Thursday, August 9, 2012

DocuWeeks hosts Everardo González's dry & dusty Mexican documentary, DROUGHT

DROUGHT -- the original title of which is Cuates de Australia, the communal land in northern Mexico going by that name -- is a quietly stunning, full-length (84-minute) movie that documents the natives of the area, their lives (and livestock) their work, as well as their annual exodus from home when the yearly drought (which seems to be growing worse, no surprise) occurs and there is simply no more water for anything -- drinking, bathing or irrigation.

Filmmaker and cinematographer Everardo González (shown at left) has created the kind of documentary that -- without narration and by virtue of quickly and firmly delivering its audience into this arid landscape via visuals that seem both familiar and strange -- escorts us into a new and unforgettable world. The Mexican film I was most reminded of is Eugenio Polgovsky's The Inheritors, though Polgovsky's is as green and verdant as this one is dry and dusty. Yet both docs place us smack amid an unusual group of people and allow us to live in their shoes for a time (metaphorically, I mean, since many of them are barefoot).

We know very quickly where we are, as gentlemen social workers from the city arrive to take a survey, asking the inhabitants if they have television, radio, not to mention running water. "We don't have any of that," laughs the local lady who is responding to these rather silly questions that, one supposes, must be asked.

Family is all important here. One young man explains how he had wanted to become a doctor, or maybe a veterinarian. He had the grades, even a scholarship and financial help. "But then my father needed me, so I had to go work for him."

We see a mare being serviced for breeding, another horse being gelded, and a cow slaughtered for food. Teens get dancing lessons, a fight break out at what looks like some kind of auction, but everything is held together by what appears to be a strong sense of community. And the landscapes are amazing.

This being Mexico, religion is important, and here seems more backward than ever. Regarding the coming drought, notes one woman, "God sends the water, and he has a reason not to." Uh... OK. As the drought grows more fierce, with no rainfall in sight, the animals are hit first. The image of a colt -- wobbling and increasingly unable to walk, then collapsing and dying of thirst -- is indelible. Vultures circle above and coyotes appear below for the remains.

After the houses have been vacated, eventually the rains do come and life returns. The movie ends with the tipping of a hat -- an appropriately dignified, friendly, cowboy response to this very fine documentary.

Drought, which is a major part of this year's -- the 16th annual -- Docuweeks documentary film festival, will have a one-week run in both New York City (screening twice daily at the IFC Center from Friday, August 10 through Thursday, August 16) and in Los Angeles (screening twice daily at Laemmle's NoHo 7 in North Hollywood, from Friday, August 17, through Thursday, August 23). Filmmaker Everardo González will appear in person for Q&A's at both venues.

No comments: