The Empty Box

La caja vacía

Claudia Sainte-LuceFrance / Mexico101 minutes2016PGColourSpanish English Haitian Creole

Mexican filmmaker Claudia Sainte-Luce (The Amazing Catfish) directs and stars in her touching second feature, about a young woman in Mexico City who is forced to care for her estranged father as he descends into senile dementia.

Claudia Sainte-Luce's luminous first feature, The Amazing Catfish, enchanted audiences with its honest, intimate observations on the many and varied ways of being a family, and how some can be created entirely in the absence of blood ties. With her second feature, The Empty Box, the director once again explores the enigma of family, this time through the story of an estranged father and daughter, brought together by an illness, who discover ways of reforging the bonds broken by many years of neglect.

Jazmin (played by the director herself, in an incredible performance), a young woman living in Mexico City, is nonplussed when she receives a call informing her that her father, Toussaint (Jimmy Jean-Louis), an illegal Haitian immigrant, is ill. She hasn't seen him in years, and does not know why they are calling her. When she finally gets to the hospital and discovers that her father is suffering from vascular dementia, she finds herself faced with the task of caring for a man who is more a stranger than a father to her. But Toussaint, a lifelong drifter, has no one else, so Jazmin brings him to her apartment where she lives alone with her cat.

Shifting between the two characters' points of view, Sainte-Luce skilfully evokes Toussaint's slowly degenerating mental state as his memories of the past become clearer than his present reality and he begins to have fewer and fewer lucid moments. At first reluctant to share her lonely world, Jazmin slowly opens up to her father, realizing that his grip on reality is increasingly tenuous and the time for reconciliation is short.

Imbued with touching compassion and vibrant energy, The Empty Box confirms Sainte-Luce as one of Latin America's most compelling new cinematic talents.

DIANA SANCHEZ

Illness + DeathLatin AmericaMental HealthBlack + African DiasporaFemale DirectorFamily