Shine Your Eyes
The fictional debut from Brazilian filmmaker Matias Mariani, Shine Your Eyes, is a visionary tour de force that follows Nigerian musician Amadi (OC Ukeje). The protagonist travels to São Paulo from Lagos in search of his older brother Ikenna (Chukwudi Iwuji), who has mysteriously cut all ties with his family and seemingly vanished into thin air. Following the faint trail that his brother left behind, Amadi begins to realise that his brother wasn’t living the esteemed life he claimed to, all the while obtaining a snapshot of the life he could have had in Brazil and wrestling with his own existential demons.
From the opening sequence, it’s evident that Mariani’s eye for cinema is unrivalled. Each individual frame is drenched in colour and artistry, characterising the city as an organism that’s just as unknowable and enticing as the plot’s central mystery. It’s a metropolis that’s depicted as both lavishly picturesque but also cramped and grimy; often the aesthetic beauty of São Paulo surfaces because of its griminess, as seen from the graffitied buildings and flooded car parks. This isn’t the São Paulo normally shown in Latin American cinema, and Mariani has spoken about wanting to create something tonally different, in line with Alain Tanner’s In the White City and Michael Winterbottom’s Code 46. The result is a mythical place filled with magical realism that showcases arguably some of the best cinematography of the year.
Accompanying the vibrant colour palette and equally colourful characters that make up a fascinating mysterious backdrop, Mariani adds further to his vision’s unique style by squeezing aspects of film noir into the minimal (but nonetheless effective) soundtrack. Aided by subdued and impactful performances from the cast, with Ukeje effortlessly carrying the leading role, getting sucked into this memorising world filled with music, horseracing and boutiques is all part of the experience.
As compelling as slowly uncovering the answers to Ikenna’s whereabouts is, the real genius of this project lies within the questions it raises. Dipping into themes of everything from identity and family ties to musings on the structure of the universe, Mariani gives viewers plenty to chew on while admiring the visuals.
A genuinely fascinating mystery film that asks just as many questions as it answers, Shine Your Eyes is an intelligent and aesthetically pleasing foray into a fantastical vision of São Paulo that makes Mariani a filmmaker to look out for.
Shine Your Eyes is released digitally on demand on 29th July 2020.
Watch the trailer for Shine Your Eyes here: