Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Using the diversity now available in Mexican music as a framework, everything from traditional Mariachi to up-and-coming rap, the documentary approaches contemporary Mexican culture and modern and lasting issues.
The whole of the movie is basically various issues faced by Mexicans today: work, family, religion, health, etc, set in vignettes that basically shake the collective finger at the viewer, interspliced with various forms of modern Mexican music. Rap, contemporary rock, Mariachi, folk, many different forms of traditional and the like, all provide a framework to a whole bunch of apparent disapproval with which the filmmaker casts at the audiences’ modern way of life. The migrant workers who espouse that they just want to cross the border to find work in the better land, for example. Or the battle between the sexes, always an issue for the Latino community, and how the battle is unbalanced due to the sacred elevation of any woman once she becomes a mother. The issue of religion or more to the point the lack of it is addressed, though in a contradictory act, the sacred worship of the pregnant Virgin of Guadalupe is also given its’ own entire segment. Another whole segment is given to the abuse of the body by drugs, which I will grant you is worth some finger shaking, but the film goes so far as to admonish for even the use of caffeine, and that’s just unrealistic. Like pretty much the rest of the entire audience, I did not go to this movie to be chided the entire time. I went for the music, so, on to that.
I did not know there was so much diversity in Mexican music at this point. I’ve heard Latino rap before, and one can’t live in Southern California without learning a small smattering of Spanish by osmosis. The music provides a rich counterpoint to the rebukes of the film, but there is a bit of a problem. Like a good deal of any modern rap from any nation, it sounds good until you actually listen (or in this case read) to what they’re actually saying. The film dutifully provides subtitles for all the music, and a great deal of it is either lamenting their tortured history or complaining about the current situation, and yes a lot of it has to do with the United States. The audience obviously had some favorite singers they were there to support, given the cheering when certain singers were given their segments, but that was all they were there for as far as I could tell. Entirely not what I was expecting at all, the film nevertheless provides thought-provoking slices of Mexican life, all set to a gloriously diverse soundtrack.