It is generally assumed that kids do not really understand adult business, as much as they would want to, and thus can’t exactly sympathize with the various problems that come and go in their lives – at least not past a basic understanding based solely on emotions. That might be true, but any statistically significant behavior has its exceptions, and 'Ainhoa', the main character in this short film, is certainly one of them.
Written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Iván Sáinz-Pardo, 'Ainhoa' takes the name of its 9-year-old protagonist and is set in the midst of the recession wave which hit the Iberic state distinctly hard. Due to their inability to pay mortgages and rent, many people were evicted on the streets and forced to lead an upward struggle to ensure survival. The main character’s household is no exception, and the young Ainhoa worriedly takes in her father’s dread when he opens an envelope that certainly doesn’t announce him as a winner of the lottery. The 19-minute long film follows the girl’s footsteps as she takes to the streets in a small Odyssey of understanding and maturation.
Ainhoa’s journey, while it doesn’t take her far away from the home she might be about to lose, does take her far in terms of discovery and exploration of the causes and outcomes of the misery. The film doesn’t make intense use of dialogue, instead relying more on visuals to tell its story. And this is exactly what 'Ainhoa' does best: capturing vivid representations of feelings, emotions, and states of mind through quiet, contemplative shots that end up being more expressive and relevant than any conversations would have been within the context. Beautifully directed and shot, and sporting an impeccable visual grammar, the film by Iván Sáinz-Pardo is a treat to look at, and equally enjoyable to think about long after the credits roll.
The key element here, as evidenced by the choice of title, is undoubtedly Ainhoa, the young protagonist. Despite her age, she is, in many ways, more mature than the adults who act as secondary characters, both directly and indirectly. There’s a certain proactivity about her behavior that sees her do stuff, while the grownups in her life merely sit around and worry. She sleeps on a bench in the park even when she doesn’t yet need to, she tries walking around in shoes twice her size, and all these moments act as carefully constructed metaphors hinting at the overarching context.
As the film’s logline expertly puts it, it tells a story that ‘tries to wake up the adults’, and this is surely achieved by the time everything comes to an end. Visually pleasing, bittersweet and meaningful, Ainhoa is a film that we greatly enjoyed watching and would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone.