All this month, Arsenal showcases the new wave of Mexican filmmakers intent on rewriting the cinematic rulebook.
For many of us, the term ‘New Mexican Cinema’ remains synonymous with the gritty, hyperactive genre films of the early 2000s that propelled the likes of Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro G. Iñárritu to the Hollywood major leagues. This month, Arsenal Kino demonstrates how out-of-date this notion is with the eye-opening programme Porous Boundaries: New Paths through Mexican Cinema.
Berlinale Forum programmer James Lattimer has cherry-picked 15 recent discoveries from the international festival circuit, most of which are screening in Germany for the first time. What the selected films have in common is a restless desire to transcend boundaries, whether thematic, structural or geographical. Natalia Almada’s Everything Else (Todo lo demás) is a poignant, at times painfully droll study of a lonely middle-aged bureaucrat, played by Adriana Narraza, best known for her Oscar-nominated turn in Iñárritu’s Babel. Over 98 meticulously crafted minutes, we’re offered razor-sharp insight into one woman’s gently soul-crushing existence.
Also well worth checking out are a pair of playfully enigmatic films by prolific young Mexican-Canadian auteur Nicolás Pereda which, when viewed together, offer a compelling commentary on class relations in modern Mexico. The Palace depicts working-class women competing for domestic work in an affluent household. It slowly emerges that only those willing to compromise or redefine their own identities stand a chance of winning the favour of their potential employer.
Meanwhile Minotaur, inspired in part by Alan Resnais’ mind-bending Last Year at Marienbad, is a gently absurdist account of a bourgeois bohemian household whose members seem to exist in a perpetual soporific trance, from which they’re roused only when forced to interact with cleaners and drug dealers.
Further highlights include Navajazo, Ricardo Silva’s thrillingly salacious exploration of Tijuana’s dark underbelly, which won the Golden Leopard at Locarno in 2014; and The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park, an intimate doc about homeless First Nations people in Vancouver attempting to honour the memory of their ancestors whilst grappling with drinking and drug problems.
Porous Boundaries: New Paths through Mexican Cinema, Jun 2-30 | Arsenal, Mitte