With nods to telenovelas and Persepolis, this animation, a film of Power Paola’s vivid graphic novel memoir of growing up in South America, is truly beautiful
Far from being some Covid-19 cash-in, the title of this beautiful 2017 Colombian-Ecuadorian animation refers to a dismissive doctor’s initial diagnosis when Quito housewife Hilda turns up at his surgery believing, despite having been sterilised, she is pregnant again. But it’s really the presiding metaphor for the fervid energy and uncontrollable drive towards independence in the life that follows: that of the Gaviria family’s third daughter, Paola, rendered in outstanding black-and-white animation by debut director Santiago Caicedo.
Adapted from graphic novelist Power Paola’s memoir, Virus Tropical is simultaneously a domestic saga (maybe influenced by the telenovelas to which it makes the odd ironic nod), portrait of an artist as a put-upon youngest child and a chronicle of a maturing South America. The paterfamilias, Uriel, leaves the household to return to the priesthood, and Hilda – who makes a living through psychic domino reading – is left to raise her three daughters largely alone. All three must find their own way to self-liberate from a caring but constrictive Catholic upbringing.