Juan Rayos’s La Sonrisa Verdadera (True Smile) was shown at Instituto Cervantes Manila (ICM) yesterday, July 25, 2015, as part of the program cinema and concert for a cause. The subject and the proponent of the documentary, brothers Sergio and Juan Manuel Aznárez Rosado, attended the film showing and entertained questions from the audience. It is one of the most inspiring movies I have ever seen, and it still puts a true smile on my face long after I finished watching it.
La Sonrisa Verdadera is the product of Sergio and Juan Manuel’s journey from their house in Cuenca, Spain to Todgha Gorge in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, to visit Sergio’s special friend, Mati. What makes the trip special is the fact that they travelled majority of the 1313-kilometer trip, with breathtaking sceneries as backdrop, in tandem bike.
What makes the trip extraordinary is Sergio, who is blind since birth and has autism. Based on the film, his condition does not hinder Sergio from doing things that most people can only dream about. He plays piano and drums and sings flawlessly, showers, shaves and cleans the bathroom unaided, swims, climbs to the top of sand dunes, and pedals tandem bikes like a pro. It does not matter to him whether they sleep on comfortable beds in a hotel, on a blanket in an abandoned building or in a tent under the stars. He does all these without so much fuss that I sometimes forget he is blind.
Sergio’s capacity and cheery disposition is partly due to his family and close circle of friends, who do not only accept him and his condition with open heart and mind but also support him in every possible way. According to their parents, Juan Manuel’s company and tutelage are keys to Sergio’s confidence. Juan Manuel and Sergio spent their childhood together – doing what kids their age do, and Juan Manuel was an upstanding young man who prioritized his brother over friends who did not want to play or be with Sergio. Sergio rewards their love and dedication more than a hundred times over because he is a joy to be with. His presence and being are the essence of what life should be.
La Sonrisa Verdadera may pertain to Sergio’s smiles that are present all throughout the movie even though he has not witnessed them himself. It does not take a lot to make him smile, and all his smiles are genuine. He smiles when he bikes, and even when his butt hurts from all the sitting on the bike. He smiles when he feels the wind on his face, touches the overgrown grass in the fields, dips his feet in the water, feels the texture of the walls of a Moroccan house, jam with local musicians, and so on. It may also pertain to the smiles Sergio and the movie bring to the audience because I found myself smiling and laughing while watching it. Sergio is funny, and his conversations with Juan Manuel are filled with banters that are honest yet loving.
At first glance, La Sonrisa Verdadera is Sergio’s adventure to be with a dear friend, but it is more than that. It has profound messages about loyalty, love, life and laughter. It is the definition of the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make (the best) lemonade”!
Before and After the Film Showing
Sergio and Juan Manuel gave a short explanation of their adventure before the film started. Juan Manuel said that the documentary did not aim to make people sad or pity Sergio. It is a celebration of Sergio’s life. 🙂
Here is a video of Sergio talking about the film. He also said that he likes being in the Philippines. 🙂 They have visited Coron, Cebu, Bohol, and Camiguin.
After the film showing, there was a question-and-answer portion. I asked Sergio to sing a phrase of any song, he sang two stanzas (whose title I do not know). He was brilliant! I am a fan of Sergio and Juan. 🙂