Rise up and reflect

Pub date February 8, 2011
SectionFilm Review


FILM A 10-part anthology film marking the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, Revolución derives most of its resonance from bits of Mexico’s landscape and cultural identity rather than head-on treatments of the revolution and its ideals.

However, this should only be read as a shortcoming if one approaches the film anticipating overt political or nationalist engagement. Instead, as might be expected from independent-minded, festival-focused directors such as Fernando Eimbcke (2008’s Lake Tahoe) and Carlos Reygadas (2007’s Silent Light), these 10 short films by Mexico’s most recognized directors and actors (Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna coproduced the entire project and directed segments) shape up in unexpected ways.

Taken as a whole, Revolución presents an ordinary, dignified, beautiful Mexico (in contrast to its increasingly violent image, courtesy of sensationalized news reports). Apropos to the diversity of the nation is the diversity of cinematic styles employed.

Patricia Riggen’s Beautiful and Beloved is a heartfelt and comedic story of familial duty leading to a small revelation. When a second-generation immigrant has to sneak the corpse of her father across the border to fulfill his wishes of being buried in Mexico, she is initially resentful. But something in her changes amid the massive funeral procession when she engages with her dad’s garrulous old pal. Beautiful offers one of the more conventional narratives in the film; it also includes the most direct references to the revolution and outlines an easily discernible conflict. Rodrigo García’s 7th and Alvarado, on the other hand, is a dreamlike juxtaposition of ordinary pedestrians and traditional horseback soldiers on the streets of a Hispanic area of Los Angeles.

Similarly, the three segments that portray celebrations in order to consider how the revolution is remembered today are all poignant yet quite distinctive from each other. Eimbcke’s graceful The Welcome Ceremony opens the film on a quiet, observant note by depicting a taciturn tuba player preparing for a concert that never happens. Reygadas’ This is My Kingdom is a vérité-style depiction of raucous outdoor activities that contrasts middle-class enjoyment with the rituals of the homeless who share the space. Rodrigo Pla’s vision, 30/30, may be Revolución‘s most cynical — it explores the dissonance experienced by Mexican Revolutionary general Pancho Villa’s grandson when he is both superficially honored and callously ignored at a centennial event.


Thurs/10–Fri/11, 7:30 p.m., $6–$8

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2787