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FILMS ON THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF MEXICO
Part Three: Modern Mexico

Santo Luzbel TCochochi Corazon del tiempo
Chac the Rain God

Santo Luzbel; Cochochi; Corazon del tiempo; Chac; Oficio de tinieblas


= Lame, Crummy.     = OK, Watchable.     = Good.     = Very Good.     = Great, Classic.



Alamar


ALAMAR
(Tothesea)
Director/writer/ cinematographer:Pedro González Rubio
Year/length:2009. 73 minutes. Rated G.
Setting:Chinchorro, Quintana Roo
Language:Spanish, some Italian
Indian Content:high
Home Release:DVD
Rating: lousy ok good very good excellent

Jorge is a Mayan fisherman living on the Chinchorro shore in the southern state of Quintana Roo. His wife is from Rome, but she has grown bored of small-town life and decides to return to Italy with their 5-year-old son, Natan. Jorge and Natan only have a few days to spend together, so they go out on a fishing trip with Jorge's father so Natan can learn about their way of life. He teaches the boy how to fish, dive, and navigate the boat. They befriend a white bird whom they name Blanquita, and the father teaches the son how to feed her and train her to stand on his arm (the actor, Jorge Machado, is a bird trainer in real life). Alamar is slow and uneventful but never dull. We savor every frame of the beautiful cinematography of tropic sea and sky, and the even more beautiful relationship between father and son. Entirely improvised, almost to the point of becoming a documentary, the film is full of tender moments that linger in the mind long afterwards. If you like this one, you'll also enjoy the Peruvian film El regalo de Pachamama, another father-son story celebrating the simple life. Alamar, however, does not depict traditional indigenous folkways. The motorboat and diving gear are modern and the characters are not really presented as Indians per se, just people. The director's first film, the documentary Toro negro, also featured Mayans living in Quintana Roo.

Sinopsis en español:
Jorge (Jorge Machado) y Roberta (Roberta Palombini) están separados desde hace muchos años. Simplemente vienen de mundos opuestos. Él ama la vida simple del mar y ella la urbana. Él es mexicano y ella Italiana. Roberta decide regresar a Italia junto con Natan (Natan Machado Palombini), hijo de la pareja. Antes de su partida, Jorge viaje con su pequeño a Chinchorro, uno de los últimos lugares en el Caribe Mexicano que tiene intacto su ecosistema, en su intento por regalarle a su hijo un poco de su mundo en el mar.

More info at www.filmmovement.com


Animas Trujano DVD

ANIMAS TRUJANO
El hombre importante
Director:Ismael Rodríguez
Writers:Ismael Rodríguez, Ricardo Garibay, Vicente Oroná Jr.
Cinematography:Gabriel Figueroa
Music:Raúl Lavista
Year/length:1961. 104 minutes.
Setting:town in Oaxaca
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:low
Home Release:DVD (no subtitles)
Rating: lousy ok good

The titular character is a petty, jealous, drunk who wishes to be the mayordomo, or sponsor, of an annual festival, an honor usually taken by the richest man in town. Animas can't hold down a job, so he tries to make money by gambling, but has no luck. Only after he sells his youngest daughter does he gain enough money to attain the hollow honor of mayordomo. Animas is played by popular Japanese actor Toshiru Mifune (Hell in the Pacific). Sporting plenty of dance and music indigenous to the beautiful state of Oaxaca, Animas Trujano won a Golden Globe for best foreign film. Based on the novel by Rogelio Barriga Rivas.

Sinopsis en español:
Animas Trujano (Toshiro Mifune) es un arisco, borracho e irresponsable indígena de un pequeño pueblo de Oaxaca. Su más grande deseo es algún día ser escogido mayordomo de su pueblo, título anual otorgado por el párroco local. Este gran honor generalmente se entrega al más rico y respetado ciudadano, quién será el encargado de poner todo el dinero para una fiesta anual de la virgen a la que todo el pueblo está invitado. El motivo que Ánimas tiene para ser mayordomo, no es el de complacer al pueblo, sino el de ganar el respeto y admiración de la localidad. Ánimas tiene una esposa fiel y trabajadora, Juana (Columba Domínguez), a quien engaña con la prostituta del pueblo, Caterina (Flor Silvestre). Cuando la hija mayor de Trujano queda encinta del hijo del latifundista local, Animas cegado por la ambición, vende el bebé al latifundista (Eduardo Fajardo) para obtener el dinero que lo hará candidato a obtener el título de mayordomo de las festividades locales.


BALUN CANAN
Director/writer:Benito Alazraki
Cinematography:Gabriel Figueroa
Music:Gustavo César Carrión
Year/length:1977. 117 minutes.
Setting:Comitan, Chiapas
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:medium
Home Release:DVD (no subtitles)
Rating: lousy ok good

The film explores the tensions between whites and Chontal Indians on an hacienda in Comitán (a town in Chiapas) during the agrarian reforms of President Lazaro Cardenas in the 1930s. The widowed owner of the land, Zoraida, complies with the law, allowing the Chontales--her former servants--to cultivate the land for their own benefit, and she provides a teacher, the illegitimate mestizo son of her brother, to teach the Chontal children. But Zoraida remains arrogant, and the teacher abuses his students. After this abuse, the Chontales stop working, and put a curse on Zoraida's son.

Based on the 1957 novel by Rosario Castellanos (1925-1974), one of Mexico's greatest writers. "Balún Canán," translated either as "Nine Stars" or "Nine Guardians," was the old Mayan name for Comitán, where Castellanos grew up and experienced the agrarian reform firsthand. Her second novel, Oficio de tinieblas, was also made into a film (see below). Both are available from Gandhi, a Barnes & Noble type of store in Mexico.

Sinopsis en español:
Chiapas, 1935. El presidente Cárdenas se encuentra entregando a los pobladores las tierras que los hacendados del lugar venden--después de una persuasión muy conveniente-- al gobierno. Una de las tierras, propiedad cañera de renombre, pertenece a Zoraida, quien se niega a deshacerse de sus tierras para poder entregarle todo a su único hijo varón, Ernesto. Chacjatal, brujería, realidad, tragedia de la magistral novela de Rosario Castellanos. En medio de la tensión en que coexisten dos mundos opuestos--el del hombre blanco y del indio chontal--se mueven diversos personajes en cuya vida se refleja una lucha dramática y ancestral entre dos razas.


THE BLUE EYES
(Los ojos azules)
Director/writer:Eva Aridjis
Cinematography:Sebastian Mlynarski
Music:J.G. Thirlwell
Year/length:2012. 94 minutes.
Setting:Chiapas
Language:English, Spanish, Tzotzil
Indian Content:medium
Home Release:not yet on DVD
Rating: lousy ok good
Karen and Paul, a young couple from New York travel to Chiapas, and strange things start happening. A trinket seller turns about to be really creepy, a Xoloitzcuintle (Mexican hairless dog) follows them from one town to another, and Paul has a recurring hallucination of a beautiful naked woman. Paul happens to be the grandson of a famous (fictional) author who helped decipher Mayan writing in the 1950s, and the couple meet a Tzotzil-speaking anthropologist who sees a connection between the couple's odd experiences and an incident that befell the grandfather long ago. Giving away much more of the plot would take some of the suspense away from the film. Yaxte, the nahuala (a supernatural being who can change shape in Mayan lore) is played by Ofelia Medina (La leyenda de la Nahuala, Voces inocentes, etc.). Yixmal, the Indian who knew Paul's grandfather, is played by Rafael Cortés (La otra conquista, Cascabel, etc.).

Facebook page: facebook.com/pages/The-Blue-Eyes-Los-Ojos-Azules/138411376215783

Sinopsis en español:
Una pareja estadounidense viaja a Chiapas, México, donde tienen un encuentro con una bruja que les cambia la vida.


La cabeza viviente

LA CABEZA VIVIENTE
(The Living Head)
Director:Chano Urueta
Writers: Federico Curiel, Adolfo López Portillo
Cinematography:José Ortiz Ramos
Music:Gustavo César Carrión
Year/length:1961. 76 minutes.
Setting:1525; 1963
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:low
Home Release:none
Rating: lousy

In this Grade B horror movie, a group of archaeologists explore the tomb of the Aztec warrior Acatl. They find him perfectly mummified, as well as a severed head of the high priest Xiu. One of the archaeologist brings these mummy treasures home, where they come to life, kill his colleagues, and hypnotize his wife, who turns out to be the reincarnation of the Aztec priestess Xochiquétzal.

Sinopsis en español:
Un grupo de arqueólogos, liderados por el profesor Mueller, hallan la tumba de Acatl, un antiguo guerrero azteca, donde encuentran los restos momificados de la sacerdotista Xochiquetzal. Pero la cabeza del arcaico guerrero, que está perfectamente conservada, intentará castigar a los sacrílegos académicos.


CASCABEL
(Rattlesnake)
Director:Raúl Araiza
Writer:Raúl Araiza, Antonio Monsell, Jorge Patiño
Cinematography:Rosalío Solano
Music:Vinicius de Moraes
Year/length:1977. 105 minutes.
Setting:Chiapas
Language:Spanish, some Tzeltal and Tzotzil
Indian Content:medium
Home Release:DVD
Rating: lousy ok good

A theater director is hired to film a documentary about the Lacandon Indians in Chiapas. He is given a script and instructions not to change it, but he documents the squalid conditions of the Lacandon reservation and interviews many people, whites and Indians, who express their cynicism toward the government. In the end the director is replaced by a more "cooperative" filmmaker. Although the characters are not memorable, this film provides a good introduction to the complexities of Indian politics in Mexico. Winner of two Ariel Awards: Best Film Editing (Reynaldo P. Portillo), and Best First Work.

Sinopsis en español:
Alfredo, director de cine, es contratado para dirigir un documental sobre los chamulas. Los que lo contratan le aseguran total libertad creativa si él a su vez respeta el guión. Alfredo toma el trabajo e inicia la filmación, pero se siente culpable y cobarde porque el guión falsea la realidad. Mientras filma, experimenta serios problemas existenciales y familiares que culminan cuando se separa de su pareja. Al ver los avances del documental, los patrocinadores —entre ellos un ministro— se molestan porque en él aparecen las condiciones miserables de los chamulas e incluso algunas entrevistas con miembros de la oposición como Heberto Castillo; de modo que le quitan la cinta a Alfredo para dársela al guionista. Durante la filmación de sus últimas escenas--el alumbramiento de un niño chamula--Alfredo es mordido por una cascabel y muere al no llegar a tiempo el antídoto.



Chac: El dios de la lluvia DVD

CHAC, EL DIOS DE LA LLUVIA
(Chac: The Rain God)
Director/writer:Rolando Klein
Cinematography:William Kaplan Jr, Álex Phillips Jr.
Music:Victor Fozado, Elisabeth Waldo
Year/length:1975. 95 minutes.
Setting:Chiapas
Language:Tzeltal, some Tzotzil
Indian Content: high
Home Release:DVD
Rating: lousy ok good very good excellent

This mesmerizing film is acted entirely by Mayan Indians. Suffering from a drought, the Mayans seek out a mysterious diviner (Pablo Canche Balam) to perform the proper ceremonies for the rain god, Chac. The diviner takes them on a journey calculated to test their faith, and only an unnamed mute boy passes the test. The DVD has an excellent commentary by the director which explains some of the more perplexing aspects of this strange film. Adding to the overall mystery is that neither the director nor any of the actors ever made another film. Check out an interview with Rolando Klein:
nativenetworks.si.edu/eng/rose/klein_r_interview.htm

Sinopsis en español:
Los indígenas tzelzales de Chiapas están alarmados por la falta de lluvias. El chamán se declara incapaz de hacer algo. Un grupo encabezado por el cacique busca en las montañas a un adivino solitario. Él los guía por las tierras bajas de la selva lacandona para buscar a Chac, el dios de la lluvia. En cierto lugar indica que en tres días más lloverá. Como un niño muere, el cacique busca de nuevo al adivino para echarlo a un cenote, pero cuando lo va a hacer llueve.

El director Rolando Klein vivió nueve meses en Chiapas (Temejapa), lugar de muy difícil acceso. A diario debía caminar más de una hora para platicar con los indígenas, hasta que los convenció para que participaran en la filmación. Cuando el filme se exhibió tuvo mucho éxito, pero surgió un conflicto sobre la nacionalidad del largometraje por ser el director el inversionista de la película. Mientras se discutía el asunto, la cinta fue guardada en las bóvedas de la Cineteca Nacional, y por mucho tiempo se creyó que la película había desaparecido en el incendio de 1982. El director dejó el cine y se dedicó a exportar vinos a Estados Unidos.

Entrevista a Roland Klein:
nativenetworks.si.edu/esp/rose/klein_r_interview.htm


Cochochi DVD COCHOCHI
Directors/writers/ music and cinematography: Israel Cárdenas, Laura Amelia Guzmán
Year/length:2007. 87 minutes. Rated G.
Setting: San Ignacio, a town in Valle Okochochi, Sierra Tarahumara, Chihuahua
Language:Rarámuri and Spanish
Indian Content:high
Home Release:DVD (Mexico, with Spanish & English subtitles)
Rating: lousy ok good

Two Raramuri brothers, aged 11 and 12, have just finished elementary boarding school. The older boy, sullen and rebellious, has won a scholarship to high school but isn't interested in attending; the younger likes school but didn't win the scholarship. When their grandfather sends them on an errand to deliver medicine to relatives in another town, the brothers borrow his horse without permission. They lose their way, then they lose the horse, and eventually they lose track of each other. The divergent paths they choose suggest the futures their lives may take. The film shows beautiful scenery of the Tarahumara mountains and glimpses of Raramuri folkways. The title Cochochi refers to Okochochi, the Raramuri name for San Ignacio, the town where the boys live. The actors are brothers in real life and use their real names in the film, making it almost a documentary, since the story is based on an episode they actually experienced. Cochochi won several awards at international festivals.

Blog: cochochidramarural.blogspot.com
Website:www.cochochi.com.mx
DVD available from www.gandhi.com.mx or Ebay

Sinopsis en español:
En el norte de México está situado el valle de Okochochi. Es la tierra de los Raramuri, una comunidad indígena que lucha por mantener vivas su lengua, cultura, creencias y tradiciones. Los hermanos Evaristo y Luis Antonio son dos niños pertenecientes a esta comunidad. La familia recibe un día el aviso de que uno de sus familiares se encuentra enfermo y necesita unas medicinas. Este pariente vive al otro lado del valle y serán los niños los que emprenderán el viaje a lomos de un caballo para llevárselas. El caballo es del abuelo y es su posesión más preciada; en un momento de descuido el animal se les escapa y los chicos tratan por todos los medios de recuperarlo. La historia es narrada con simplicidad, frescura, afecto y un sorprendente respeto.


Corazon del tiempo DVD

CORAZON DEL TIEMPO
Un viaje al Corazón de la Resistencia Zapatista
(Heart of Time: A journey into the heart of the Zapatista Resistance)
Director:Alberto Cortés
Writers:Hermann Bellinghausen & Alberto Cortés
Cinematography:Marc Bellver
Music:Descember Bueno, Kelvis Ochoa
Year/length:2008. 90 minutes.
Setting:Esperanza de San Pedro, Chiapas
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:high
Home Release:DVD
Rating: lousy ok good

Sonia is a young woman in La Esperanza de San Pedro, part of the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) in Chiapas. Sonia is about to me married to Miguel and has already received a cow as dowry. But she is in love with another man, the soldier Julio. Now the EZLN has a problem on their hands and the entire community must come together to resolve the conflict between love and duty. This is the first fiction film about the EZLN, the longest-running armed Indigenous resistance in Mexico.

Sinopsis en español:
Son tiempos revolucionarios y Sonia pone a girar a todos al compás de su corazón rebelde. Apenas "pedida" para casarse con Miguel, dirigente juvenil de la comunidad, por los caminos de la selva Lacandona la muchacha encuentra el fondo de sus ojos en los del guerrillero Julio, y experimenta una pasión que pone en riesgo la seguridad de su comunidad y de los insurgentes zapatistas. Alicia, hermana menor de Sonia, aprende a descifrar en sus juegos la realidad (las fuerzas del gobierno sitian por aire y tierra a los rebeldes) a través del espejo. Será su abuela Zoraida quien baje a tierra las visiones de la niña. Juntas, Zoraida y Alicia descubrirán en la decisión de Sonia una prueba para las voluntades y las tradiciones, En un mundo donde todo cambia, tierra de indios libres que han decidido resistir y no dejarse, Sonia libra las batallas del amor en el corazón del tiempo.


El curandero DVD

EL CURANDERO
(The Healer)
Creators:Collective authorship by the Community of Magdalena
Year/length:1999. 34 minutes.
Setting:Magdalena, Chiapas
Language:Tzotzil
Home Release:DVD

When Jacinto gets sick, his relatives call upon a local healer to cure him. An intimate look at traditional Mayan healing practices, this short film reveals indigenous approach of addressing the physical, spiritual, and psychological aspects of sicknessWestern medicinal techniques. El Curandero is the first fiction-drama produced by Chiapaneco indigenous communities. The actors are from the small highlands community of Magdalena. The complete title is El Curandero de las communidades indigenas de Los Altos de Chiapas, or The Healer in the Indigenous of Communities of the Highlands of Chiapas. Order from www.promediosmexico.org

Sinopsis en español:
Cuando Jacinto cae enfermo, sus parientes llaman a un curandero local para que lo cure. Esta visión íntima de las prácticas tradicionales de curación mayas, revela los valores indígenas para enfrentar los aspectos físicos, espirituales y psicológicos de la enfermedad y de la curación, a menudo en fuerte contraposición con las técnicas médicas de occidente. El Curandero es el primer drama-ficción producido por las comunidades indígenas de Chiapas. Los actores son de Magdalena, una pequeña comunidad de las montañas.


EN EL PAÍS DE LOS PIES LIGEROS
(El niño rarárumi)
(In the Country of the Swift Feet)
Director:Marcela Fernández Violante
Writers:Marcela Fernández Violante, Antonio Noyola
Cinematography:Lorenzo Contreras
Music:Leonardo Velázquez
Year/length:1983. 90 minutes.
Setting:Sierra Tarahumara, Chihuahua
Language:Spanish; some Rarámuri
Indian Content:medium-high
Home Release:DVD (no subtitles)
Rating: lousy ok

On summer vacation 12-year-old Manuel travels with his mother to visit his father, who is working as a logger in Creel, a town in the Sierra. Manuel meets the 9-year-old Jesús, a Tarahumara boy, who introduces him to his culture and his family. When the boys go on a camping trip with Jesús' father Benito (played by Ernesto Gómez Cruz), Manuel is further immersed in Tarahumara customs and culture and learns about medicinal plants. The Tarahumara are played by indigenous actors (but incredibly, the actor who plays Jesus is not credited) and we hear plenty of Raramuri spoken. There is also a scuffle with a band of illegal loggers that comprises the film's "adventure". This film is the Mexican equivalent of an After School Special--didactic and uninspired. But there is a good deal of authenticity in the language, costumes and culture, an elaborate healing ritual, and a fiesta. The film is available on DVD with two other 1980s movies, Un sábado más, and Niño pobre, niño rico.

Sinopsis en español:
En sus vacaciones Manuel, de 12 años, viaja en tren con su madre a la sierra tarahumara para pasar unos días con su padre, quien trabaja en la sierra con los indígenas protegiendo la naturaleza. Manuel se hace amigo de Jesús, quien lo lleva a su pueblo y le enseña las costumbres de los suyos. Ambos niños descubren a unos taladores ilegales de árboles.



EN LAS ARENAS NEGRAS
(In the Black Sand)
Director/writer:Marcel Sisniega
Cinematography:Diego Arizmendi
Year/length:2003, 94 minutes
Setting:Popocatepetl, a volcano in Puebla
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:low
Home Release: DVD
Rating: lousy

A graduate student, Anacruz, moves into a cabin at the foot of Popcatepetl Volcano to complete her thesis on modern beliefs in pre-Columbian myths. In this desolate region she meets a young man who lost his father and a hermit who lost his son. We also learn about Anacruz's own unfulfilling life: the mother who left her, the father and his third wife, the boyfriend who also leaves her to take a vow of silence in a local monastery while she struggles to overcome the silence of her own thesis. The film presents some interesting ideas and situations, but the pacing is slow, the dialogue is doctrinaire and hollow, and the characters never really come alive.

Sinopsis en español:
Una joven sube a las faldas del volcán Popocatépetl con el fin de escribir una tesis sobre la vigencia de los mitos prehispánicos en la zona. Ahí, conoce a personajes como el ermitaño Soto, que la hacen reconsiderar los mitos falsos de su propia vida.



THE GIRL
(La niña)
Director/writer:David Riker
Cinematography:Martín Boege
Music:Leonardo Heiblum, Jacobo Lieberman
Year/length:2013. 94 minutes.
Setting:Laredo, Texas; Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas; San Juan Chicomezuchil, Oaxaca.
Language:English, Spanish
Indian Content:medium
Home Release:DVD; On Demand
Rating: lousy ok good very good excellent

Ashley is a young woman in Texas with a crummy job and a trailer home who has been separated from her son. When she learns that her truck driving father has been earning extra money transporting Mexicans across the border in his 18-wheeler, she tries to get in on the action and approaches a small group of people in Neuvo Laredo. She drives them to a wooded place on the border where the river is low and narrow and tells them she'll wait for them on the U.S. side. But when she gets to the other side, she finds that most of the people have disappeared, scared away by a border patrol helicopter. Ashley is now stuck with a little girl, Rosa, who whose mother is among the disappeared. When they learn that the mother has drowned, Ashley drives Rosa back to her home in San Juan Chicomezuchil, a tiny village in Oaxaca, reuniting the girl with her grandmother. In Oaxaca Ashley finds everything she never had in Texas: nature, community, self-sufficiency. Beautifully filmed and acted, The Girl turns the Crossing-the-Border genre upside down by focusing not on Mexicans experiencing a culture clash in the U.S. but a poor white Texas woman awakening to the spell of a millennial culture. Director David Riker was also made La ciudad, another excellent film full of originality and finely observed details.
Official website: davidrikersthegirl.com
Facebook page: facebook.com/DavidRikersTheGirl

Sinopsis en español:
Emocionalmente perturbada de perder la custodia de su hijo y quedarse sin opciones para ganarse la vida, y para ganar la custodia de nuevo, la madre soltera Ashley (Abbie Cornish) se desespera cuando pierde su trabajo. Así que cuando la oportunidad surge. Se arriesga para convertirse en una contrabandista de inmigrantes ilegales (coyote), llevándolos sobre la frontera de Texas. Los resultados de la experiencia desgarradora de recompensas y consecuencias imprevistas, Ashley forja un vínculo muy intenso con una niña mexicana que la obliga a enfrentarse a su pasado, aceptar los errores que ha cometido, y mirar hacia el futuro.

Un espíritu independiente y ganador del Premio Gotham por su neo-realista película La Ciudad, el director David Riker vuelve con la emocionalmente devastadora La Niña. Riker ofrece un ambiente inolvidable, un paisaje tejano-mexicano desolado, para su historia de pérdida y pesar. Concretiza a una mujer incapaz de manejar las demandas de la vida y las responsabilidades de la maternidad; Cornish aporta a una profunda, conmovedora, y desesperada Ashley, cuyas luchas se haría mucho más fácil si alguna vez podría aprender a perdonarse a sí misma.


El juicio de Martin Cortes VHS

EL JUICIO DE MARTÍN CORTÉS
El crimen de ser Mexicano
(The Judgement of Martin Cortes:
The Crime of Being Mexican)
Director/writer:Alejandro Galindo
Cinematography:Luis Medina
Music:Raul Lavista
Year/length:1973. 115 minutes.
Setting:1500s and 1970s
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:medium
Home Release:DVD (no subtitles)
Rating: lousy ok good

In contemporary Mexico a play is presented, Martín Cortés: El primer Mexicano, its two main characters being the two sons of the conquistador Hernán Cortés. One is the son of Malinche and therefore the first mestizo; the other is the legitimate son of Cortés's wife. Both half-brothers are named Martín Cortés. In the play, the mestizo kills his Spanish half-brother. Unfortunately, the actor who plays him also kills the actor who plays the Spanish half-brother. The actor is put on trial for murder, and the play is re-enacted in order to show the jury how the mestizo actor in the course of his role was inflamed by 400 years of racial prejudice and oppression. This highly original and thought-provoking film is marred somewhat by the light-skinned Gonzalo Vega playing an unconvincing mestizo. The film has also been called Los hijos de La Malinche. Pictured at left is the VHS version.

Sinopsis en español:
Durante la representación de la obra Martín Cortés, el primer mexicano, el protagonista asesina a su antagonista. El abogado defensor sugiere que se monten escenas de la obra para demostrar que algo psicológico propició el crimen. Al montar de nuevo la obra se ve que Hernán Cortés tiene dos hijos, ambos llamados Martín, pero uno es criollo y el otro mestizo. El criollo se siente superior a su medio hermano y lo traiciona. El mestizo es condenado a morir en la plaza pública, se abalanza sobre su medio hermano y lo mata. El propio juez grita al actor mátalo. El abogado defensor demuestra que su cliente obró impulsado por cuatro siglos de rencores y humillaciones.


Llovizna

LLOVIZNA
(Drizzle)
Director:Sergio Olhovich
Writers:Sergio Olhovich, Juan de la Cabada
Cinematography:Rosalío Solano
Music:Raúl Lavista
Year/length:1977. 80 minutes.
Setting:Mexico City
Language:Spanish, some Nahuatl
Indian Content:medium-high
Home Release:DVD (region 1&4; no subs)
Rating: lousy ok good

Eduardo, a well-to-do suburban businessman, is returning from a trip with a briefcase full of money. On the way, he picks up four Indian campesinos, bricklayers, who are returning to the city after attending a child's funeral. They help Eduardo get his van out of a pothole, and Eduardo gives them a ride to the city in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain. Holding so much money, Eduardo worries that the Indians might rob him, and his fears begin to play tricks with his mind. The Indians are a little drunk, and they speak Nahuatl in the back seat, adding to Eduardo's fears. As this is a suspense film that makes the viewer wonder whether the Indians will rob the driver, I cannot reveal the outcome. The llovizna, or drizzle, of the title refers to the father's concern that the rain might penetrate his daughter's homemade coffin. Folkways shown in the film include a poor rural funeral for the child, and also an Aztec Dance performance in the city, highlighting the chasm between the exotic, romanticized Indian and the grim reality of their present-day marginalization. This in turn reveals the hypocrisy of national Aztec pride flaunted over furtive prejudices. Loosely based on the very short story "La Llovizna" by Juan de la Cabada.

Sinopsis en español:
Eduardo, empleado de una empresa, va a provincia a cobrar un pago y aprovecha para pasear con su amante, pero ella se molesta por una discusión en la que se embarcan y vuelve sola a su casa. Eduardo decide regresarse ese mismo día. Mientras maneja por la carretera ocurre un deslave que hace que se detenga y cuatro campesinos le piden que los lleve; él accede, pero durante el trayecto se va obsesionando con la idea de que lo van a asaltar y su obsesión llega a tal grado que los asesina. Ya en su casa, Eduardo ve la noticia del crimen por televisión y confiesa a su esposa ser el autor. Ella lo tranquiliza diciendo que sólo eran unos cuantos indios que a nadie preocupan.


Maria Isabel DVD

MARÍA ISABEL
Writers:René Muñoz, Yolanda Vargas Dulché
Year/length:1998. 573 minutes.
Setting:Nayarit; Mexico City; Guadalajara
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:medium
Home Release:DVD
Rating: lousy

Maria Isabel (Adela Noriega) is an Indian girl growing up in Nayarit near the estate of the wealthy and evil Don Felix. She befriends Don Felix's daughter, Graciela. When Graciela dies prematurely, she entrusts her illegitimate daughter to Maria Isabel, who must wander the streets of Mexico City looking for a job and raising the daughter. She endures one crummy job after another and finally ends up as a maid for kind, handsome and wealthy Ricardo Mendiola (Fernando Carrillo). They fall in love and marry, and all kinds of telenovela-ish things happen along the way that no intelligent viewer could care about. The only interesting plot development comes near the end, when the entire Indian village gets sick from Don Felix's fertilizers poisoning the river, and the village sets out to lynch him. Along the way we also meet Maria Isabel's humble father Pedro (José Carlos Ruiz), her hateful stepmother Chona (Monica Miguel), and a cute little neighbor named Pedrito (Carlos Campos). Maria Isabel refers to her people as Aguchon, which is evidently a fictional name, but judging from their clothing and art, and their location in Nayarit, they are clearly Huichol (you can see some Huichol-style yarn paintings and other folk art in Mendiola's home after they are married). This is essentially a rags-to-riches tale, and we see Maria Isabel gradually dropping her Indian braids, earrings and dress in favor of diamonds, sleek couture, and lightened hair. If only she had stayed with her family in Nayarit and spared us 11 hours of this typically dreadful telenovela.



Mi nino Tizoc

MI NIÑO TIZOC
(My Son Tizoc)
Director:Ismael Rodríguez
Writers:Ismael Rodríguez, Mario Hernández
Cinematography:Rosalío Solano
Music:Raúl Lavista (theme song "Xochimilco" by Agustín Lara)
Year/length:1972. 95 minutes.
Setting:Xochimilco; D.F.
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:high
Home Release:DVD (with English subtitles)
Rating: lousy ok

The widower Carmelo (Alberto Vázquez) and his 11-year-old son Tizoc (Cuitláhuac "Cui" Rodríguez) make a living selling flowers in Xochimilco. The other flower sellers resent him because he sells his flowers cheaper, so they harass him, vandalizing his house and killing his dog. When father and son watch an extravagant pageant called a posada, which enacts beggars asking for food at a house and being refused at the front door but accepted at the back door, Tizoc wants to have a posada of his own--making the film almost a parody of Macario (above). They buy a chicken and a piñata, but Tizoc gets sick from the old, three-peso chicken and Carmelo has to take him to the doctor. He wraps up the boy in a petate like a taco and carries him to the Hospital Infantil de México, where he sees Diego Rivera's indigenous-themed painting, La piñata. After checking in his son, Carmelo is robbed, and when the police come, they think Carmelo robbed the thief, so they lock up Carmelo. After five days Carmelo finally persuades the police to let him see his son in the hospital. Tizoc has recovered, but when the return home they find their house burned by the resentful neighbors. The ceaseless persecution Carmelo suffers is painful to watch, despite the attempts at humor. Although the film could be described as a musical comedy, the death of the dog and the burning of the house are just too much to take, even though the characters accept their misfortunes with the dignity and equanimity that commercial films like to bestow on minorities. The DVD includes a 12-minute documentary on director Ismael Rodriguez.

Sinopsis en español:
El niño viudo Carmelo y su hijo Tizoc viven en Xochimilco vendiendo flores. Ambos son repudiados en la comunidad por vender barato y Tizoc no es invitado a ninguna posada. Por eso Carmelo le hace una a él solo aunque siempre ahorra para el futuro del niño. Él termina con infección estomacal por comer demasiado, y Carmelo debe llevarlo al médico hasta la ciudad, en la noche y a pie. Los médicos luchan para salvarlos y el pillo cuñado de una enfermera roba los ahorros de Carmelo. Éste le reclama y ambos van a la delegación. El pillo paga su multa y queda libre. Carmelo es encarcelado y no para de gritar hasta que la gente del ministerio aclara todo con la enfermera. Al volver con el niño sano, Carmelo encuentra su jacal quemado y acusa a Enedino, su rival por el amor de la joven Soledad, de haberlo hecho. Dos paisanas del viudo lo aman.



Diego Rivera's La piñata (1953)




Oficio de tinieblas DVD

OFICIO DE TINIEBLAS
(Duty of Darkness)
Director:Archibaldo Burns
Cinematography:Manuel Garzón
Music:Manuel Enríquez
Year/length:1981. 107 minutes.
Setting:San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, 1934
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:medium-high
Home Release:DVD (no subtitles)
Rating: lousy ok good

The film seems to take place in the 1970s, though it is based on the classic novel by Rosario Castellanos set in 1934, which was in turn based on an 1867 uprising of the Chamula Indians working on an hacienda (very little evidence survives of the original incident). The Chamulas crucify a small boy in order to have their own savior, who comes to be known as El Cristo indigena. You can usually find the DVD on Ebay. It's one of those blurry, unsubtitled, no-frills releases that they make in Mexico, but the film is definitely worth checking out. (The DVD box says 96 minutes but it is actually 107 minutes.)

Sinopsis en español:
Hay una mujer que conoce mejor que nadie este "oficio de tinieblas." Una historia que envuelve la visión de las antiguas creencias indígenas en contaste con la religión católica. En este universo onírico, los indígenas, hartos de que un cacique que les mal pague por trabaja, se sienten favorecidos por el supuesto apoyo del gobierno y deciden apoyarse más en sus creencias que en el mundo capitalista del hombre trabajador. En este marco un triángulo amoroso se desarrollará, poniendo en juicio la honorabilidad de una mujer y la forma de pensar de la comunidad.


Raices

RAÍCES
(Roots)
Director:Benito Alazraki
Writers:Benito Alazraki, Manuel Barbachano Ponce, Juan de la Cabada, Fernando Espejo, José Miguel García Ascot, María Elena Lazo, Carlos Velo
Cinematography:Hans Beimler, Walter Reuter
Music: Blas Galindo, Rodolfo Halffter, Pablo L. Moncayo, Guillermo Noriega
Year/length:1953. 85 or 103 minutes.
Setting:Mezquital; Chiapas; Yucatán; Veracruz
Language:Spanish; some Tzotzil
Indian Content:high
Home Release:DVD (no subtitles)
Rating: lousy ok good very good

Four tales adapted from El diosero y otros cuentos, a classic collection of stories by Guadalajara author and anthropologist Francisco Rojas Gonzáles (1903-1951). LAS VACAS: A poor Otomí couple with a baby cannot afford to buy their next meal. A rich white couple drive by and offer the mother an irresistable salary as a wet nurse under the condition that she leave her husband and daughter. NUESTRA SEÑORA: An arrogant anthropology student visits the Chamulas to write her thesis on their "savage" culture, arguing that they cannot appreciate art. EL TUERTO: A one-eyed Yucatec boy is taunted by his peers. His mother seeks the help of curanderos. LA POTRANCA: A married man in Tajín relentlessly pursues his Indian servant. He offers her father money to "buy" her. Despite the overly didactic tone (especially in NUESTRA SEÑORA), this film is quite beautiful. It was Mexico's first independent film, and won prizes from Ariel and Cannes.

Sinopsis en español:
El valle del Mezquital, la región chamula de Chiapas, un pueblo de la península yucateca y la zona del Tajín, en el estado de Veracruz, son los escenarios de cuatro enfrentamientos entre la civilización moderna y el mundo indígena tradicional. En "Las vacas", un humilde matrimonio otomí sufre con su hija recién nacida los rigores de la sequía. "Nuestra señora" narra, con toques de ironía, los esfuerzos de una antropóloga estadounidense por comprender las costumbres chamulas. Y mientras en Yucatán el jovencito de "El tuerto" pide un milagro para que los otros niños no se burlen de él, en Veracruz, el antropólogo de "La potranca" pretende comprar a una joven indígena.


