If you want to find out more about Mexican culture than sombreros and hot sauce, London’s Mexfest is an amazing weekend full of spectacular cinema at the Rich Mix, just off Shoreditch High Street. Part of the Shoreditch Fringe Festival, you can get a taste of Mexico through a variety of films, food and music. I checked out a few films myself and I can safely say that they have been drastically different from any other film I’ve seen in Europe.
Nacido Sin (Born Without) by Eva Norvind is a documentary about Jose Flores, a handicapped Mexican entertainer who was born without arms. At first I thought this was a strange topic to make a film about, but the documentary sheds light on the philosophy of life Mexicans have adopted. I was surprised to hear about the extensive romantic life Jose was able to live and was overwhelmed by the amount of love surrounding his disadvantaged upbringing.
Jose manages to obtain a nurturing romantic love and raises a large family in Mexico despite his physical disability. He is completely content playing his harmonica on the street and truly believes he has had a long and happy life. This film shows how we as humans can overcome any obstacle that comes our way through positive thinking and support from loved ones. It is an excellent depiction of Mexican culture, their values and their struggles.
As we all know by now, what makes a successful documentary is the subject matter. Jose Flores is incredibly entertaining and we actually see some shots of him in feature films playing very powerful roles. As we watch Jose tell us the story of his life, you might get a craving for some Mexican food after the film. Lucky we’ve got Wahaca taking care of that for the festival. Get your grub on!
Another powerful film is Somos Io Que Hay (We Are What We Are) by Jorge Michel Grau. It’s a delicious horror flick about a family of cannibals that will have you sitting at the edge of your seat. There isn’t as much gore splattered throughout the movie, but the suspense is what really sucks you in. When the father passes away, the children have to take over the cannibal ritual and are forced to find their own victims to eat. They each take a stab at luring prostitutes, little children, cops and taxi drivers to lie on their dining table.
Beyond the killing journey and the anticipation for an epic butchery, the film really focuses on family values in Mexican culture. The survivors need to decide on a ‘leader’ and give us some insight on what a proper leader should be and what he would be responsible for. The quote ‘you are alive’ is scribbled on a piece of paper and acts as an ironic theme for a family that kills for survival. I wish I got to learn more about why they were brought into this lifestyle, but what you really get out of the film is some core family values that are taken to the next level.
As we continue to strengthen the bridge between Mexico and the United Kingdom, the border-crossing films involved in this year’s London Mexfest really bring out some thought-provoking insight on differences in culture, including documentaries exposing silenced voices, animation and science fiction. Of course there are margaritas and nachos, too.