Mention the phrase “Mexico’s moment” and it elicits a chuckle in parts of the nation. Mexico’s economy is not taking off, as that phrase was meant to denote. But something else is hot in Mexico right now – its cinema.
Wildly popular comedies have broken box office records in Mexico and abroad even as riskier dramas capture award after award abroad.
A Mexican actor and comedian, Eugenio Derbez, has a remarkably successful crossover comedy, Instructions Not Included, that has tallied $43.5 million in box office receipts in the United States, making it one of the biggest foreign language movies of all time and the highest grossing Spanish-language film ever in the United States and Mexico. I wrote about it earlier here.
Another production is now racking up awards. It is titled The Golden Cage (La Jaula de Oro), and it is a road movie that tells the story of three Guatemalan youths traveling through Mexico atop La Bestia, the notorious freight train, bound for the United States. They endure raids, assault, robbery, rape, mutilation and kidnapping en route.
Director Diego Quemada-Diez is a self-taught Spaniard who has lived in Mexico for many years. He won the award as best new director last weekend at the Chicago International Film Festival, and the film has garnered 16 awards this year, including an award known as “A Certain Talent” at Cannes. That's the trailer above.
The film played Sunday at the Morelia International Film Festival, and local news outlets have raved. El Economista this morning says the movie is a new version of Huckleberry Finn, with the freight train as the raft that carries them down the Mississippi toward the United States.
“Juan (Brandon Lopez), the de facto leader of the gang, is an enraged boy, but his fury is one of the central elements of his determination. His goal is to get to Los Angeles and nothing – neither blisters, nor abusive police, nor migrant kidnappers, nor (Border Patrol), nor the border Minutemen – will stop him.”
In this interview, Quemada-Diez cited British director Ken Loach as his biggest influence, and he told AFP earlier that, “there is a rebirth of neo-realist cinema in Mexico with much riskier films that are in direct contact with reality, which is powerful.”
Mexico’s submission to the Oscars for Best Foreign Film is Heli, an unflinching crime drama. Mexico has had eight foreign language films nominated in the past but has yet to win.