Mexican Shorts

****

Reviewed by: Trinity

It is both slightly incongruous and immensely encouraging that there is a strand at the 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival dedicated to Mexican short filmmaking. It's good then, that in the five films selected, you can see the diversity and talent which is emerging in the Mexican film industry. From the taut drama 93, through the comedy of Light Of Darkness to the poetic Roma, there are glimpses of the next Alfonso CuarĂ³n or Guillermo del Toro.

93, based on the Pinter play Victoria Station, is a two-hander between a taxi dispatcher and an erratic taxi driver in cab 93 who appears to be parked outside a park somewhere in Mexico City in the middle of the night. Switching between the sparse, fluorescent lit office where the dispatcher is growing increasingly frustrated and the dark interior of the cab, the tone goes from comedic to mysterious to dramatic to compassionate. Is the man in the car really the driver? Who is the fare from the 100 Metres bus station and why are they so important? Who is the woman in the back of the cab and is she just asleep? Working from quality source material shows, but the staging and cinematography fit perfectly to the story. You don't see much but you are left to imagine and wonder. Rodrigo Vazquez and Hector Holden as the younger dispatcher and the older driver play off each other well, even though they are never in the same shot. An assured and energetic piece of filmmaking from director Julian de Tavira. 4 out of 5.

Entrevista Con La Tierra (Interview With The Earth) is a cinema verite piece following young brothers Nico and Amelio who live in a small rural town. Opening with a shot of a tractor ploughing a field, and taking us through the thoughts of the two boys and other relatives, this documentary style study in the expression of grief and how children cope with death and abandonment is ambitious but doesn't quite pull it off. Poor subtitling doesn't help it either. It feels like the director, Nicolas Pereda, hasn't quite worked out what he wants to cover in the film, and by just letting the camera wander he ends up with less than we might have wanted as an audience. Still, the one-legged chicken had some good scenes. 2.5 out of 5.

Light Of Darkness takes a look at Mexico's bourgeouis middle classes and their different attitudes: by seeing two aspiring couples try to outdo each other at a dinner party. It's a broadly comedic, sometimes raucous affair as Gerardo, who works for Beautiful People magazine, and Elena try and persuade Elena's friend Ana Maria and her fiancee Rodrigo to feature their upcoming wedding in the magazine. Each person ends up confounding the others' perceptions of them and when the lights go out in a power cut, suddenly the situation and relationship between all of them is illuminated. A great cast and some great lines combine to show what happens when beautiful people get wasted. 4 out of 5.

Jacinta is a beautiful stop motion animation about an old lady who watches the world go by her window as she sits and knits. When she runs out of wool she finds her own way of coping with the spectre of endless old age and turns away from the repetitive and sad life of the other residents to knit herself her own conclusion. Technically superb, the film suffers from poor pacing. A lovely, poignant short nonetheless. 3 out of 5.

Roma follows a young female stowaway who ends up at a large soap factory just outside Mexico City and forms an ephemeral bond with an older fork-lift driver who sees her using the showers. It's a wonderfully poetic film; with only a handful of words spoken. The title, Roma, refers to the brand of soap but also recalls the itinerant life of the Roma people, and how this is reflected in the many runaways in Mexico. There are no conclusions or conflict in this film, merely a story as mesmerising as the bars of bright pink soap which make their way through the factory to be shipped by train to the far corners of Mexico. 4 out of 5.

Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2009
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A selection of emerging talent from the dynamic cinema of Mexico.
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Director: Various

Writer: Various

Starring: Various

Year: 2008

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Mexico

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