By Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune
A poor, skinny young man named Venkatesh (Venkatesh Chavan) hides in a tree atop a hill near the back yard of a wealthy man’s home in the city of Panjim, Goa, along India’s west coast. No one ever goes in the pool. For the illiterate 18-year-old, gazing at the water becomes a symbol of attainment, freedom, escape.
From this premise, Milwaukee-based filmmaker Chris Smith, best known for work in the documentary field, relays a simple, optimistic slice of life.
Venkatesh’s 11-year-old friend (Jhangir Badshah) works in a restaurant; Venkatesh cleans toilets and changes bed linen in a nearby hotel. When Venkatesh finally meets the pool’s owner (Nana Patekar), director Smith and his co-writer Randy Russell, who wrote the original short story, unpack a few secrets having to do with the owner’s family, and why the pool sits so conspicuously unused.
The film is a bit schematic and sweet-natured, perhaps to a fault, yet the faces linger.
Smith and his mixture of actors and non-actors remind us that an act of generosity is all it takes to change a life.
Cast: Venkatesh Chavan, Jhangir Badshah, Nana Patekar
Director: Chris Smith
Screenwriters: Chris Smith, Randy Russell
Producer: Kate Noble
Running time: 98 minutes. Playing in Miami-Dade only: Cosford.