Half a century ago, Mexican cinema was in its golden age. But by the time celebrated director Luis Buñuel made his last film, in 1977, cult horror and action films dominated the slumped market. Recently, though, Mexican movies have bounced back big-time, led by a handful of daring directors and Mexican cinema's poster boy, actor Gael García Bernal.
Bernal is featured in two of the nine films chosen for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Contemporary Mexican Film Week, a cherry-picked roster of Mexico's most important recent releases.
Perhaps most impacting was Alejandro González Iñárritu's 2000 film Amores Perros(7 p.m. Friday, June 3), which marked the 50-year anniversary of Los Olvidados, Buñuel's gritty, raw depiction of Mexico City juvenile delinquents. Set alternately in the filthy slums and filthy-rich condos of Mexico City, Amores Perros shifts, Tarantino-style, through a trilogy of stories in which the characters are fatefully linked. Bernal stars as a man caught in the seedy underground world of illegal dogfighting (no dogs were harmed during the film, although they were squeezed dry in terms of metaphorical value). The film took a top prize at Cannes, and Iñárritu went on to direct the acclaimed 21 Grams.
Also featuring Bernal is the international hit Y Tu Mamá También(3 p.m. Friday, June 3), a voyeuristic portrait of two best friends and their love for the same woman. Controversial for its open sexuality and sharp political commentary, the film established Alfonso Cuarón as one of the most talked-about directors of his generation and won him the coveted third Harry Potter gig.
Adventurous moviegoers will want to check out some of the lower-radar films in the series, like Gabriel Orozco(1 p.m. Friday, June 3, and 3 p.m. Saturday, June 4). Director Juan Carlos Martín filmed the eponymous Mexican conceptual artist -- who once said, "If art isn't political, it's boring" -- as he created his latest politicized (read: not boring) installation in Frankfurt, Germany.