Carlota Martinez-Pereda’s Cerdita (Piggy) opens with various shots of an open air, natural swimming pool, quiet and empty. There are the remnants of people, a knocked over can of soft drink, scrunched balls of rubbish on the floor, but the pool is deserted when we come to it. It might not seem like much, but it’s a good piece of visual storytelling, because when Sara, our protagonist, played with genuine heart and emotional rawness by Laura Galan, first appears, nervous and uncertain, we understand completely what is happening.
Here is someone who is ashamed of their body. She’s ashamed because she’s big, and she fears other people seeing her. She fears the judgement so much that she feels the only time she can come to the pool, a place to swim and exorcise and better herself, is when there is no one else around.
It’s an issue I myself can relate to. I’m on the bigger size, and that sort of fear from judgmental eyes is something that is very real. And it brings about problems. Not just emotional problems, either. Of course, the emotional pain and anguish fear of being judged can bring is something that effects lots of people, and can bring about serious consequences, but there are more practical problems here too. Exercise, in Sara’s case swimming, in mine an attempt to go to the gym, is about becoming healthier, becoming better and feeling good in oneself, but that fear of judgement will often lead to people being too afraid to do those things. Ultimately, all judgement does is prevent people from becoming better and depresses them. In the case of weight issues, this can also often lead to the dreaded “comfort food”. A never-ending cycle.
Sara’s swim is at first interrupted by a peculiar bald man, played by Paco Hidalgo who brings a menace to the role that really pays off later, who is in the pool fully clothed. It’s odd, but the reveal of a dead body tied and weighted down under the water brings a clarity to things.
Then the film takes a seemingly unrelated turn. Three teens, not so much characters as they cliché popular girls in the Plastics mould of Mean Girls, appear. They bully Sara, at first verbally and then later more violently. It’s quite a harsh watch, and I found it uncomfortable. One of the Plastics, Elisabet Casanovas’ Claudia, doesn’t seem to be as into it as her friends, but she goes along anyway, succumbing to the peer pressure so many of us are also all too familiar with.
Ultimately the trio of bullies steal Sara’s towel, bag and clothes. And this leads to a traumatic, horrific walk home for Sara that she would likely never quite get over.
To go into any further detail risks spoiling what is an oddly satisfying, but uncomfortable ending that is certain to provoke conversation and make audiences think. It may come about in a slightly contrived way, but the questions it raises linger longer after the film ends, and the point is exceptionally well made.
Visually the film is great. Martinez-Pereda perfectly tells her story through the medium of film (the copy I was given for review had no subtitles and was entirely in Spanish, but I had absolutely no issues following the story and the characters, nor their motivations, despite some of them being rather complex). And it looks superb, equal parts stylish and measured, it’s effectively presented and well shot by cinematographer Rita Noriega, with the Spanish sun giving everything a beautiful, idyllic quality that juxtaposes nicely against the less than idyllic horrors unfolding on screen.
It’s called a horror, and I don’t think I would agree with that. A dark drama with some sinister elements sure, but horror… I don’t think so. What it is is an incredibly well made, concise and thoughtful 14 minutes of film, and one of the better shorts I’ve had the pleasure of watching recently.
I didn’t know much about it going in, but that probably worked in its favor. Like all great shorts, it is simple, builds a sense of mystery and tension, and resolves itself with a punchy and memorable ending. I’d be curious to see if there was more story to tell here, and I’d like to know what the repercussions of the ending would turn out to be.
All in all, Cerdita (Piggy) is worth your time. It isn’t perfect, but it has a lot to say and mostly succeeds in what it sets out to do. You could do a lot worse.
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