Focus on Mexico

in 16th Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival

by Luiz Zanin

During the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival it was possible to see the strong momentum that drives Mexican production. Of the nearly 120 feature films produced per year, it became clear that the country has found a vein of quality amidst the quantity. Three films caught our eye in particular: Gonzales by Christian Diaz Pardo, Asteroid by Marcelo Tobar, and Güeros by Alonso Ruizpalacios.

Gonzales is a fine study of the growing influence of neo-Pentecostal sects in Latin America. The main character is an unemployed young man trying to solve his problems by becoming a member of one of these churches. Asteroid focuses on a family and the tense relationship between a brother and sister who returns home after a 20-year absence. Gueros, perhaps the most inventive among them, focuses on Mexican student youth. During a student strike, three boys roam the city trying to find a legendary rock singer who has disappeared. If we concentrate on these three titles, we note that the cinema of Mexico, in addition to producing films in great dialogue with the public (as with Cantinflas on the nation’s most famous comedian), is also concerned with the social tensions that underlie the country, and the whole world.

Gonzales shows how the difficulty of survival in big cities can lead to the birth of exploitative cults that many believe in, a phenomenon that has spread across several countries in Latin America. It also suggests the emergence of individual solutions to desperation, as in the case of the protagonist, who aims to join the church and become a priest himself, competing with the founder. Shot in a classical way, Gonzales impressed by the excellence of the actors and also for the way in which the camera stayed with the characters. It is a necessary film.

Asteroid, while dealing with its subject in a more intimate way, uses a less explicit kind of language and is full of ambiguity, similar to some new Brazilian cinema that is closer to the characters’ feelings. In the case of Asteroid, we can note a certain failure of the family as a refuge of society, with it seen rather as threatening. The domestic space is no longer a protective space in times of uncertain values.

Güeros seems the most accomplished project of them all. It shows the familiar space in crisis, as with the social environment. One is the mirror of the other. And both reflect that group of kids aimlessly looking for an old idol as a utopian point of reference. Shot in black and white, it is dense and fast-moving. The engaging narrative recalls the rhythm and flow of the Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño, who lived for many years in Mexico. This means that the film is very engaging.

Edited by Carmen Gray