They are three of the best films of 2006, surely to make almost anyone’s top ten list. And they were directed by three of the most relevant filmmakers working today. They are friends and colleagues who together have revitalized Mexican cinema with daring and innovating projects. I’ve seen all three, and would highly recommend all of them.
BABEL- Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu directed the Golden Globe Winner for best drama. Set in Morocco, Japan, Mexico and the United States, it weaves seemingly unrelated stories together to tell a story about miscommunication and misunderstandings. A complex film that requires the audience to pay attention, BABEL speaks to the need for greater cultural understanding at home and abroad. The cinematography of the film is dazzling, from the deserts of Morocco the the discos of Tokyo. The biblical legend of Babel says that God was angry when the people tried to build a tower to reach heaven. In his anger, God made them where they could not understand each other. BABEL the film is a far more interesting story about what can go wrong when intentions and actions are not understood.
CHILDREN OF MEN- Wow! Could be a word that described my reaction after seeing this film. It is disturbing and thrilling, wonderful and nightmarish. Alfonso Cuaron directs what can only be called a cinematic masterpiece. Set in a near future racked by warfare, disease and famine, the island of Britain “stands alone” as the last refuge of civilization in a dying world. And to add the finale to the future of humanity, women cannot bear children anymore. The last child born is 18 years old. Then, a woman becomes pregnant. But the woman is an outcast-a “fugee.” An anti-hero rises to the challenge of helping her. That is probably the only part of the film that fits a formula. A dense and awe-inspiring film, it is definitely on the “must see” list. The underlying themes of racism and fascism in the face of national crisis demand that the viewer think about some current trends. The film is based on the novel by P.D. James. Unfortunately, I have not read it yet. I will be soon!
PAN’S LABYRINTH (EL LABERINTO DEL FAUNO) completes this wonderful trilogy of imaginative and creative films. One of the first things that struck me when I saw the film was the fact that it was playing to an almost full house on a Sunday afternoon. For those that don’t know, it is in Spanish with English subtitles. It was refreshing to see that many people willing to read along for the sake of a very good film. Guillermo Del Toro tale garnered a Golden Globe nomination for best foreign language film, and is sure to get more as the awards season goes on. It is a grand mix of fantasy and grim reality and the girl who lives in them both. Set during the Spanish Civil War, the characters are part of a desperate struggle for the future of Spain. Fascists control most of the country. A group of fascist soldiers is sent into the countryside to quell the last of the resistance. A young girl is caught in the middle, forced to go because her mother has married the Captain. She delves into the fantasies of her books and her mind to escape the reality of her situation. The settings are striking, the acting is good, and the story is compelling. The evils of ideology are portrayed under a stark light.
What is really interesting is how all three of these films have a very contemporary context. Cultural misunderstandings put us on the possible brink of wider war. Fears of attacks and the unknown drive some to suggest we need to give up our liberties. Fear of other cultures make some of us anti-immigrant. And we can see part of the ugly face of fascism in the actions of some of our leadership. Yet all three films also give us hope. If we can learn to open our minds and free our spirits. If you haven’t seen all three movies yet, by all means do!