Rito Terminal DVD

RITO TERMINAL
(Last Rites)
Director/writer:Óscar Urrutia Lazo
Cinematography:Ciro Cabello
Music:José Navarro
Year/length:1999. 110 minutes.
Setting:a town in Oaxaca
Language:Spanish and Náhuatl
Indian Content:medium
Home Release:DVD
Rating: lousy ok good

A photographer from Mexico City visits a small town in Oaxaca to document a religious festival. He meddles in sacred affairs, invoking the wrath of the local hechicera. As a result, the photographer loses his shadow, and must learn how to get it back. Strange and disorienting with a hint of horror, and thoughtful examination of the conflicts between ladinos and indigenas, and urban and rural lifestyles. Nominated for 14 Ariel Awards; won for Best Actress in a Minor Role (Fabiana Perzabal).

Sinopsis en español:
La celebración de la fiesta patronal en una comunidad indígena es el marco donde un joven fotógrafo pierde su sombra. En un intercambio espiritual, durante el funeral tradicional de una mujer, el joven perderá también las convicciones que lo mantienen atado a su vida urbana. Para recuperarse deberá recorrer un camino iniciático junto con los pobladores de la comunidad, compartiendo una forma distinta de aproximarse al entorno. Sin embargo, no será hasta que acepte la pérdida de su sombra cuando finalmente podrá encarar a la mujer que la ha tomado y así poder recuperarla. Al reintegrar su sombra habrá ganado la capacidad de percibir la realidad desde una óptica distinta, aceptando una “lógica” propia de aquello que no entendía.


Santo Luzbel DVD

SANTO LUZBEL
(Saint Lucifer)
Director/writer:Miguel Sabido
Cinematography:Arturo de la Rosa, Jorge Suárez
Music:
Year/length:1997. 101 minutes.
Setting:Cuetzalan and Yohualichan (towns in northern Puebla)
Language:Spanish and Náhuatl
Indian Content:high
Home Release:DVD
Rating: lousy ok good very good excellent

In the town of Yohualichan in the north of Puebla, Indians have performed the Tlayectiltlahtocatzintzin for hundreds of years. This is a coloquio, or religious pageant, in honor of Saint Michael's battle with Luzbel (Lucifer). But in the five years since they stopped performing the coloquio (due to the death of the organizer), the Indians have suffered bad luck: Cirilio's son is sick; Emeterio feels he is being persued by Saint Michael, and Olegario sees his land taken away by the sheriff. Olegario feels they must resume the tradition of the coloquio in order to stop the bad luck. When he is arrested after fighting with the sheriff, he makes his godson Emeterio promise to perform the coloquio and entrusts him with the sacred text. As they proceed to rehearse for the elaborate ritual, the mestizo sheriff informs the priest that title of the text means "Sacred Colloquium of the Great and Holy Lords, San Miguel and Luzbel." Fearing that the coloquio glorifies Lucifer, the priest forbids the coloquio two days before el Dia de San Miguel. The Indians decide to perform the pageant anyway and lock themselves inside the church, culminating in a showdown between the Indigenous community of Yohualichan and the sheriff's men. Santo Luzbel moves freely between Spanish and Nahuatl (which they call Mexicano) and is performed by actors from the Compañía de Teatro Náhuatl, with choreography by Danzantes de San Miguel Zinacapan. It seems to me one of the most authentically indigenous films made in Mexico. It was nominated for eight Ariel Awards and won the Diosa de Plata for Best Script.

Sinopsis en español:
En el México del siglo XX perviven problemas y situaciones a lo largo de cinco siglos. En un pequeño pueblo del centro del país se vuelve a escenificar un viejo episodio: el enfrentamiento de dos culturas. Por un lado, la comunidad de ascendencia indígena quiere representar una obra teatral que ha pasado de generación en generación, y que interpreta de una manera muy particular un episodio bíblico, la derrota de Luzbel, a quien ellos llaman "santo" por el simple hecho de pertenecer al mundo etéreo; y por otra parte, está la visión netamente occidental, representada por el padre Santos (que sostiene una postura intransigente), por el párroco del pueblo vecino (que representa la actitud conciliadora) y por el cacique, que avergonzado de su origen indígena se convierte en el principal represor de su propia gente.


Tarahumara DVD

TARAHUMARA
Cada vez más lejos
Director/writer:Luis Alcoriza
Cinematography:Rosalio Solano
Music:Raul Lavista
Year/length:1965. 105 minutes.
Setting:Sierra Madre, Chihuahua
Language:Spanish, occasional Rarámuri
Indian Content:medium-high
Home Release:DVD (no subtitles)
Rating: lousy ok good very good

An anthropologist working for the Instituto Nacional Indigenista tries to help the Tarahumara Indians protect their land from greedy loggers and politicians who do not respect their rights. Somewhat preachy and old-fashioned by today's standards, the film does show some fascinating scenes of the Raramuri Indians in their own element, with deer hunting, festivals, a baptism, and of course the footraces for which the Raramuri are famous. The secondary title, Cada vez mas lejos, means "Further and further each time," referring to the constant attempt to drive Indians off their land and into less useful land--a pattern repeated for centuries throughout the Americas. Tarahumara won prizes from Cannes and The Mexican Cinema Journalists and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Picture. Order from Gandhi Bookstore: gandhi.com.mx

Sinopsis en español:
La historia relatada por Alcoriza en Tarahumara - un antropólogo llega a la Sierra Tarahumara para estudiar los problemas de los indígenas y luego de constatar la explotación de que son objeto, deja su papel de observador para tomar partido a su favor; cuando decide ir a la ciudad a denunciar los hechos, es asesinado- constituyó uno de los pocos casos en los que pudo plantearse una visión del mundo indígena más cercana a la observación documental, que a las mistificaciones paternalistas del cine mexicano más convencional. En su respetuoso retrato de la marginada comunidad tarahumara, Alcoriza logra momentos de gran verismo y fuerza dramática. Luego de un dificultoso rodaje, el realizador tuvo que enfrentar un problema adicional: por protestas del Instituto Nacional Indigenista, la censura cortó la escena en la que el indígena Corachi ofrecía a su mujer Belén, como gesto de amistad al antropólogo.


VHS


Cuban poster


El tejedor de milagros
enlarge
EL TEJEDOR DE MILAGROS
(The Weaver of Miracles)
Director:Francisco de Villar
Writer:Julio Alejandro
Cinematography:Gabriel Figueroa
Music:Carlos Jiménez Mabarak
Year/length:1951. 95 minutes.
Home Release:none

Based on the play by Hugo Argüelles (1932-2003). Arnulfo, an Indian who weaves baskets with his feet, comes to town on Christmas looking for help for his wife Jacinta, who is about to give birth. A rumor spreads that the boy was born like Jesus, and an atheist tries to take advantage of the situation. People arrive with gifts and they put the baby in the church's nativity scene. The priest tries to rescue the baby from the fervor but the baby dies. This film won the PECIME Prize for best picture. Starring Pedro Armendariz and Columba Dominguez. Why isn't this on DVD?

