‘Everything will fall in its right place’ was a sentence that was often used in the Mexican cinematography during the second half of the previous century. And, lo and behold, at the beginning of the new millennium, everything has truly fallen in its right place: Mexican cinematography has yet again become one of the most respected in the world. Or, at worst, it is considered one of the richest and best hotbeds of film authors that, in the last decade and a half, took turns to reign supreme at the Oscar ceremonies in Hollywood, Palme d’Or ceremonies in Cannes and the Golden Lions ceremonies in Venice…
The history of Mexican cinematography had its beginnings in the enthusiastic production of documentary films at the end of the 19th century and the chroniclers distinguish three ‘golden eras’ afterwards. The first‘golden era’ occupies the period between the 1920s and 1950s, when the Mexican cinematography was among the most prolific in the world and achieved great quality in its productions, and also produced an array of authors and actors that were incredibly popular with the audiences, such as Maria Felix, Dolores del Rio and Pedro Infante.
The second ‘golden era’ happened at the very beginningof the new millennium with the so-called ‘Three Amigos’: Alejandro GonsalesIñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro. Last year, Guillermo del Toro won the Golden Lion in Venice for The shape of Water, while Alfonso Cuarón won the Palme d’Or in Cannes for his film Roma.
Alfonso Cuarón is the first Mexican director (and the first Latin American director in general) to have won an Oscar for directing. He did it in 2014 with the film Gravity. Alejandro G. Iñárritu, on the other hand, has not only filmed the masterpieces AmoresPerrosand Babel, but has also won two Oscars in two consecutive years. In 2015 he won the Oscar for best film for his Birdman, while in 2016 he won it forThe Revenant.
And yet, the more serious aficionados of Mexican cinematography cannot ignore the authors such as Carlos Reygadas, Sebastian Hofmann, Julio Chavezmontes, Gerardo Gatica, and Alberto Muffelmann, to which we can add the name of Garcia Gael Bernal as a director of Museum in 2018.
The third ‘golden era’ is in fact initiated by this new generation of authors, whose careers and thematic interests intertwine with those of the more famous ‘Three Amigos’. The authors of the six films to be shown during the ‘Week of Mexican Films’ continue the mission of Mexican cinematography in the 21st century.
If the melodrama was the trademark of the first ‘golden era’ and the fierce social drama, mostly happening in the criminal underground, was the trademark of the second ‘golden era’ of Mexican cinematography, we can say that the strong points of the new ‘amigos’ vary in genres and thematic inspirations. They do not shy away from comedy, or from ‘light’ stories with ordinary people as their main characters. These characters are then usually placed in an usual situation that gives rise to the atavisms of existentialism to a greater or lesser extent, such as to apartial mental handicap in La mitad del mundo/The Middle of the World, gerontophobia in El estudiante/The Student, questioning of personal attitudes in En el ombligo del cielo/In the Navel of Heavens, economic migration in En la Estancia/ The Land of Silence, and xenophobia in Guten tag Ramón.
On the other hand, the only documentary in this selection, Las Sufragistas is the crucial piece in the mosaic that wishes to present the social and political momentum of the Latin American women in the 20th and 21st centuries. The Suffragettes is not concerned with the more whining aspect of the topic of women’s rights, but with the dimension of responsibility when women are in positions of political power.
The ‘Three Amigos’ have not been alone for a long time in their worldwide quest of Mexican cinematography and this is an excellent opportunity to get to know some of their successors.