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In Mexico City, a wealthy compound is surrounded by walls and surveillance system to protect the locals against the violence of the slums. During a stormy night, a billboard falls over the wall and three smalltime thieves cross the border through the breach to rob. They break into a house and kill an old lady; the residents organize militias to chase the delinquents. Two of them and one security guard are murdered by the vigilantes, but the sixteen year old Miguel hides in the basement of the teenager Alejandro. When Alejandro finds Miguel, he feeds and helps the boy, but it is impossible to escape from the Zone. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
At the risk of being wrong, I would say that production in the world film industry is mostly run by the high and medium social strata, with little creative input from the lower class. The middle and high class filmmakers may "starve" (for lack of material means to produce, not food) while they make their way, but once they enter the industry –as image makers for advertisement, television, film or new media- they frequently adopt a too comfortable vision of existence. This approach prevails when they deal with delicate social subjects, as the one Rodrigo Pla tackles in "La Zona", which has the certain value of being one of few films describing the potential violent relations between persons who live walled in exclusive and closed residential complexes, and people who live outside in marginal communities that surround the gated crowd, as in this case. Three poor guys cross the wall of La Zona to steal. Two die, one hides in a family house. Next a "Zonian" teenager finds the one hiding inside his house. For me, the merits of this film end here. Although Pla describes the fascistic tendencies of civil defense and police force, flirts with hyper-violence and adds a gram of science-fiction, this humorless film (and the situation was open to it and much more) opts for a melodrama formula, a tale of the "bad consciousness" type, and in the third act it never recovers. I do not know if the uncontrolled sappiness is a cultural trait of Mexicans, but as used by the filmmakers it has been the cause of much imbalance in many motion pictures, from the works of El Indio Fernández ("María Candelaria") to Iñárritu ("Amores perros"). From the moment the walled teenager's heart softens and he tries to become the savior of the young thief, "La Zona" follows the usual path of melodrama, with servile score that overemphasizes what is obvious. The cardboard characters grow stiffer, Daniel Giménez Cacho handles one of the most embarrassing scenes, in front of a TV set (Maribel Verdú is thankfully in the background and out of focus) and the ironic final shot of the ex-walled and temporarily liberated teenager eating tacos in the corner of a popular barrio, functions as a little scolding to the middle class adults who protect their small privileges to provide a gift (or borrowed) life to kids as the taco-eater, but above anything else as a wimpish validation of the kid's "courage" who, when the lights of the cine go up, will return in his comfortable 4X4 to pa's home in La Zona. And from there we go back to the first shots of a little (symbolic?) butterfly, flying beyond the wall Watch it, but wear glasses.
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