Kala azar. 2020. Netherlands/Greece. Directed by Janis Rafa. In Greek; English subtitles. 91 min.
Appropriately for a film about the unspoken connection between humans and animals, Kala azar seems to invent a new cinematic language. Set in a desolate, perhaps post-apocalyptic landscape in which people and their dogs, cats, and fish live together in a kind of liminal state, Greek director Janis Rafa’s first film, a top prizewinner at this year’s Rotterdam International Film Festival, surveys the grim but matter-of-fact day-to-day lives of a young, unfettered couple who work for a crematorium service. As they pay house calls to people who have lost their pets, helping to give their animals respectful send-offs, their own relationship begins to fracture. Rafa focuses on tactile surfaces and bodies rather than conventional narrative beats; her film is a sobering, poignant vision of the cohabitation of different species on our endangered planet.