To term something a “festival film” can be patronizing — it pigeonholes a movie as one with very limited audience appeal. These are usually from countries with little or no film industry, and they’re almost always slow paced and character-driven. In other words, a “festival film” is the antithesis of a “Hollywood film.” Gigante, a modest feature from Uruguay, is a perfect example. It’s as unsurprising as it is charming, and it will never get a fair shake in the world of blockbusters. But just imagine if for every two big budget behemoths there were one international indie in your local Cineplex. In my perfect world, the two would coexists and give moviegoers some variety, lending some individuality to the bigger films.
In Gigante‘s case, Argentinean director Adrián Biniez mines individuality through subtlety and sensitivity, slightly improving on an otherwise predictable story. Jara is a universal stereotype of a misunderstood gentle giant—far smarter and kinder than he looks. He works the nightshift as a security guard in a massive supermarket. He’s uninterested in the nominal pastimes of his co-workers, preferring to keep to himself with a book or a crossword puzzle. As if subconsciously aware that his mundane life threatens to suffocate him, Jara takes note of a cleaning woman working at the supermarket. His interest turns to obsession as he watches her on the closed-circuit security cameras and eventually starts following her outside of work. Her unique hobbies — karate, horror films, heavy metal — fascinate Jara, but the one-sided relationship teeters on the edge of possessive, unhealthy and, yes, a little creepy. Once his jealousy takes hold, Jara becomes a man that even he himself does not recognize. Mountains will not be moved by Gigante, but it’s nonetheless its humanistic foundation should not be unappreciated. Jara, thoughtfully played by Horacio Camandule, is a sympathetic anti-hero that we identify with immediately. Shot entirely from his perspective, Gigante forces us to walk in his shoes. The object of his obsession, Julia, is as much a mystery to us as she is to him. Although the film is slow paced, it’s also very short. When things start to go awry, nothing is drawn-out or made melodramatic. Nor does Gigante ever devolve into a nauseating fairytale. The simplistic moral to the story: if there is someone you like, you should say ‘hi’ to them.