I laughed, I cried, I wanted to throw things at the screen. This is the sign of a good movie – the one I saw yesterday is called Hecho en México. The film documents many aspects of Mexico: the Guadalupe, religion, male-female relationships, la frontera. Unfortunately, it does so without a clear argument. Like any project that has ever tried to describe Mexico (I’m looking at you, Octavio Paz), it is necessarily limited by its director’s vision and constrained by its specific moment in time. The film juxtaposes images of various experiences in different parts of the country, but rather than making me appreciate Mexico’s diversity, this annoyed me because it didn’t delve into any one of them.
A few salient observations: a famous Mexican actor, Diego Luna, says that men and women cannot and will not ever be able to understand each other. Various men say that because women do all the work, women hold all the power. I think this is necessarily false. In my experience, the hardest working are often not those at the top. A woman who is cutting corn from the cob and then pounding at it will make the most delicious tortillas but she is probably not at the top of any social system (Sidebar: one of the biggest ways Mexico has disappointed me is with its masa-based tortillas. Ones from corn are just better). When the film followed these statements by presenting a young boy who could barely speak in complete sentences lauding women for their ability to cook, it proved this point. The film of course did not even venture into the darker side of machismo. Or even its side bonuses – men giving me seats on the metro, letting me go ahead of them into an elevator or door, and, my favourite, the looks of shame people acquire when I get up and give my seat to older women.
If Mexico is like still this, then what is to be done?
(Law and order mural by José Clemente Orozco at the Antiguo Colegio de San Idelfonso).
The film seemed to have two suggestions for social change in Mexico, neither of which relates to current activism (#yosoy132, No más sangre, etc). It proposed raising individual consciousness and reconnecting with indigenous roots. Now, Mexico and other countries have been fascinated with their indigenous roots for centuries – and as far as I can tell this fascination has not eliminated vast divides between different groups of people within the country. If exoticizing the other were a path to change, it would have worked already. The film also briefly alludes to the Zapatistas – but the film seemed to be going for something different – without explaining that. As for raising individual consciousness, a cursory examination at the other parts of North America demonstrates that individualism is not the way to a just or egalitarian society.
The film was a good start, left me with a lot to think about, and someone should take up where it left off.