Sinopsis en español:
En Navidad el indio Arnulfo, que teje canastos con los pies, llega con su mujer parturienta Jacinta a un pueblo donde nadie los quiere ayudar. Teófilo, el sacristán de la iglesia, no quiere casarse con la rica Verania porque su madrina Remedios, que vive de practicar abortos, lo ha hecho su amante y lo va a llevar a la capital. Jacinta va a dar a luz frente a la casa de Remedios y ella la ayuda, pero en el pueblo se corre la voz de que el niño nació como el niño Dios y a un ateo se le ocurre explotar en su beneficio del milagro. La gente le lleva regalos y varios sacan provecho. Al final ponen al niño en el nacimiento de la iglesia y todos lo besan. El cura lo rescata pero el niño ha muerto.


Tesoro del indito VHS

EL TESORO DEL INDITO
Director:Joselito Rodríguez
Writers:Joselito Rodríguez, Juan Rodríguez
Cinematography:Jack Draper
Music:Sergio Guerrerón
Year/length:1961. 90 minutes.
Setting:Mexico City
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:medium
Home Release:VHS (no subtitles)
Rating: lousy

An Indian boy travels from his village to Mexico City to visit his sister, who is a maid in the house of a famous singer. During one of her performances, the Indito is accidentally thrown onstage, sings a song, and becomes a hit. When his father sees his son in the paper the next day, he too travels to the city, and three Indians get drawn into an adventure when the foolish father reveals that he has a Revolution-era treasure hidden back home, thereby attracting the attention of greedy villains. An unfortunate mix of comedy and violence ensues, including the torture of the father, Cuauhtemoc-style, by burning his feet. But all ends well when the villains are caught and thrown barefoot in a prison covered with nopales. Abounding in stereotypes, El tesoro del indito is disturbingly complacent and paternalistic. The Indito and his sister are played by Pepito and Titina Romay, real-life children of the director. Some Aztec dancing is shown.

Sinopsis en español:
El niño indígena José llega a vivir a la capital con su hermana Remedios, sirvienta de la vedette Marta. Hostilizado por el pillo representante de la vedette José cae en el escenario donde ella actúa y triunfa cantando. Luego Remedios gana un concurso de rock. El repartidor de pan Bernardino, padre de José, ofrece 50 mil pesos al empresario Paco y a Marta para financiar una obra, pues dice tener un tesoro. El representante explotador de Marta lo rapta y lo tortura como a Cuauhtémoc, pero el niño lo rescata con una resortera y con ayuda de todos hace encarcelar al villano. Paco y Marta, y Remedios y Trompito, ayudante de su padre, se casarán.


Tizoc: Amor Indio DVD

TIZOC: AMOR INDIO
Director:Ismael Rodríguez
Writers: Manuel R. Ojeda, Carlos Orellana, Ricardo Parada de León, Ismael Rodríguez
Cinematography:Fernando Martínez Álvarez, Alex Phillips
Music:Raúl Lavista
Year/length:1957. 109 minutes.
Setting:Oaxaca
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:medium
Home Release:DVD (no subtitles)
Rating: lousy ok good

Tizoc (Pedro Infante), last descendent of the Mixteca rulers, is a proud hunter who falls in love with the wealthy white girl Maria (Maria Felix). Her father forbids the marriage, and Maria wavers over whether or not she is in love with Tizoc. Both Indians and whites oppose the marriage, and all the odds are against the couple. Despite the schlocky story the film has some fine moments. Pedro Infante is generally convincing as a fiercely proud and independent Indian, except when he sings Pedro Infante songs. Tizoc was filmed in cinemascope, but the DVD from Laguna chops it down to fullscreen.

Sinopsis en español:
Fallecido el 15 de abril de 1957, Pedro Infante ganó póstumamente en junio de ese año el Oso de Plata a Mejor Actor en el Festival de Berlín por su protagónico en Tizoc, galardón al cual se sumaron otros premios que obtuvo el filme: el Globo de Oro a la Mejor Película Extranjera, así como el Ariel por Música de Fondo para Raúl Lavista y Mejor Película. Filmada en CinemaScope y Technicolor por Alex Phillips bajo la dirección de Ismael Rodríguez, este filme clásico del cine mexicano narra la historia de amor trágico del ingenuo indígena Tizoc (Infante) y la citadina María (María Félix)--a quien primero confunde con la Virgen--entre coloridos paisajes oaxaqueños.


traspatio DVD

EL TRASPATIO
(Backyard)
Director:Carlos Carrera
Writer:Sabina Berman
Cinematography:Martín Boege
Music:Fernando Corona
Year/length:2009. 122 minutes.
Setting:Ciudad Juárez
Language:Spanish, some Tzeltal
Indian Content:medium-low
Home Release:DVD
Rating: lousy ok good very good

Traspatio confronts the epidemic of kidnapping, rape, and murder of women in Ciudad Juarez that has been escalating over the past 15 years. The film tells two stories. The main plot is a police procedural following a woman detective's attempt to overcome the department's corruption and the public's passivity toward the ongoing crimes. And then there is the subplot that brings a more personal dimension to the tale. Juanita (Asur Zágada), a native of Cintalapa, Chiapas, arrives in Ciudad Juarez to live with her cousin Márgara (Amorita Rasgado) and work in a factory. When they go out to a bar, a young man, Cutberto (Iván Cortés) sitting nearby overhears them speaking Tzeltal (one of the Mayan languages). He is from Tecpatán, Oaxaca, and also speaks Tzeltal. The two begin begin dating. Traditional Cutberto wants to ask her father's permission before they take things further, but Juanita, away from her family for the first time and exhilarated by the freedom of Juarez, gets bored with Cutberto and publicly dumps him for another guy. Cutberto's sleazy friends persuade him to take revenge on Juanita, leading to a disastrous ending for them both. The early scenes of Juanita and Cutberto, with their bilingual conversations in Spanish and Tzeltal, are quite charming, and both first-time actors are excellent, though apparently neither of them are native Tzeltal speakers. Asur Zágada won an Ariel Award for Best Actress.

Sinopsis en español:
Esta cinta aborda el caso de las mujeres asesinadas en Ciudad Juárez. Una policía idealista recién llegada a Ciudad Juárez se enfrenta a la epidemia local de muertas: cada mes aparecen en promedio dos asesinadas. Ella se dedica a investigar los asesinatos con tesón y descubre una sociedad en la que pocos quieren abrir los ojos y ver qué sucede a su alrededor. A la par se cuenta la historia de Juanita, adolescente que llega desde Chiapas para trabajar en la maquila y que conoce a Cutberto, joven de Oaxaca que a diferencia de los otros chicos de la ciudad, aún conserva la moral inocente de su pueblo natal así como el habla del tzeltal, lengua que comparte con Juanita. Ambos comienzan a salir. La ciudad y sus circunstancias harán que las historias de estos personajes tristemente se encuentren junto con el amanecer en el desierto.


