¡Viva! Weekender – New Mexican Cinema

HOME in Manchester recently curated a series of Mexican films as part of their ¡Viva! Spanish film festival. In its 21st year, the festival focuses on the celebration of contemporary Spanish and Latin American films. For the past 20 years, ¡Viva! existed as an intense three-week long festival. This year, due to the move from its old building – Cornerhouse – HOME has broken up the programming into three weekenders. The first occurred in from 5th – 9th March, and introduced the UK audiences to a wide range of Spanish-language films from a huge variety of genres.

The second weekender of its three happened from 18th to 22nd June, and focused on ‘the very best in new Mexican cinema’. The weekender opened with a road movie directed by Jack Zagha Kababie. This film, En el último trago / One For the Road (2014), followed three old men as they go on a road trip to the José Aldredo Jiménez Museum in Dolores in order to fulfil a dying friend’s wish.

The weekender culminated with Alonso Ruizpalacios’s immensely beautiful and fascinating directorial debut Güeros (2014) – another road movie. The title of the film refers to a Mexican slang that references the fair complexion of a person. Shot in crisp black and white, the film pays unsubtle homage to the French New Wave. Shots reference directly to films by Truffaut and Goddard, and in one instance, the costume worn by the characters are a direct lift out of Jules et Jim (1962). Yet, despite the allusions, the film never loses its identity, and manages to address a multitude of issues including racism and poverty whilst maintaining a youthful and carefree tone throughout.

Interestingly, the weekender programme started off with a road movie with old people and got younger, age-wise, culminating with an explosion of (for want of a better word) life – not that there was no life in En el último trago (I enjoyed En el ultimo trago tremendously, and will be writing about it in more details soon).

Also worth mentioning, I think, are Andrés Clariond Rangel’s Hilda (2014) and Alejandra Sánchez’s Seguir viviendo / Go On Living (2014). Both are directorial debuts and both tackle difficult issues – race and class in the former and gender in the latter – with a lot of confidence and individuality.

The third and final instalment of this year’s ¡Viva! will happen this autumn, and will focus on Spanish films.

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I enjoyed the festival very much. Just one complain: every film started consistently 10 minutes later than the stated time in the programme. It would be quite nice for films to start on time.

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About maohui

MaoHui Deng is currently doing a Masters in Screen Studies at the University of Manchester. His research interests include the representation of age on screen; childhood and cinema; memory; and the films of Federico Fellini. He is about to begin his PhD studies at the University of Manchester, researching into the cinematic production, exhibition, and reception in industrialised ageing societies. He wants to become a lecturer, hopefully. You can follow him on Twitter at @dengmaohui. You can contact Mao at maohui.deng@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk
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