines, but also ways to see. When Rita, a photographer, arrives in town near film’s start, she’s enchanted by what she sees, the dirt paths and simple building structures, the mountains and the grassy fields. Madalena at this point sees something else, her routine so fixed that she can’t imagine a change. Each morning, she makes her bread, walks along railroad tracks to the coffee-making shop owned by Antônio (Luiz Serra), where they share breakfast. Rita’s arrival alters Madalena’s day and her view, and vice versa.
The relationship between the two women is rendered in a series of remarkable images, interiors where they watch each other through shadows and perform chores, long wide exteriors where they’re small, barely moving figures. In Jutuomba, time seems slowed, but doesn’t stop, a point made beautifully and unsentimentally by Rita’s photos, low-angled compositions of stone statues and iron gates, local faces and ancient legacies. In finding ways both to pause time in photos and let it go in memories, Rita finds where she might belong.