Evaristo and Luis Antonio - indigenous brothers from the SierraTarahumara in northwest Mexico - have just graduated from boarding elementary school. Evaristo desires to continue his ... See full summary »
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Cast

Credited cast:
Antonio Lerma Batista ...
Tony (as Luis Antonio Lerma Torres)
Evaristo Lerma Batista ...
Evaristo (as Evaristo Corpus Lerma Torres)
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Evaristo and Luis Antonio - indigenous brothers from the SierraTarahumara in northwest Mexico - have just graduated from boarding elementary school. Evaristo desires to continue his education, leading a bicultural life, where the Tarahumara, or Raramuri as they call themselves, have the opportunity to keep learning to speak, read and write in Spanish, the Mexican official language. Meanwhile Luis Antonio "Tony" is very happy to be done with school. Even though he is a smart kid and has won a grant to move on to high school, he prefers to live life in the ranch, where the kids grow up at a very young age. One morning the brothers are sent to deliver some medicine to a far away community. Tony asks their grandfather for permission to take his horse but the answer is no. Nevertheless, he decides to take it, even if Evaristo is not convinced. They take a wrong path that leads them to a narrow and deep canyon. The horse cannot go on so the boys tie it around a tree. When they come back for... Written by Venice Film Festival

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24 April 2009 (Mexico)  »

Also Known As:

Kočoči  »

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A depressing portrait of indigenous rural backwardness
6 September 2008 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

The romanticization of indigenous people to the point of being unable to grasp the full implications of their backwardness is an unfortunately familiar phenomenon in present-day "industrialized" society. In the minds of many middle class liberals, a romanticized and correspondingly "non-judgmental" attitude toward such cultures is the only permissible one. The problem with this attitude, of course, is that it contributes little to changing the conditions of the oppressed. The surprising thing here is that this attitude is expressed by reviewers rather than by the filmmakers!

If you don't already know that oppressed indigenous people can be sullen, uncommunicative and mean-spirited, then, perhaps, there is some point to seeing this film. I write "perhaps" because the three IMDb reviews that have appeared thus far indicate that seeing this film was not sufficient for deepening one's understanding. "I didn't feel I gained any huge understanding of what made the culture distinct from other rural Mexican ones (or even rural ones in general)" wrote one of the reviewers.

Two of the three reviewers complained of the "poor performances" turned in by the "amateurish" cast members. According to them, the unscripted actors spoke "in delayed fits and starts" and "took a lot of time deciding what to say, giving their on-screen relationships a very disconnected feel." The clear implication is that filmmakers Cárdenas and Guzmán were simply too inexperienced to produce the rapidly flowing dialogue that these reviewers expected. Was it so difficult to imagine that the subjects of "Cochochi" actually behave this way? Reviewer "death-hilarious" hoped for a "charming example of back to basics story telling." Perhaps he would have preferred clever and amusing natives along the lines of the South African comedy "The Gods Must Be Crazy."

My impression is that Cárdenas and Guzmán knew this culture very well, intended to portray it as realistically as possible — warts and all — and succeeded brilliantly. But, did they have a deeper purpose beyond anthropological reportage? Reviewer "death-hilarious" claimed to know (and appreciated) what the directors "tried to do with this film for the Tarahumara." What was that, exactly? The program that often underlies cinematic efforts of this type is that of informing the audience of the subjects' oppression in order to stir them to call for reforms to relieve that oppression. Did it serve this purpose to show several of the characters as either delinquent (including an incredibly irresponsible grandfather) or nasty and brutish? Did this not risk supplying ammunition to the reactionary viewer who is convinced that the impoverished condition of native people is "their own fault"?

In my opinion, the film does not supply sufficient information to unambiguously determine the filmmakers' purpose. It does supply evidence, however, for a program quite different from the more usual one cited above. In his speech to the elementary school's graduating class, the school's principal, speaking in Spanish (a second language for his students), holds up as a goal for his graduates that they become teachers and someday return to the school to teach future generations. This, the patriotic trooping of the Mexican flag and the final scene certainly convey a notion of the "true" road to progress. Thus, "Cochochi" can be seen as an admonition to the backward native: give up your old-fashioned language and ways, learn Spanish and join the rest of the nation! The viewer may wish to ponder the question of whether or not propagating this schema justified the expenditure of $400,000. I hope I may be excused for thinking that this sum could have been spent in a manner more appropriate to advancing the condition of the people the film portrayed. Reviewer "cochochi" thought that some of the scenes seemed "gratuitous." (Which ones?) My saddest thought is that this adjective may properly describe the entire project.

Barry Freed


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