Over the weekend Mexico’s highest film honors, the 53rd Ariels’s, presented by the Academy of Mexico’s Arts and Cinematographic Sciences bestowed Luis Estrada’s graphic and popular narco-comedy EL INFIERNO with Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing among others. Exactly matching his last sweep in 2000 for the nine Ariel Awards given to Herod’s Law, Estrada is no stranger to pushing his polemic and popular. Once again this brilliant satirist has proved his unmistakable timing for capturing Mexico’s social quagmire. In this case, the real life violence that is right now engulfing the country. Also of note, the only win for Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, more beloved outside his country than within, was for Best Photography, winning only one of seven nominations. Damian Alcazar’s El Benny role in El Infierno beat out Javier Bardem’s heavy turn in Biutiful. And Best Supporting Actor went to prolific actor, Joaquín Cosío who has gifted the Mexican public with the indelible wild and human character of “Cochiloco”. Diego Luna shared the Best Screenplay win with his co-writer, Augusto Mendoza for the sophisticated and subtly poignant Abel. Taking Best Opera Prima was last year’s Cannes winner, Michael Rowe, for his transgressive sexual tale about isolation, Año Bisiesto. One major snub in the documentary section is for the complete omission of Presunto Culpable, the most imperative documentary film of this year which exposes the outrageous incompetence of Mexico’s justice system.
It’s likely that the box office and now critical success of the bastardly violent narco trafficking El Infierno will unleash more narco-tales and open up the floodgates of a brutal noveau Mexican cinema. Hours before its world premiere in Cannes, Gerardo Naranja’s fourth film , Miss Bala about a beauty pageant who is unable to escape the drug violence reality she is surrounded by, is the newest inclusion in the narco film trend emergence. While El Infierno did not travel nor was received as well outside (for reasons unknown it was shockingly not considered for Mexico’s submission for the Oscars Best Foreign Film), it stirred up wildly positive and negative acclaim and controversy within Mexico. It proved the exception to most Mexican films which are seen internationally but not necessarily by the Mexican public. Gerardo’s films have had success both within and outside Mexico (Voy a Explotar was released in Mexico and shown in U.S. Festivals, and he has participated in Cannes previously with Drama-Mex). Known for his intuitive beat on angsty youth, Naranjo is highly adept at portraying beautifully moving desperation and ferocity . Just announced, Fox has picked up Miss Bala for distribution in Mexico and will unspool in theaters in September.
I’m deeply interested in tracking and engaging in dialogue on how these break-through films about Mexico’s drug war are entwined with the real struggle. This Sunday an enormous demonstration is taking place in Mexico City’s Zocalo Plaza. The March for Peace has ignited people young and old to protest President Calderon’s seemingly impotence to counter-act the rising and continuing outrageous cartel violence. The massive mobilization has been in part organized by poet Javier Sicilia who like hundreds of civilians has suffered the misfortune of losing a family member to the severely indiscriminate violence.
The name of the Mexican film award Ariel is inspired by Shakespeare’s Tempest Fairy, The Ariel of the Ideals. Far from my beloved motherland, I send out my wishes in solidarity to the March for Peace and I would like to envision Ariel showering her magical spirit among the people as they call out for change and search for consolation in these times of suffering and despair.