Tempestad

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Tempestad
"The use of abstract visuals, however, not only forces us to focus more intently on what is being said in the section about Miriam but also encourages us to become attuned to the 'everyday' life we are seeing."

Mexico's entry for the Foreign Language Oscar this year is an impressionistic documentary that relates the story of endemic corruption in the country through the very different but equally heartbreaking stories of two women who fell victim to it. These are not tales of people simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time but of a system that is geared up to extort from its populace, who become mired in a system so crooked, it's impossible to find a way out.

Miriam Carbajal narrates her story, for the most part, against images of the 1200-mile journey she made after her release from jail - the visuals employed by director Tatiana Huezo slowly gathering a poetic, emotional weight. She relates how her life as an airport worker came to an abrupt end when she and her colleagues were all accused of people trafficking out of the blue. She is just one of what have become known as the "pagadores" - those who are made to pay for crimes they didn't commit in order that the government can give an impression of being tough on lawbreaking. Being jailed, however, is just the tip of the corruption iceberg, which will go on to include incarceration in a Cartel-run prison where money is squeezed from families on the outside desperate to protect their relatives from torture or worse within the walls.

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Arriving as a counterpoint to Miriam's story part of the way through is the tale of the much older Adela Alvarado, who works as a clown with her family circus. While Miriam is never - or perhaps only once - glimpsed in her story, Adela takes a much more central role as we see her teaching the younger members of her clan the tricks of their trade. The closeness of her bond with them makes the tale she tells of her missing daughter, Monica, all the more poignant. Monica, was kidnapped at the age of 20 and the family have faced a struggle against corrupt police as they continue the fight for answers over her disappearance. As Adela puts it: "When you have a child, that child is unique and one child cannot replace another."

There is some patience required with the pace of this documentary, particularly as the stories unspool in unusual, and sometimes non-linear, ways. The use of abstract visuals, however, not only forces us to focus more intently on what is being said in the section about Miriam but also encourages us to become attuned to the 'everyday' life we are seeing, life which, it seems, has an almost constant presence of men bearing arms. Huezo tells us not only the details of two lives broken by corruption but, by extension, also considers the thousands more victims who share similar fates.

Reviewed on: 16 Jan 2018
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Tempestad packshot
A road trip reveals the stories of two women facing up to the methods used by powerful cartels to control individuals, while state authorities turn a blind eye.

Director: Tatiana Huezo

Year: 2016

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: Mexico


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