Amid directing a spate of shortfilms, writer and director Bruno Gascon’s interest took to years of exploring the criminal underbelly of international human trafficking, in accordance with a personal story about meeting a disinterested truck driver compelled to drive to Portugal based on a promise.
The result is Carga, his feature debut at the helm, penned and directed with a story set at the Fall of the Soviet Union and the economic collapse that followed. What ensues is a tale of two lives – António (Victor Norte) and Viktoriya (break out actress Michalina Olszanska), and the harrowing nature of how their they converge. That being said, and put a pin on this little mental note, make no mistake about the encompassing narrative here.
António is a truck driver forced to work against his will by Viktor (Dmitry Bogomolov) a gangster who networks young women to other countries, including children and has no compunction with killing anyone who gets in his way. There is murder, there is rape, and the haunting idea that this is all that these young women have left, which is exactly what Viktoriya is first exposed to the minute she and her fellow captives are delivered to Viktor’s place.
Viktor’s stranglehold over António is made very clear from the top of the film – He is the gatekeeper, he holds all the cards and his men do his bidding no matter how ruthless, and no matter how much António’s own guilt sets in to the point of even trying to stand up to him. The only other two women with any kind of authority under Viktor’s radar is his girlfriend, Svieta (Ana Cristina de Oliveira), and his sister, Alanna.
Gascon’s Carga takes on some pretty unique mechanics for its story. Its dark lighting and contours throughout at one point had me confusing Olszanska with actress/model Sara Sampaio, which kind of says something in away about Viktoriya’s narrowing possibilities for survival.
Gascon’s use of language and the barrier set between some of the characters who speak either Portuguese, Russian or English conscribes his emphasis on how communication impacts the story. It’s executed quite cinematically to flesh out the interwoven drama that unfolds between the characters.
Olszanska’s Viktoriya is accompanied in a dual role that I’m not giving away here as I’m sure it will lend to how interesting it will draw itself as for you as the viewer once you see it for yourself. Beyond that, the tale is epic, dark, gritty and full of layers that unfold some unimaginable horrors and twists for its story – some that could be real or based on realities lived by the hundreds and thousands of victims who’ve been subject to human trafficking.
And that’s where we go back to what I mentioned earlier in this review about there being more to the story. Indeed, Viktoriya and António are central to Carga, while the film itself is much more beholden to a consequential overtone. Carga, at it’s core, is a story about human traffciking, and its complete, consumate ugliness, told brilliantly by Gascon through some very strong and resilient performance, including and especially by Norte and Olszanska.
Carga is story about a world at a time no different than this one considering human trafficking still exists to this day. Its characters are fronted principally by a line-up of villians with shades of grey, each brought full circle by the choices they’ve made regardless of their circumstances. At the end of it all, of course, is how one moves forward in the aftermath of it all.
That’s certainly a question that will resonate heavily by the end. Carga depicts a very tragic and ugly world with great performances by its cast front and center, and a foreboding overtone in its message that impacts your senses, and wakes you up as it’s meant to.
Carga arrives on DVD and VOD on March 12 from Breaking Glass Pictures.