"Hecho en México": The best movie we didn't see in 2012

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After watching the exultant Hecho en México (Made in Mexico), it could dawn on you (or confirm your suspicions) that the biggest reason for Mexico’s current prolonged fiery passage through unprecedented dire straits is that its destiny is being decided by a benighted coalition of politicians and narcolords, technocrats, academics, and brigands — all locked in a violent, parasitic and extortionary French-kiss embrace — that always seems to end in decapitations.

You might think: If only they let loose the musicians and artists, thinkers and performers to (once again) reinvent the nation, Mexican society, indígena and mestiza, would truly be at the beginning of a new, vibrant age. Mayan prophecy, notwithstanding.

It would truly be the rise of the República Cósmica.

That’s what I was thinking after experiencing this sui generis immersive cinematic epic, which, of course, won’t be seen in San Antonio anytime soon, even though it opened in at least Los Angeles on November 30.

The film powerfully manifests that the hope of Mexico lies in the visions and melodies of its new generation of musical visionaries. And this film manifests. It never argues, it doesn’t even identify its miasmic serape-weave of singers and thinkers, spanning locations across Mexico — metropolis, bosque, playa, courtyard, and train tracks. Instead, it bastes you in its currents of sound and vision, letting the music unfold an unforgettable codex of este momento in the ancient land.

Hecho en México explodes into its incomparable waking dream on a desert hilltop with a propulsive rhapsodic manifesto to hybridity, from Café Tacuba’s dread-locked Rubén Albarrán, accompanied by a combo of huicholes, announcing the arrival of the “cyclotronic mestizo,” a shimmering digital city appearing behind him, setting the onda alucinante that is the métier of the film.

Advisory: Come to be transported.

The work of British-born director Duncan Bridgeman (One Giant Leap), Hecho en México is a shining showcase for some of the most impressive voices of contemporary Mexican alternative/experimental and pop music: Kinky, Molotov, Carla Morrison, Camilo Lara of Mexican Institute of Sound, Alejandro Fernández, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, and many others. But it is also a probing exploration of the state of the Mexican soul, featuring insights from such luminaries as Elena Poniatowska and Laura Esquivel. La gran Chavela Vargas makes a luminous, wise and, sadly, now posthumous appearance, capped by a tossed-off performance of her greatness de alma (reason enough to catch the film).

Altogether, this host evokes a Mexico not as a failed state, but as a spiritual nation on the verge of a new birth, another generation of the progeny of the Virgin of Guadalupe (yes, she’s pregnant) bringing a new vision of Mexico’s future.

I’m still wondering how a Brit got the right-now Mexican gestalt so spot-on, though one of the executive producers is Emilio Azcárraga Jr., scion of Mexico’s original media czar. Bridgeman is an artist of the emerging digital ecstatic, using his film to realize collaborations between indigenous and post-punk artists, traditional Mexican soneros, banda, and grupero singers with rappers and electronic musicians. He overlays tracks one with the other, seamlessly bringing together the ancient, modern and futuristic, from Adanowsky’s oneiric solo performed in the Mexico City subway, to the impromptu apocalyptic raps of Rojo Cordova and a huichol toddler, and a dreamlike ambling forest duet by Natalia Lafourcade and tacubo Meme del Real.

There are no agendas or invectives, and when the zapatistas appear, they seem almost nostalgic. The vision of these artists now represent Mexico forward. If you want to know the Mexico of today, don’t miss this film. — John Phillip Santos

Hecho en México

****

Dir. Duncan Bridgeman; feat. Diego Luna, Kinky, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Lupe Esparza, Chavela Vargas, Julieta Venegas, Natalia Lafourcade, Amanditititita, Carla Morrison, Gloria Trevi, Café Tacuba, Molotov, Lila Down, and more (R)

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