Cinequest 2024 – Human Resources

This one of a series of reviews from this year’s Cinequest film festival in San Jose, California. Read more about the festival here, and buy tickets for showings of this and other films here.

Update: 3/8/2024
I meant to add an endorsement of Holding on Forever, the short film that precedes Human Resources. It’s always nice to see a well made short that crafts a couple of neat twists and surprises against audience trained expectations. And it’s not often you find a 10 minute film that you actually want to sit down and discuss. Kudos to Lindsey Naves and Reynaldo Pacheco for understated and elegant performances under Chelsea Christer’s direction.

Gabriel, a resentful printing supervisor, decides to revolt against Constantino, the unskilled Floor Manager who got his position due to his influences. Oh, and Constantino happens to have stolen Lizbeth’s attention, the most popular woman in Human Resources and Gabriel’s ex-lover.

In this office, employers and employees live with reckless ups and downs, romances and infidelities, and who knows, a bomb might explode in the process.

List a few films or TV shows that deal with people in a business office and you are likely to name Office Space, The IT Crowd, 9 to 5, and the titular The Office. For the most part, we gravitate towards the insanity or oddities of office life, and are told these stories with a fair amount of humor. The Spanish film Human Resources (Recursos Humanos) does have it’s own flavor of dark humor, but really doesn’t follow the storytelling you might expect from the office films that preceded it.

And that’s a pretty good thing.

Shot in black and white, with English subtitles, this is the kind of movie I go to film festivals to seek out. Something different, fresh storytelling, characters that don’t, for the most part, follow the tropes. There’s something about black and white filmmaking in the modern age that fights back against distractions from the essentials of the plot. It’s not so much a gimick as it is an anti-gimick. It’s one of the reasons why so many surprise classics have come from beginning filmmakers on low budgets who surprise us with ingenuity over special effects. (There is one obvious special effect shot that really feels like a practical effect, except actors don’t do that.)

Gabriel has been repeatedly overlooked for promotion, and has decided to add guerrilla combat techniques in his efforts to climb the corporate ladder. He feels justified in this because the office seems to run on nepotism and toadyism, and he would actually be a better manager. No, seriously he would. OK, maybe.

Now in the days of Deadpool, Deadpool II, and the upcoming Deadpool & Wolverine we are pretty used to characters “breaking of the 4th wall.” Films where a character speaks directly to the audience have their own super powers of expression, and yeah it’s generally thought of as a cheat in filmmaking. Gabriel is the narrative voice here, so he’s halfway there as it is, but he regularly shares his feelings directly with the audience with a smirk, a fake gasp, or joyous silent giggle at the expense of another character’s misfortune. While we struggle to agree with Gabriel’s techniques because we’re not bad people, we are almost forcibly drawn into his schemes and their effects. We’re complicit in Gabriels actions, or at least he wants us to think so.

I should repeat that Human Resources is a Spanish film with English subtitles because some people just don’t like to read their movies. There’s a small amount of nudity and sex so be warned, or enjoy, as you will. I do recommend this film for some fresh looks at filmmaking and the whole office life trope.

Bring your red stapler along if you like.

March 8 at 5PM
March 10 at 9:30PM
More info and tickets here

Ric Bretschneider
March 6, 2024
San Jose, California

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