Mexico Produces New Wave of Cinema Talents
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
There's a new wave of cinema coming out of Mexico. The international ascent of the Mexican directors behind "Children of Men," "Babel" and "Pan's Labyrinth" has been followed by an explosion of new talent.
Michael O'Boyle introduces us to some of the newcomers.
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MICHAEL O'BOYLE: Mexican youths swoon as actor Gael Garcia Bernal makes his way up the red carpet at the recent Morelia International Film Festival. It's the premiere of "Cochochi," a film Garcia Bernal helped finance with fellow actor Diego Luna.
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O'BOYLE: This is its opening theme music, a traditional folk song from the film's setting in the northern Sierra Tarahumara. "Cochochi" is a Mexican film, but it's not in Spanish. It's in Raramuri, the language of an isolated indigenous people, and its stars aren't professional actors. They're two Raramuri kids the directors, Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guzman, got to know by chance.
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O'BOYLE: The film was greeted ecstatically at the festival. Indigenous populations have been marginalized and oppressed for centuries here. Not surprisingly, there have been few films about them. TV and film are dominated by white-skinned actors. There have been plenty of documentaries about Mexico's Indians but as a narrative "Cochochi" reveals a more intimate view of the Raramuri than any documentary ever could. Pablo Cruz is the picture's producer.
Mr. PABLO CRUZ (Producer, "Cochochi"): "Cochochi" is a film that lets us see a reality of what really Mexico is, and this is a Mexico that we should be seeing because this is a racial problem we live every day. The Raramuri Indians are the people who originally were settled here, people that we share a country with that we supposedly share a flag with, but we are not the same people. We don't even know who they are.
O'BOYLE: "Cochochi" is emblematic of a new wave in Mexican filmmaking. A decade ago, Mexico's film industry was practically dead. The few films that were produced fell into two basic types: the gritty Mexico City drama or the romantic comedy. But recently, film production has been picking up, and directors are taking more chances, showing parts of Mexico, facets of its culture, that have never before been seen on film. And that's been making a big impact among the entertainment elite.
Mr. GARETH WIGAN (Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures): Times occur when suddenly in one place there's a sudden mushrooming and expansion of talent.
O'BOYLE: Gareth Wigan is vice chairman of Columbia TriStar Pictures.
Mr. WIGAN: You can think of examples of the impressionist painters in France 150 years ago. Or there are other examples in cultural history. And I think this is one of those moments in Mexico.
O'BOYLE: Every cultural rebirth has its masters. Carlos Reygadas is one of Mexico's.
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O'BOYLE: His new film "Silent Light" is one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year. Its set amid the German descended Mennonite communities of northern Mexico and tells the story of a farmer and family man who falls in love with another woman. Its visual style is a brilliant Mexican amalgam of the most innovative forms of filmmaking. Reygadas has been compared to masters like Andre Tarkovsky and David Lynch.
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O'BOYLE: Reygadas signs autographs inside a cavernous colonial-era library after giving a talk to budding filmmakers. He says he's philosophically opposed to Hollywood's formulas. He spends less on each feature than a big-time three-minute music video, and he uses actors without experience.
Mr. CARLOS REYGADAS (Director, "Silent Night"): What I do is I have an absolutely personal way of feeling and transmitting direct insights and personal vision direct into the film, and that is what I think people as other human beings really need, rather than something more like a commercial piece of material, you know, a product.
O'BOYLE: Today there is a growing interest in Mexico's indie scene following the international success of directors like Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo del Toro, and Alfonso Cuaron.
Mr. ALFONSO CUARON (Director): I'm really excited about this generation because something that they have is fearlessness, so they are approaching cinema in a very fresh standpoint.
O'BOYLE: After making it big himself, Cuaron is now helping produce the work of younger filmmakers. This is the first generation to grow up in the post-NAFTA era of globalization, which pried open Mexico's closed economy. That was followed by its transition to democracy.
Mr. CUARON: We were in this claustrophobic bubble. And now this generation, they have information about the rest of the world and they want to reclaim this world as their own. But theirs is a complete different attitude, not only inside Mexico but outside Mexico towards Mexican cinema now.
O'BOYLE: U.S. audiences will soon be getting a chance to see more of Mexico's new filmmakers. "Silent Light" and "Cochochi" are both set for limited release next year.
For NPR News, I'm Michael O'Boyle in Mexico City.
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