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Empathic urban road-trip: „Güeros” by Alonso Ruizpalacios at Berlinale portrays young people in Mexico lovingly

1999 in Mexico City: Fede”, his roommate Santos and Fede´s younger brother Tomás hanging out in a spartan housing block apartment somewhere in the big city. They have nothing to do, because the university is currently on strike, the power is turned off and the fridge almost empty. And Fede, also called Sombra” (shade), is afraid of going to be crazy – because of the Tiger, who is haunting in his head.

What fairly desolate starts, becomes in
Güeros” by Alonso Ruizpalacios an empathic urban road-trip, which deals with the young characters lovingly. Tomás was sent by his mother to his elder brother in the capital, because she couldn´t stand him anymore. In his luggage he has not much more than the only legacy of the father: a tape with music by Epigmenio Cruz. He should be a forgotten Mexican rock legend, who even have Bob Dylan made cry once. When the three broken youngster read in the newspaper that Epigmenio is seriously ill, they hit the road in search for their hero to pay their last respects to him.

In five chapters, they roam more or less disoriented around the Megalopolis of Mexico City. Consistently shot in black and white in the old-fashioned 4:3 format, the film sometimes looks like that one is on a psychedelic Mexican peyote trip. Once in her rusty car, the three melancholy outsiders take a wrong turn, which puts them in mortal danger. They steal carrots in a neighborhood garden and on the grounds of the UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) they get into fierce political debates about how to continue with the strike. Being young and not be a revolutionary is a contradiction”, says one poster. The scenes of the student protests bring back memories of own strike experiences at the university – and how it once was, to drift around and live in the moment.

Even the act of film making is occasionally ironized in
Güeros”. Cameras and crew members are getting visible, the actors discuss their dialogue and make jokes about themselves. At a snobby movie party with Fede´s great love, the student leader Anna, they swear around and jump with clothes in the swimming pool. In the end, they are losing each other at a large student demonstration.

Director Alonso Ruizpalacios succeeds in
Güeros” to show his young and fragil protagonists in a peculiar beauty. It is a humorous coming-of-age story, which brings aesthetically the Nouvelle Vague in mind. Afterwards Ruizpalacios tells, that he was not sure, whether the film with all its local allusions would work outside of Mexico. But it certainly does, and the audience in Berlin thanks with warm applause. Quite aware, says Ruizpalacios, he didn´t want to shoot any of these films made for foreign festivals, which show only the misery of his homeland and which he calls Mexploitation” films. That he himself now stands on a festival stage, about this Ruizpalacios must laugh, too.

Güeros” is another example of the special language used by the younger Mexican cinema that mixes local influences to global, and since Amores Perros” is internationally respected. Following the world premiere in Berlinale´s Panorama section, Güeros enters the festival circuit until it should start at the end of the year in Mexico. Hopefully, the film finds also an international distributor and comes into the independent cinemas worldwide.




About Ole Schulz

Schulz Ole

German freelance journalist, based in Berlin, who works for print, online media and the radio, travels around the world and covers Berlin and international Film Festivals as well. See for example: Cuban Shorts Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, and Amazonas Film Festival in Manaus, Brasil,





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