Two Recent Mexican Documentaries by Women: Tempestad (2016) and Faust (2018)

On my regular Women Filmmakers’ Wednesday slot, I don’t have any specific women in Mexican cinema to focus on, as there haven’t been a huge number over the years (far more as actors than in the major roles behind the camera), but there have been an increasing number of documentaries of interest. Both the ones I focus on below sit somewhere between narrative and documentary, blending observational techniques with a more poetic sensibility.

Tempestad (2016)

You could make a big crusading fiction feature film about this subject (human trafficking, in broad terms), or a pretty riveting straightforward narrative documentary, but this takes a different route. It is a sort of poetic documentary made up of images of Mexico, travelling across Mexico, conjoined with voiceover testimony from two women, each of whom in their different way has come face to face with the reality of the brutal corruption of the state and its police forces. Because of the way it’s put together, it’s difficult to describe, because it’s image-heavy, almost lulling in the way it moves dreamily across the landscape, then picking out the circus tents of the other woman’s story, the glittering faces of the performers in stark contrast to the story of loss she recounts.

Film posterCREDITS
Director/Writer Tatiana Huezo; Cinematographer Ernesto Pardo; Length 105 minutes.
Seen at ICA, London, Saturday 20 January 2018.

Lowering sky

Fausto (Faust, 2018)

I really liked the atmosphere of this film, the way the images had been manipulated via transfer to 16mm and back again, the experimental form of the narrative, as these images of a coastal Oaxaca combined with the various stories told by these men in their own languages (Spanish, Arabic, English, French), all of them fables or legends. It’s all edited together and placed with a score and soundscape that pushes this place into some fantastic realm, like a Homeric poem or indeed the titular tale, though I’d be hard-pressed to say what actually happened or was even being described, but the way Ziad’s face looms out of the pitch darkness to occasionally grasp some of the scant light, or the American guy whose thick grey beard contrasts with the slender phone he holds while in his hammock, these images stick in my mind like the strange almost occult game they play at the bar using chalk and coins. I was awake for the whole thing, but yet it feels in retrospect like I was dreaming — which somehow feels like something that describes a number of films from Latin America I’ve seen in the past few years.

Film posterCREDITS
Director/Writer/Cinematographer Andrea Bussmann; Length 70 minutes.
Seen at ICA, London, Wednesday 27 March 2019.


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