THE POPE’S TOILET (El Baño del Papa)


el-bano-del-papa-the-popes-toilet-mar-3rd1988. The Uruguayan village of Melo anticipates the Papal visit. Beto, a would be entrepreneur, sees a gap in the market for a pay-as-you-go toilet for the large congregation expected. Much coming and going ensues across the border with Brazil to ensure said installation is fully functioning in time. The directors balance humour and pathos in this tale of an otherwise impoverished village. A “quietly understated gem” – Michael Brooke, Sight and Sound. (Cert 15)
Dir: César Charlone, Enrique Fernández 94 mins Urug./Bra. 2007
to be shown with
Dir: Akim Zaatari (Cert 12A) 7 mins Lebanon 2010

Programme Notes

Thursday, 3 March 2011

EL BAÑO DEL PAPA (The Pope’s Toilet)
Uruguay/Brazil 2007 94 minutes Cert. 15

This film was Uruguay’s Official Submission to the Best Foreign Language Film Category of the 80th Annual Academy Awards in 2008. It is set in the run down Uruguayan village of Melo in the 1980s, near the Brazilian border. Several of the villagers scrape a precarious living by petty smuggling across the border by bicycle, trying to avoid the none too effective customs officials. One of these is Beto, who lives with his long suffering wife Carmen and their daughter Silvia, whose ambition is to be a reporter.

When news reaches Melo that Pope John Paul II is to pass through the village on his South American tour, the locals devise schemes to get rich quick from all the supposed wealthy Brazilian visitors. A frenzy is whipped up by ill-informed TV reporters who progressively increase their estimates of the expected number of tourists. Beto’s scheme is to open a public toilet in his yard and to charge the visitors for its use. Needless to say, in the event the inflated numbers do not materialise, leaving Beto and his fellow entrepreneurs both in debt and out of pocket. Silvia is disillusioned with the media, and joins her father in his smuggling activities.

Filmed largely using non-professional actors, the story highlights the social and racial pecking orders in the village, and portrays the church as aloof from the lives and difficulties of the poverty stricken villagers. In the end, the lives of the locals are ruined by the media generated euphoria that gave them a brief hope of economic salvation. That hope is cruelly dashed.

Beto – César Troncoso
Carmen – Virginia Méndez
Silvia – Virginia Ruiz
Valvulina – Mario Silva
Meleyo – Nelson Lence
Nacente – Henry De Leon

Directors – César Charlone, Enrique Fernández
Screenwriters – César Charlone, Enrique Fernández
Original Music – Gabriel Casacuberta, Luciano Supervielle
Cinematography – César Charlone
Producers – Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Bel Berlinck, Serge Catoire, Fernando Meirelles, Elena Roux

“Towards the end of the film, [Silvia] sheds a single tear as she realises her role model the TV reporter is ultimately responsible for the disaster… As with many similar observations in this quietly understated gem, the detail is heartbreaking as much for the emotions it only hints at as for the poignancy of the moment itself.” Michael Brooke, Sight and Sound


Lebanon 2010 7 mins Cert 12A
Dir. Akim Zaatari



“Best [short] this season!”

“Enjoyable – a short which had a story, timing and interesting visuals”

“Entertaining idea but didn’t really go anywhere”

“A nice idea but tiring to watch”

“A good and unusual way to tell a story but the ending confused me.”

“Like 1950s You[‘ve] Got Mail!”

“Instant messaging on a typewriter but that was the only thing worthy of merit.”

“Could be the start of a series – which would be ‘Pointless in Seattle’”

“If I wanted to read a book, I’d have bought one.”

“Dunno … I really dunno.”



“Great little film: the message – Never ever give up and sod the Pope!”

“Enjoyed this film and the life in the characters. A window on another time, place and culture, which is one of the reasons I enjoy the range of films we see at ABCD.”

“What a delightful film – Carmen was wonderful.”

“Rough, raw and filmed in the same manner. Gripping.”

“Agonising, charming, with a redemptive future for the village. A slice of life. I loved it!”

“I really enjoyed this – charming, unsentimental [and] it rightly denied us the feelgood ending we craved. Beautifully filmed. Viva Uruguay!”

“Viva el nuevo Bunuel! The film made me realise I was less than enterprising during the recent Papal visit to England but now that public toilets are being closed all over Oxfordshire, I shall try to be more entrepreneurial.”

“Very well managed – unlike private enterprise!”

“Beautifully filmed, with powerful performances – and by non-professionals. Not trickle-down economics, it was [from] the floor up – to us Westerners!”

“Convincing characters and a bitter-sweet storyline. At least the Pope made a profit!”

“Very entertaining, although not enough to make audiences wet themselves, with a moral that was not too overdone. It put many higher-budget films to shame in terms of plot, script, acting and cinematography.”

“More fun here than Katalin Varga’s Romania.”

“Amusing but poignant. A moral lesson for all of us!”

“Credible, engaging and touching. So emotive it made me (cough) choke!”

“Great fun but nothing subtle [about it].”

“Moral – Never trust the media or the Church or [even] your own brilliant ideas!”

“A filmic fable in which the moral was – Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, Certainly worth seeing.”

“An interesting take on reality and expectations!”

“Nice idea, with [some] charm but a bit long-winded.”

“Beto reminded me of Yosser in Boys from the Blackstuff. How they got their bikes up the hills without Sturmey Archer gears I’ll never know!”

“The Notes revealed too much! The scene of the animals eating the surplus food was very impressive.”

“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the end.”

“All that food made me hungry!”