My Hindu Friend is the semi-autobiographical film about fictional film director Diego Fairman (Willem Dafoe), directed and written by Hector Babenco, taking heavy inspiration from his own experiences with being diagnosed with cancer. Whilst living in Brazil, Diego and his girlfriend, Livia (Maria Fernanda Cândido) are told the news that he only has three months to live.
That is unless he moves to America and has a bone marrow transplant. At first Diego is reluctant as he is determined that if he were to die then it would be at home, but given the chances of his survival and all the work he has yet to accomplish, Diego and his girlfriend set off for the United States.
However, first they get married and as the film plays out, it shows the effects that cancer has on Diego, his mental state and his marriage in a stark and honest manner. Diego also becomes friends with a little boy (Rio Adlakha) and together they play and their time together helps with Diego’s cancer treatment. Viewer be warned though, this is not the uplifting, heart-warming story of a man’s road to recovery.
Babenco’s script and direction takes the film to surprising, honest and quite often visually provocative levels which most audiences may not expect. Especially from a director whose story is so personal, audiences may find themselves confronted with a story that is not as conventional as it sets out to be at the start.
Diego is not exactly a nice man but neither is he a monster and thanks to the script and Dafoe’s fantastic performance, Diego is a fleshed out, three-dimensional character that not only pays respect to Babenco’s story, but to the man himself. One minute, Diego is making advances to an actress desperate to work with him, the next he is laying in bed having visions of death and bargaining for his life.
One minute, Diego is happily playing fantasy games with his Hindu friend, the next he is fighting with his wife over the loss of what made their marriage so special. Diego’s life and personality are complex and real, no doubt like Babenco’s own life and maybe even parts of his own personality are laid bare for the audience to see.
Above all though, My Hindu Friend is a celebration of life, love and art and everything that goes with it – the good and the bad. Throughout the audience will see everything that Diego encounters whether they are real or not, from the vapid lives of the elite in the entertainment industry to the things that Diego and maybe even Babenco held dear to his heart.
Hector Babenco died on July 16th 2016, making My Hindu Friend his last film and a fitting swansong to leave to the world.
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