Sunday, May 17, 2015

“Güeros” A Lyrical Love Letter to Mexico City

By José Alberto Hermosillo
Radiant and bold. “Güeros” is a gem sculpted by the new brilliant generation of filmmakers approaching from Mexico!
“Güeros” is a portrait of a confrontational generation we are not aware of, but allows us to discern their existence and purpose in time.

Alonso Ruizpalacios, AFI FEST 2014. Photo by Jose Hermosillo COPYRIGHTS Festival in LA
Director Alonso Ruizpalacios had something in mind: to transcend a larger-than-life film reflecting the soul, music, culture, and the effervescent youth of Mexico City in a form of a poetic love letter. 

“Güeros” has the style of “Y tú mamá también” and the fresh look of “Lake Tahoe.” 

This unapologetic coming-of-age, hyper-realistic, inner-city, road movie has been satisfying audiences in festivals around the world, winning: Best First Feature Film at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival, the New Auteurs Audience Award at AFI FEST 2014 in Los Angeles, the Havana Film Festival Grand Coral For Best First Work.

“Güeros” has been nominated for 12 Ariel Awards by the Mexican Academy, winning best picture. 


“Güeros” pays tribute to Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim,” Godard’s “Band of Outsiders,” and Hellman’s “Two-Lane Black Top.” 

The director’s true inspiration was “Los Caifanes/The Outsiders” by Juan Ibañez (1966), one of the best independent films in Mexico's history. 

Set in 1999, a fair-skinned teenager named Tomás is sent by his tiresome widow mother from Veracruz to live with his dark-skinned big brother Sombra, played by Tenoch Huerta (“Deficit,” “Days of Grace”), to Mexico City. 

Sombra has depression and panic attacks, ironically, the doctor (director’s own cameo) recommends a vacation in Veracruz.
Sombra’s roommate Santos (Leonardo Ortizgris) is also light-skinned and hates to be called "güero."

One of the Mexico's eternal conflicts is the battle between "güeros" and “morenos” (light-skinned v. dark-skinned), also discussed in Carlos Reygadas “Post Tenebras Lux” and hundreds of other Mexican films, the difference is that in “Güeros” is more subtle.”


Sombra and Santos are students at the U.N.A.M. (National Autonomous University of Mexico). The college is closed due to the student’s strike. 

As “outsiders,” they are questioning the true ideology of the movement that is conflicting with their own ideals, goals, economy, and the country’s future. 

As they witness the anarchy on Campus, a sentiment of Nostalgia for their 'Alma Mater' is felt.

The only remembrance little Tomás has of his father is an audiotape of a folk-rock singer Epigmenio Cruz that he listens obsessively on his walkman. 

The urban legend says: "Once Epigmenio Cruz made Bob Dylan cry." 

A series of unfortunate events push them in a quest for the dying, forgotten, and mythical singer.

They travel from their old apartment building to the south of the city where they face the dangers and paranoia of hostile environment - nothing that a humongous bottle of "Cerveza Caguama" can't cure.


At the chaotic University, they meet Ana (Ilse Salas). She is the leader of the student movement and also a radio personality at the rebel underground radio station - The same station the guys were listening in their car earlier. 

She needs a break from the conflict and therefore joins them in their quest for Epigmenio.

The quartet don't give up and continue their trip from the South of the City to the Chapultepetec Zoo to get more clues. Then, to the Zocalo (Mexico's City Downtown), where they will have their "La Dolce Vita" moment at a fancy pool party, where they get in trouble again. 

They go from the Centro to their final destination, a Cantina located in the East-neighbor city of Texcoco

A TV-set, Juan Gabriel sings "Hasta que te conoci/Intill I Met You," which plays along well with the scene's climax.

The performance of the charismatic actress Ilse Salas as Ana is powerful. Her fresh looks and big eyes remind us of the Italian actress Giulietta Masina (Fellini's lifetime partner) - ("Juliet of the Spirits," "The Nights of Cabiria," "La Strada").

Ana fights against the misogynist 'macho' men yelling they want to see her breast, not the leadership from a woman.


Young Tomás is played by talented new actor Sebastian Aguirre. He has the strength and the good heart to allow the audience to see the world from his own perspective.
On the other hand, the character of Sombra takes too long to come to terms with the reality of the plot. One can understand his depression and traumas, but one or two great speeches of his are not enough to reach out his full potential.

By trimming down a few unnecessary shots this film could render with a faster pace to its already 'artsy look.'

"Güeros" is a rare Mexican film with global reach, universal emotions, and likable characters. The nostalgic film's music, poetry, and lyrics hide a deeper meaning to the story. 
Film critic Jose Hermosillo, director Alonso Ruizpalacios at AFI FEST 2014. 
COPYRIGHT Festival in LA

The well articulate script connects brotherhood, friendship, the entire and enigmatic Ciudad de Mexico with the “Youth in Revolt.”


“Güeros” is not a political statement, it does not support the left or the right wing.

What’s important about “Güeros” is the existentialism present in the lives of its four great characters that are focused on surviving in a cosmopolitan city full of contrast.


“Güeros” is part of a new and diverse Mexican Cinema in search of the global audience.  

Many more movies have been producing south of the border reaching out to the world. 

In the past twelve years, Mexico's film production went from 12 to 120 movies a year, a 100% increase. 


Due to the awards in festivals around the World and the Oscars that Mexican directors have won in recent years, some publications wrote:

“Hollywood loves Mexican directors, but hates Mexican movies.” 

That’s one of the main reasons why not many Mexican films get distributed in the USA. 

In a more optimistic arena, things may change in a 'Fair Play,' a trade in a market where diversity should be the ultimate goal.


Photos courtesy of AFI Fest 2014 and Kino Lorbert Inc.

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