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October (Octubre)

October, known as the purple month in Lima, attracts throngs of the faithful to Peru’s capital. Processions celebrating the city’s patron saint, The Lord of Miracles, take over the streets as Peru’s unique image of Christ is paraded from church to church by purple-smocked devotees. Brothers and co-directors Diego and Daniel Vega use this emblematic month in their native city for their impressive debut, “October.”

Clemente (Bruno Odar) is a moneylender whose personal relationships are always quantified. Money is his guiding compass and sets the stakes for both the people he lends to and the prostitutes he beds. It’s a lonely existence that is turned inside-out when he returns home to an apparent break-in, only to discover an abandoned baby left in his charge.

Clemente tries to care for the baby on his own, but luckily Sofia (Gabriela Velásquez), an October worshiper and one of Clemente’s clients, decides to intervene. Clemente leaves the baby in Sofia’s hands and goes in search of the mother – a prostitute he once frequented. Sofia, lonely and eager for companionship, attempts to bring this unlikely family together.

Austerely shot with careful attention to framing, “October” signals the arrival of a distinct cinematic voice from Latin America. The Vega brothers compose a moving and charming film, balancing themes of loneliness and disconnection with an absurd comic tone that steers the narrative away from melodrama. The directors’ respect and affection for their characters is apparent throughout; despite his sullen ways and impenetrable exterior, even Clemente remains wholly human and sympathetic. What emerges is a story as emotional rich as it is thematically compelling.

With their wonderful use of religious symbolism and desperate situations, the Vega brothers present a fresh vision of their native Lima, a city that seems to pray, collectively, for new hope. [Synopsis by Diana Sanchez/Toronto International Film Festival]