It’s seemingly becoming more common for children, especially under the age of 10, to have an unbelievable amount of knowledge of electronics. Many kids these days are seen playing video games, using FaceTime on an iPad and carrying cell phones. The uplifting documentary short, Paal (Child), highlights the life of a young boy who surprisingly has an unbelievable amount of knowledge of nature, something some would say is unusual.
Writers and directors Christoph Müller and Victor Vargas followed the everyday life of a young Mayan boy named Memo who has a relationship with nature, the people of his hometown and telling stories of his own. In the documentary, Memo’s connection with nature highlights the world he lives in. He’s definitely a character—an intuitive, intelligent and talkative little boy. The way he speaks about his love for his hometown and the flourishing wildlife emphasizes that although his community in Yucatan is poor, they’re culture is rich.
The way the film captures Memo climbing up trees and petting insects, as if it is second nature, illuminated his customs and connection with the world around him. It is arguable to say that most American children do nothing of the sort. Many American children are strutting their new phones and electronics whilst young Memo is seen experiencing the Earth and world in a more thoughtful and meaningful way. As a viewer, it was a humbling experience to see such a young child be incredibly knowledgable and philosophical with Mother Nature.
Müller and Vargas’ story was stunning, and to some degree it was visually stunning. Although there were a few shots that broke the 180 rule, (where the camera should be placed somewhere inside 180 degrees on a certain side of an invisible line of a shot between two people), causing a bit of confusion, it was shot well. They let things happen naturally as opposed to following the action as it happened. It was also more interesting to see interaction and action happening whilst Memo spoke as opposed to seeing him set up in an interview room where he shared stories about his day.
As a viewer, the film the Jungle Book immediately came to mind when watching Paal. Flashbacks of the jungle boy, Mowgli, climbing trees and exploring the jungle were similar to Memo traveling through the Yucatan jungle. There was also a sense of naivete that intensified his adventure in the jungle. He knew he would see animals, bugs and other living things but not knowing what to expect or what exactly he would stumble upon made his journey through the jungle an interesting everyday experience.
The film was approximately 20 minutes, but during the time of the film so much footage was captured. Memo shared so many thoughts and stories that, as a viewer, it felt as if it were an hour long. Memo expresses his passion for school and learning new things whilst also loving stories.Shots of children in the community tying sticks to leaves to create brooms and working hard spotlights that education is important whilst also highlighting that nothing is handed to them. They understand hard work.
Watch the trailer for Paal below. The film screened at the 2013 Cine Las Americas Film Festival.