AMERICANO! is the story of a modern Diogenes imprisoned in a timeless present.
A Sisyphean life swinging in a never-ending loop between recollection and loss.
A Limbo where all that can be felt is stillness.
And all that can be heard is silence.
In August 2021 I left for my 3rd trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, hoping to
produce a visual work based on one single idea, that of silence.
Silence as a meditational opportunity to reﬂect and admire the unknown.
Through a series of chances, in less than 48 hours after my arrival I was able to have my ﬁrst encounter with Amerco, a 29 y.o. man whose hidden charisma shun in the deserted streets of Soweto.
It took almost 2 weeks, travelling everyday in the same area, before I started shooting him: an immigrant from Mozambique with the strength and beauty of a Diogenes minus the arrogance of teaching anything to anyone.
Amerco is a shy man that has rarely opened up to anyone about his past.
Perhaps because I was a stranger to him, he very soon decided to share the story of his life to me and my collaborator Nthato.
Or at least he tried to share what he could remember. We soon realised that Amerco’s life is characterised by a particular trauma: he was abused and beaten up, some years before, while living in the bushes somewhere else in South Africa, and this produced a severe repercussion to his short-term memory.
At that moment the whole project took onto a speciﬁc turning point, that or representing a man freed of the most precious of things: hope.
This ﬁlm is the eulogy to a life, symbol of many other unspoken lives, that can be of inspiration, probably only in certain ways, to all who are in search of meanings beyond our comfort zone but are too conﬂicted by their own expectations and desires.
Diogenes (c. 412-323 BCE) was a controversial ﬁgure who made of poverty his highest virtue.
He had a reputation for sleeping and eating wherever he chose in a highly non-traditional fashion, and took to toughening himself against nature.
Diogenes however had a mission, a purpose, in other words hope. In this Amerco differs dramatically.
Time passes for everyone, yet some people need no rushing.
Because all is there, to be reﬂected upon. A thoughtful perhaps involuntary slow process. The natural way with which we can all reconnect to the world around us.
And within us … perhaps involuntarily.
What is a life without memory, when we are no longer aware of our presence in time? What is to not be able to distinguish past from present anymore?
One interpretation is presented in the work of Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus: Camus states that we will never ﬁnd in life itself the meaning that we want to ﬁnd. Either we will discover that meaning through a leap of faith, by placing our hopes in a God beyond this world, or we will conclude that life is meaningless.
If life has no meaning, does that mean life is not worth living? If that were the case, we would have no option but to make a leap of faith or to commit suicide, says Camus. However a third possibility can be considered:
that we can accept and live in a world devoid of meaning or purpose.
For cheating death twice, Sisyphus was punished by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity.
As Camus says: “there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor”.
A world devoid of meaning or purpose. For eternity. No conscious mind could possibly plan such a destiny.
How could we hope for a purposeless fate if the very act of hope implies purpose?
This very question has sparked my interest in the person of Amerco.
THE IMMIGRATION CASE
Although not explicitly presented in the ﬁlm, AMERICANO! is the story of immigration, of people displaced in foreign worlds, driven by an innate sense of survival against all odds.
From the end of Apartheid in 1994 many populations around the African continent have relocated to South Africa for a better future. This has created a difﬁcult condition for the country as well as for the very immigrants that are more often than not victims of abuse, xenophobic experiences and live without basic human right recognitions.
In addition, from the Renamo War of the 90s an increased in the number of immigrants from Mozambique was recorded, which is currently estimated at 350,000+ (UN Population Division Data) of which many are currently not holding legal papers (of 6.2 mil foreigners, 1.5 mil are undocumented). This means that they cannot apply to basic social services and are furthermore easy targets for exploitation - in most cases throughout their entire life.
Colour 61’ - 4:3 HD
Language: Zulu, Makhuwa
Preproduction: May-July 2021
Production: 10 July - 20 August 2021
LOCATION Soweto, Gauteng, SA
ProRes 422 and XAVC HS 4:2:2