Travels with a donkey as an old man seeks to fulfil his dream.




Chico Pereira's film set in Spain is undoubtedly an oddity and not only because its title is a pun referring to that most famous of classic Spanish novels, Don Quixote by Cervantes. It's a film of quiet pleasures and a work that is totally individual yet it never quite comes together to make a fully satisfactory whole. The central figure here is 73-year-old Manuel now retired and living in the country. His favourite occupation is going on long walks with his donkey, Gorrión, and his dog Zafrana, but he has had health problems and his understanding daughter, Paquita, is concerned that he should always carry a mobile phone with him. Nothing in his situation is really out of the ordinary, but then we learn that, despite his age, Manuel is planning to travel to America with the aim of walking, together with Gorrión, along the Trail of Tears, the east to west route forced on American Indians in the 19th century.


Manuel has his heart set on this hazardous project so Paquita comes to support him. His plan is so bizarre that some believe that Manuel is joking, but at least his proposal seems more reasonable than that followed through by Sheila Hancock's aged widow in the British movie Edie (2017). But in fact the films that are evoked by Donkeyote are works of a very different kind. Even ahead of the title appearing, we have night scenes featuring Gorrión and Zafrana shot without music and with Manuel heard as a voice off screen before we see him. The film's quiet poetic closeness to the natural world creates a contemplative tone reminiscent of religious films about meditation. Then, when the film proceeds to show us Manuel and his animals on the road, the film's minimalism brings to mind the Italian piece that was made without dialogue in 2010, Le Quattro Volte. That film had a Tati-like sense of the comic and Manuel's preparations for his journey are viewed with a certain deadpan humour. However, it is deliberately underplayed and Manuel is never for a moment a figure of fun.


If the opening segment of Donkeyote is striking, no less memorable is the later scene in which father and daughter share memories - again it is set at night and handled with a rare delicacy and enhanced by the wise decision to eschew any music score. Manuel Molena Aparicio, to give Manuel his full name, is the director's uncle and he proves to be a splendid screen presence. His rapport with his animals is potent too. But even at 86 minutes, the film seems extended and a confrontation at the climax is described and not shown. This omission may well be linked to this  being a film based on fact to the extent that it has been described as a documentary. However, both the shooting style and the personal scenes when they occur suggest a fiction with real-life roots rather than a documentary as usually defined. That is fine by me, but the various elements in this aptly slow-paced film fail to merge into a wholly effective unity. Nevertheless, the film scores highly for originality and contains some truly memorable moments.




Featuring  Manuel Molera Aparicio, Paca Molera Pereira, Mamenmez Heredia.


Dir Chico Pereira, Pro Sonja Henrici and Imgmar Trost, Written by Chico Pereira, Gabriel Molera and Manuel Pereira, Ph Julian Schwanitz, Ed Nick Gibbon.


Sutor Kolonko/SDI Productions/Opa Films/Creative Scotland/Arte-Scottish Documentary Institute.
86 mins. Germany/UK/Spain. 2017. Rel: 26 October 2018. Cert. 15.