‘Oasis’ shines at ‘Films From Panama 2017’

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Written By Clent Bowers                                 
                                                                                                     

What is most striking about Oasis is its stunning cinematography and soothing score. Writer/Director, Jorge Ameer’s Oasiscreates a classic beautifully shot atmosphere for his latest narrative.  The score perfectly accenting in agreement the mood of unrequited love between two people.

Courtesy of Jorge Ameer Films

The Meeting Arrangement                                                               courtesy of Jorge Ameer Films

Set against the also beautiful landscape of Panama, an oasis in itself, there is all at once reflected a painful beauty within the distress of the buildings and the vibrant colors of the tropical vegetation that surrounds its people and their art.    You can almost feel the cool tropical breeze that gives sighs of relief, while a burning need for the characters to find themselves, fairly screams throughout the unfolding story.

In this latest narrative, Ameer once again explores the struggles on the subject of sexual repression.   In this case homosexuality and bisexuality.    The word currently used to include all sexual orientations by today’s youth is “fluid”.    Its meaning is the ability to move easily between one sexuality to another; no labels.    However, In a traditional social and religious culture like that of Panama, the overall standard acceptance of sexuality is clearly heterosexual, and any diversion from this is considered aberrant and therefore unwelcome. 

Oliver                                                                                                  Courtesy of, Jorge Ameer Films

Here two protagonists are struggling with navigating their lives within the confines of their society.    They are both married and figuratively speaking, on the “down low”.   While their inclinations are evident, it is unclear if either has ever acted on what seems to be their natural impulses.  


Courtesy of Jorge Ameer Films


An oasis is a place one finds water, refuge, and sustenance in the desert.   The word oasis here is also the attempt to realize another state of being.   One of mutual respect and a communion of passion which will allow its subjects reprieve from their everyday mundane and painful existence so that when they return, it is all worth it.

 
 Here is where Ameer takes our two friends.   But as there is ambiguity with one of the two men, this oasis is not what it seems.  There is danger lurking within the self-hate and denial of one, Andrew ( Matthew Lynn), towards the longing desire of the other, Oliver (Cesar DeFuentes).    The complexity of life choices and relationships are universal and not limited to sexuality.    However, self-denial is the personal added issue here, and that may be the dangerous root that is to be dug out on this escape to their tropical oasis.

courtesy of Jorge Ameer Films

 
The subject is one seldom explored in our normal world.   A story of two men who are old friends from their youth.   One is evidently homosexual, and the other is reluctant to admit that he may have been attracted, or worse, be bisexual.   They are now both married and clearly unhappy.    One feels he is hopelessly trapped. The other, filled with blame, feels haunted by the memory of their past closeness and seeks to exorcize his unwanted demons.   So the latter orchestrates a getaway retreat “for old times sake”  to experience that closeness and to rid himself of these damaging urges once and for all. 
 
In Oasis, Ameer’s style is reminiscent of old male model art magazines from the fifties and sixties like Tomorrows Man or Adonis.  Also the feeling of forbidden blue movies surfaces, reminiscent of early erotic films of the same period.   Here, Ameers delivery approaches perfect pitch.

 

Jorge Ameer cameo as street hustler offering an Oasis pill    courtesy of Jorge Ameer Films

However, some moments need improvement.    The sound in many scenes become pedestrian and not up to the standard of the music nor the cinematography.   In one scene when the men are out in the garden, you can hardly hear or understand a word.   Although the actors are working admirably to attain the stories demand and edgy subject matter, the direction and editing often sabotage their effort. 
 
 Oasis is told in broad strokes where close attention to the character’s intention is often unclear.    It lacks at times the subtlety of intimate transitions the character understanding warrants.   Often missed is the opportunity for answers which may lay in those smaller moments in-between words during a conversation.   The intention is often not clear.    Although DeFuentes and Lynn are indeed fine actors, their chemistry together does not fully connect in many instances.   Thus hindering an undeniable love between them and the emotional investment leading towards the climax.    We long to see more of the struggle and anguish in Andrew which would justify, or foreshadow, his decision in the end.   

 

Andrew ponders                                                                           courtesy of Jorge Ameer Films

Even still, the beauty of Panama, the cinematography ( Matthew Lynn) and the musical score (Pond 5), behind this mystery is ever present to successfully cocoon and propel their story forward.    Here, the vision of Oasis and the experience Ameer is striving to present shines through.   
 
 As with many of  Ameers past films, sound and the occasional not fully realize characterization or intent, lessen what could be pure brilliance in his work.  It is his overall vision and attention to setting, color, music, and his signature classic atmospheric style that mark his defining brand and keep us rooting for his continued developing success as a filmmaker.  It must always be remembered the adversity and effort it takes to get an independent film made on one’s own.   

In Oasis, Ameer is asking the questions.:  Who are the custodians of love, attraction, and relationships?   Is it the business of our society or the responsibility of the individuals involved?   Sexual repression is a subject close to this artist’s heart.   These are fair questions which to date have no clear answer; except perhaps here on an occasioned visit to a personalized Oasis.
 
 Oasis, Panama’s first Oscar hopeful was featured at this year’s Cannes Festival and will be screened with improved sound in Spanish, as the Closing Night Gala in the Panama Film Festival at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood California 8/19/2017.  To attend the festival or to learn more about Panamainium film and the growing artistic culture, please visit.

 

Courtesy Of Jorge Ameer Films

 

Cinematography by

Matthew Lynn

 

Sybil Ameer In memory of
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