To many people, Mexican cinema doesn’t get much deeper than those films that the country decides to push forward as their nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film award at each year’s Academy Awards. Be it films from the likes of Carlos Reygadas or Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Mexican cinema is still something of a blind spot for many film goers, especially those films that don’t get help from major film festivals. However, there is one new series that has attempted to change that in any way it possibly can.
Part two of their ever popular GenMex series, Anthology Film Archives and Cinema Tropical have teamed up once again for a new series looking at a handful of films and filmmakers helping to prove that Mexican cinema is as fruitful and exciting a film canon as any country can offer. With the likes of Michel Franco and Matias Meyer, this collection of films (the series ends on the 12th) is proof that we as a society need to stand up and recognize Mexican cinema as some of the most electrifying pieces of work around.
The series really started with the US debut of Meyer’s new minimalist picture, The Last Christeros, and it proved to be not only a minor masterpiece in its own right, but one of the more telling members of this entire series, as it set the tone for many of the films to come. Inherently a meditation about Mexican history, the film is a lyrical epic of a picture, that appears more interested in showing us these fighters in the moments between battles, than showing us the grand fights they took place in. A deeply profound and plaintive picture, that’s an aesthetic that would once again show up in a handful of films, most notably the stunning documentary Mitote.
Outside of a film like Franco’s After Lucia, itself a brilliant and deeply troubling picture, Mitote is the most exciting member of the entire series. A look at the disparity in the Mexican economic system, the film is both a seething look at a nation doing wrong by its own people and a beautifully crafted look at a people steered by their nationalism that they turn to utter anger when the country seems to have no interest in helping them. With an almost constantly moving camera, like a ghost from Mexico’s past come to check up on its homeland, the film’s heavenly aesthetic adds even more gravitas to an already provocative picture. Clocking in at just shy of an hour, this short feature length documentary is a really moving and thoughtful picture that deserves all the praise one could possibly heap onto a film.
The aforementioned After Lucia may be the film you’ll talk about most, however, as it may be the most powerful of all the works. The film won last year’s Un Certain Regard top prize from the Cannes Film Festival’s sidebar, Lucia follows the story of high schooler Alejandra who, along with her father, move to Mexico City following the death of her mother, his wife, only to find that life will never be the same. An oddly oblique and extremely troubling film, this picture, in all of its blunt aesthetics and static camera shots, becomes the most brutal and most darkly troubling meditation on bullying to this very date. Besides being one of 2013’s most topical and pertinent films, it’s also one of its prettiest, taking the same kind of stayed style seen in a film like The Last Christeros and injecting it into a brooding meditation on the isolation brought on by youth and the dangers in that. It’s an absolute sight to behold, even if it may not be one that will be easy to sit through.
Another Cannes alumni is the new film from Yulene Olaizola, Fogo. Getting its New York premiere during this festival, the film looks at a group of people in Fogo Island, who are asked to resettle somewhere else due to continual corrosion of the area. However, some try to break that by sticking around, and that is the group of people we follow here, in what is one of the more entrancing films of this entire series. Using an aesthetic that blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction cinema, this Cannes darling proves to be a thoughtful picture about people unable to let go of their past, a theme that you see throughout Mexican cinema today. The exact opposite, aesthetically, of a film like Reygadas’ Post Tenebras Lux, this film (and much of this series) proves that Mexican cinema is as diverse a body of art as there is on this very planet.
Now, time is running out to see films from this series, but those of you who are able to visit the Anthology Film Archives should do so immediately to check out some of these genuinely great bits of Mexican cinema.
For more information, visit the official Anthology Film Archives website.