Monday, September 5, 2011

Mexican summer continues at AFA with Eugenio Polgovsky's THE INHERITORS; plus "GenMex"--Recent Films from Mexico

After a week of films from Mexican movie-maker Nicolás Pereda last July, New York City's Anthology Film Archives gets back in Mexican mode this Friday for its final two weeks of a special film initiative celebrating -- together with Cinema Tropical and the Mexican Cultural Institute -- the impressive re-emergence of Mexican cinema. Starting Friday, September 9, AFA will host a week's worth of screenings that constitute the New York theatrical premiere of a multi-award-winning documentary, THE INHERITORS (Los Herederos) directed by Eugenio Polgovsky (shown below).

Heralded by the program notes as "the most highly praised and awarded Mexican documentary in many years," the film does not disappoint. Señor Polgovsky is said to have spent two years filming the daily lives of these children and their parents in some of the poorest rural areas of Mexico, as they work, work, work -- picking peppers, tomatoes and green beans. If the movie doesn't sound like a walk in the park, neither is it drab nor boring nor even particularly repetitive -- which is surprising, given the nature of these lives and the work at hand.

Polgovsky eschews narration, giving us instead simply the ambient sounds: the kids -- high-spirited and full of life -- and the sound of their and their parents' labor. We're five minutes into the film before we even hear any real dialog (the first line's a winner: "Go find the dappled goat!")  Instead the filmmaker concentrates on village life -- several different villages are shot throughout -- where we see the aged, as well as the kids, hard at work at various activities.

These includes cane cutting, chicken feeding and even the construction of cement blocks -- which is as close as the movie and its denizens come to "industry." There are a lot of walking, traveling and carrying on view -- with the camera often placed behind those doing the walking.  The colors are true and pristine, and among the many indelible images is one of a baby with a scab on the side of its little nose, and another of a child barely bigger than that pot s/he is carried in (below).

In the middle of all this, we suddenly get... art!  A young boy is shown painting pieces of sculpture in bright, gorgeous colors that are unlike anything else we've seen in the movie. If there were narration here, I'd want to know more about these pieces, which I would guess are probably art works to be sold to tourists. But instead of telling, Polgovsky shows -- immersing us in this world like nothing we've quite seen before. By the end I think you'll be happy, as was I, to take immersion over explanation. If less detailed, it is somehow richer.

Music and dance engulf us toward the finale, and these are welcome, after all the work. Something else is present, too, and unless I am way off base or perhaps misread what I saw, this is a look of disdain from at least one of the parents and the children toward the director, as the workers, filmmaker and we viewers are all riding together in the back of a truck. (I am assuming that the director also doubled as cameraman, since no director of photography is listed on the film's IMDB site. On his own IMDB site, Señor Polgovsky is credited with eight counts as cinematographer but only three as director (he did the fine camerawork for Gael García Bernal's interesting directorial debut Déficit.)

This look from subject to artist speaks volumes about class and privilege, and it is to the filmmaker's credit that he included it in the finished film. For the filmmaker, as for us viewers, the film can be perceived as a number of things -- from an education to a kind of holiday. For its subjects, however, this is no film. This is life unchanging, and for all the cinematic poetry on view in this 90-minute movie, that fact has now been communicated via this single uncompromising look.

The Inheritors, from Icarus Films, open this Friday at AFA. Click here to see screening times and here for directions to the venue.


The final week of celebrating Mexican cinema offers up a number of the finer and more unusual films from new Mexican movie-makers, including a couple that TrustMovies has covered elsewhere. Below is the complete listing of films to be shown, together with description and screening times. Click on the links below to see TM's earlier coverage.


Rigoberto Pérezcano
2009, 95 minutes, 35mm.
“Cinema’s fascination with illegal border crossings between Mexico and the U.S. gets a totally fresh take in this delicately poised film. Focused on how life is lived precariously between desperate attempts to cross over, the story follows Oaxaca-born Andrés as he bides his time in Tijuana. He finds a little work at a convenience store and gets friendly with the two women who run it. As the relationships deepen and their individual stories emerge, the emotional costs of the ties that bind are explored with great sensitivity. The sincerity of the minimal story line is balanced by a liberating humor and breathtakingly beautiful images that give life and dignity to Andrés and his fellow travelers.” –NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS
–Friday, September 16 at 7:00 and Sunday, September 18 at 9:15.

Matías Meyer
2009, 90 minutes, 35mm.
Julien, a young French comedian, disembarks in Chacahua, a fishing community on Mexico’s pacific coast. His spiritual search, framed by stunning natural scenery, barely conceals his social failure. He is adrift in a world that is completely foreign to him. Then he meets Pablo, a local fisherman who will guide him towards spiritual healing. Relating to this patient, simple man helps Julien come to terms with himself. Based on a short story by celebrated Chinese writer GaoXingjian, Meyer’s second feature film is a contemplative meditation on anxiety and solitude.
–Friday, September 16 at 9:00 and Monday, September 19 at 7:00.

