July 22--Mexican alternative pop culture is virtually unknown among non-Spanish speakers in the United States, and that's just one reason why British filmmaker Duncan Bridgeman's gorgeously shot, highly impressionistic and visually poetic documentary Hecho en Mexico(Made in Mexico) is so important.
Timidly released in theaters several months back and just released on DVD this month, it's a vivid snapshot of the heady cultural brew that has been boiling in our neighbor to the south. But be warned: Its non-linear, non-narrative approach is bound to confound some viewers, especially those unfamiliar with any of the people involved.
Divided into chapters dealing with everything from the violence caused by the drug cartels to emigration, the role of women and the importance of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Hecho en Mexico combines footage of various talking heads with musical performances from some of the most notable figures on the country's cultural cutting edge: Cafe Tacuba, Lila Downs, Kinky, Molotov, Natalia Lafourcade, Julieta Venegas, and Camilo Lara (aka Mexican Institute of Sound) among many others. But Bridgeman, a musician himself best known for the British music doc 1 Giant Leap, also includes the traditionalism of the classical Cuarteto Latinoamericano, pop star Gloria Trevi, and the regional rhythms of Banda Agua Caliente de Tijuana, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Las Maya Internacional, and the Delfines Marching Band. The point is that it's all part of the same distinctively creative atmosphere.
There is no narration, and some of the experts used (who are not identified until the end credits) come across as a bit academic with an idealistic view. However, none of that matters when Bridgeman switches the focus back to an arresting panorama of a Mexican cityscape or the music. It's then that the realization hits how little most non-Mexican-Americans in the U.S. know about what's going on right next door.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
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