Vaho

VAHO
(Becloud)
Director/writer:Alejandro Gerber Bicecci
Cinematography:Alberto Anaya
Music:Matías Barberis, Rodrigo Garibay
Year/length:2009. 111 minutes.
Setting:Iztapalapa, 1964, 2000, 2009
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:low
Home Release: DVD
Rating: lousy ok good very good

In 1964, a trucker and a prostitute find a baby lying atop his dead Indian mother in the middle of the desert. The prostitute adopts the baby, who grows up to be a custodian at a grammar school in Iztapalapa, a district of Mexico City famous for its annual Passion reenactment during Semana Santa (Holy Week). The custodian seems to be slightly mentally challenged, perhaps because of his traumatic infancy, and is riduculed by the children. One day a little girl is locked inside the school after hours. When the townspeople find her, they think the custodian kidnapped her and they lynch and kill him. All this is told in flashbacks. The majority of the film focuses on the daily lives of three teenage boys who happened to witness the lynching. Their actions then are reflected in their seemingly dead-end lives today. José reluctantly works at his father’s ice factory; Felipe works at an Internet café where he can act out his cyberstalking; and Andrés joins an Aztec revivalist group led by a Nahual (shaman). The Indians don't get much screentime, but the story examines different ways that whites have treated Indians: with malevolence, negligence, nostolgia, and commercialization. The title Vaho (meaning mist) refers to the Mayan myth of creation, in which the gods put a blinding mist over men's eyes when they realized that their creations were too smart to continue worshipping them. "An enthralling mix of history, memory, guilt, and atonement turns a tangled neighborhood tale into a sly parable about modern Mexico itself."

Sinopsis en español:
Tres jóvenes se enfrentan al limbo post-adolescente. El recuerdo del linchamiento de un hombre, provocado indirectamente por ellos durante su infancia, los une al mismo tiempo que impide su reencuentro. El cuerpo narrativo comprende cinco historias interrelacionadas que ocurren en tres tiempos distintos (1964, 2000, y el presente). Todas ellas ocurren en Iztapalapa, una zona suburbana de la ciudad de México que está cargada de misticismo prehispánico, fervorosa devoción católica, y los más agudos problemas urbanos de la actualidad. Las tres historias del presente concluyen en la representación de la pasión de Cristo que se realiza anualmente en el lugar. La narrativa temporal de las historias está estructurada en forma de una media espiral que, al sumar las secuencias finales correspondientes a la pasión, y el epílogo final de 1964, se convierten en dos medias espirales encontradas.


VERA
Director/writer:Francisco Athié
Cinematography:Ramón Suárez
Music:Samuel Larson, Shyamal Maitra
Year/length:2003. 86 minutes.
Setting:Calketoc, Yucatan
Language:Spanish & a Mayan language
Indian Content:medium
Home Release:DVD
Rating: good

Juan (Marco Antonio Arzate), an elderly miner in Yucatan, gets trapped in a mine one morning and starts having visions. He encounters a small blue alien who gradually evolves into a tall slender aluxe (Mayan spirit) named Vera (Urara Kusanagi). Vera escorts Juan on a mystic, hallucinatory journey full of special effects that mix science fiction, Mayan and Catholic religious themes, and humor. There is almost no dialogue, just some prayers heard in Spanish, and some words in an unidentified language (presumably one of the 30 Mayan languages). Some will find this film pretentious and dull, others fascinating. Vera won Ariel Awards for Best Original Score and Best Special Effects.
Website: verathefilm.com

Sinopsis en español:
Juan (Marco Antonio Arzate), un viejo maya, resulta victima de un accidente minero, lo que hace que se embarque en un alucinatorio viaje por los cenotes y cavernas de Yucatan. En su viaje Juan es guido por Vera (Urara Kusanagi), una aluxe (duende), y a traves de una fascinante serie de transformaciones Juan descubre un mundo donde coexisten el misticismo maya con viciones del futuro. Esta visionaria pelicula de gran riqueza visual se desborda con imagenes religiosas creadas con un extraordinario uso de la animacion digital y una impactante fotografia, creando asi un nuevo mundo de formas narratives.


EL VIOLIN
Director/writer:Francisco Vargas
Cinematography:Martín Boege, Oscar Hijuelos
Music:Armando Rosas, Cuauhtémoc Tavira
Year/length:2006. 98 minutes.
Setting:unnamed rural village
Language:Spanish
Indian Content:medium
Home Release:DVD
Rating: lousy ok good very good excellent

This all-too-familiar story of a rural village rebelling against a military dictatorship is the most-awarded film in Mexican history. The Violin stars 88-year-old Ángel Tavira, a professional violinist who makes his first film appearance here, as well as providing the soundtrack. Tavira plays Don Plutarco Hidalgo, who along with his son and grandson is trying to recover munitions from their home after their village has been raided and occupied by the army. Plutarco attempts to re-enter the village by getting friendly with the occupying captain, who likes the old man's music. He also passes on a legacy to his grandson Lucio by teaching him folktales and folksongs (such as "El corrido de los Herrera") which he hopes will help the boy face the uncertain future. Both urgent and poetic, brutal and lyrical, the film itself feels like an old ballad, a wise and aged corrido, and yet it is, astonishingly, the director's first film. Trailer and further info at filmmovement.com. [Sadly, Angel Tavira died in July 2008. He only made one more film appearance, in La morenita.]

Sinopsis en español:
El violín narra la historia del octagenario Plutarco, su hijo Genaro y su nieto Lucio, quienes llevan una doble vida, pues además de ser músicos rurales y campesinos, participan en la guerrilla que planea levantarse en armas contra del gobierno opresor durante la Guerra sucia en México. Cuando llega el ejército al pueblo los guerrilleros huyen y abandonan las municiones. Con su apariencia inofensiva de músico anciano, Don Plutarco Hidalgo (interpretado por Ángel Tavira) tiene el plan de recuperar las armas escondidas en su parcela de maíz. Su música cautiva al capitán del ejército, también de origen proletario. El violín ha ganado más de 55 premios.


YANCO
Director:Servando González
Writers:Servando Gonzalez, Jesús Marín
Cinematography:Alex Phillips Jr.
Music: Gustavo César Carrión
Year/length:1961. 85 minutes.
Setting:Mixquic, a town outside Mexico City
Language:Náhuatl
Indian Content:medium
Home Release:VHS
Rating: lousy ok good very good

An Indian boy (Ricardo Ancona) is hypersensitive to noise and often retreats to the woods to find solace. One day he meets an old hermit who teaches him how to play the violin. When the old man dies, Yanco is heartbroken, but a few days later he finds the old man's violin for sale at a shop. Too poor to buy it, he sneaks into the store each night and takes the violin out to the woods to play it. The townspeople fear that the mysteriously disappearing violin is the work of the devil and they hunt down the source of the sound in the woods. There is hardly any dialogue in this film, probably no more than twenty lines throughout, so you don't need subtitles to understand the infrequent Nahuatl. The story is told through its lovely black-and-white cinematography and the music. There is not much Indian culture shown aside from a healing ritual and some dancing. Based on the short story "Yanko the Musician" by Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz.

Sinopsis en español:
Las enseñanzas de un anciano y los sonidos de la naturaleza despiertan el sentido musical en un niño xochimilca. Con el tiempo se convierte en un excelente violinista, pero la violencia e ignorancia de quienes lo rodean hacen que se le considere brujo. La cinta es narrada a través de efectos visuales, sonoros y musicales. Basado en "El violín de Yanco" de Henryk Sienkiewicz.


See Also:

Part One: Historical Films on the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico

Part Two: The Films of Emilio Fernandez

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