Yulene Olaizola
2009, 83 minutes, 35mm.
“Dipping a toe into (early) Errol Morris docu waters, Yulene Olaizola sustains a strange, unsettling mood.” –VARIETY
Yulene Olaizola’s debut film is a thought-provoking portrait of two lonely and strangely intertwined friends. For years, Olaizola’s grandmother Rosa told stories of a handsome young lodger. Living under (and on top of) her roof in the 1980s, he painted strange pictures on the walls and played an importantrole in Rosa’s emotional life. But this picture of a pleasant, harmless and creative young man slowly gives way to a shocking end.
–Saturday, September 17 at 2:00 and Monday, September 19 at 9:00.

Jonás Cuarón
2007, 78 minutes, 35mm.
“The serious artistic drive to meld fine photography with cinema is married to acharming tale of young almostlove in Jonás Cuarón’s sweet and memorable debut. The project represents a year’s worth of photos Cuarón took of spontaneous events and day-to-day activities. The fictional narrative about 14-year-old Diego and visiting American college girl Molly gradually emerged out of organizing the photos into sequences, with all but one of the original subjects recording the soundtrack’s voiceover dialogue. … [A] thoughtful, tender but quite hip look at two young people with too much separating them for a match to ever be possible.” –Robert Koehler, VARIETY
–Saturday, September 17 at 4:00 and Thursday, September 22 at 6:45.

Rubén Imaz Castro
2006, 139 minutes, 35mm.
The debut feature from writer-director Castro is an understated and sensitive drama about a family that gathers at their mother’s home on the anniversary of her death. They are overwhelmed with grief and a shared sentiment of haunting absence. At the center of it all is Uncle Manuel, a remarkable man who holds the clan together by doing all he can to help, which includes raising his brother’s children and assisting his trade unionist brother-in-law. Amid lost dreams, the family struggles to survive with one another, but most importantly, with themselves.
–Saturday, September 17 at 6:00 and Wednesday, September 21 at 8:30.

Enrique Rivero
2008, 86 minutes, 35mm.
Beto is the custodian of a house in Mexico City, left empty for several years, in which he used to work as a domestic helper. The solitude of the last ten years coupled with the monotony and routine of his job have led him to develop a pathological fear of the world outside, to the point of limiting his contacts to only two people: the owner of the house, for whom he has a feeling of deep gratitude and respect that is translated into obedience; and Lupe, a friend, a confidante, and a lover. News that the house is to go on sale causes a dilemma for Beto, who doesn’t know whether he should dare to set forth and live or seek a way of remaining in his confinement.
–Saturday, September 17 at 9:00 and Wednesday, September 21 at 6:30.

Andrés León Becker & Javier Solar
2006, 90 minutes, 35mm.
Alicia, a seven-year-old girl, lives in an apartment with her mother. When the mother, after a sentimental setback, goes into a depression that makes her sleep for days on end, Alicia and her friend Lucía decide that an old man who lives next door is to blame; he has a gruesome aspect and is surely a vampire trying to possess her mother. So, Alicia decides to go into the neighbor’s apartment to put an end to the curse. Hailed by VARIETY as an “affecting feature debut”, this film by co-writer/director team Becker and Solar features a powerful performance by Elizabeth Cervantes in the role of the afflicted single mother.
–Sunday, September 18 at 1:30 and Tuesday, September 20 at 9:00.

Gerardo Naranjo
2007, 92 minutes, video.
Two interlaced stories unfold over the course of the same long, hot day in the once lush and now decadent resort town of Acapulco. The first involves the beautiful and cool Fernanda, who is forced to deal with the sudden emergence of the ex-lover, Chino. Her boyfriend, Gonzalo, must now compete with the intense sexual tension Fernanda and Chino share. The second story concerns Jamie, an office worker with hidden indiscretions, attempting suicide in a beach-front hotel until a precocious and equally dishonest teenage girl disrupts the plan. They will all converge in a stark and harrowing portrayal of moral ambiguity, in the debut feature by filmmaker Gerardo Naranjo, director of the recent Cannes favorite MISS BALA.
–Sunday, September 18 at 3:30 and Tuesday, September 20 at 7:00.

Julián Hernández
2008, 191 minutes, 35mm.
“One of the most consistent, revelatory cinematic visions anywhere in the world today.” –Michael Koresky, REVERSE SHOT
This is the third and final installment of a trilogy by Hernández, who has been described by Armond White as “Mexico’s finest, yet critically neglected, auteur.” An epic gay romance, the film is a passionate exploration of love, sex, and destiny that tells the story of Kieri and Ryo, two young men whoselove is set to a test in a mythical struggle in which loss and death are but inevitable phases in the journey towards happiness. Winner of the Teddy Award for Best Feature at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival, Hernández’s film is a ravishing meditation on the power of desire.
–Sunday, September 18 at 5:30 and Thursday, September 22 at 8:30.

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