"Cocochi": Dude, Where Is My Horse? By Violeta Kovacsics

in 45th Gijón International Film Festival

by Violeta Kovacsics

A FIPRESCI prize claims to reward films that are meant to be art and innovative and, at the same time, representative of a young tendency in cinema. Though some pretty good films have been shown at this year’s edition of the Gijón film festival, such as Ulrich Seidl’s Import/Export, Nicolas Klotz’s La question humaine (Heartbeat Detector) or Cargo 200 (Gruz 200) by Aleksei Balabanov; Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán’s Cochochi seems to be the best film to fit into FIPRESCI’s criteria of directors looking for new ways to explore cinema.

Cochochi is a story about two young brothers (rebellious Tony and responsible Evaristo), who are very different from one another. Throughout the story they borrow and then lose their grandfather’s horse. It deals with a very simple story and relies on a very stylish and mature mise-en-scene. Cárdenas and Guzmán approach their characters and follow them through the vast landscape of Mexico like Béla Tarr does in his films but with a camera on their shoulders instead of a less spontaneous steady cam. The result is both a children’s storytelling and a landscape portrait.

Abbas Kiarostami is the main reference and (perhaps) even an obvious one in this film. The idea is more or less the same as Where Is the Friend’s Home? (Khane-ye doust kodjast?). Cochochi even has a shot in which one of the main characters goes through a little mountain, the same way the Kiarostami child did (doing zig-zags). Through simple stories, both films end up showing not only a landscape, but also people who do not live a common life. They both also share the same taste for viewing morals through the eyes of children. Cochochi explains how, after finishing school, these two brothers have to find their lifestyle, their place in the world, and how they end up with a pretty nice idea: Tony lets Evaristo take his scholarship so that he can keep studying. The lost horse works as a sort of a MacGuffin for the film, because in the end the way back to their house is what is most important, with or without the horse. The people they have met and the moral questions they have had are also important. In a way, it has been a journey to find each other’s real characters: the step between childhood and becoming an adult.

In a moment when most young directors try to benefit from digital cinema to make their first movie, Cochochi looks like a very satisfying opera prima as we can see the regard of their authors, and they truly know what they are doing. The interaction with the actors, all non-professionals, is astonishing. In a way, it reminds us of what Isaki Lacuesta did with La leyenda del tiempo (Spain, 2006): using reality (the actor not always as a character, but also as real children living in a very specific context) to create fiction. Concerning this way of dealing with a region in Mexico, in Gijón we had the chance to see two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, the work Carlos Reygadas did in Stellet licht and “menonist” in Mexico and on the other hand this exercise sprouting from two young directors: Cochochi, a legacy of a community with their own language which has been hidden from the most visible cinema made in Mexico.