20 Essential Films For An Introduction To New Mexican Cinema

14. El crímen del padre Amaro aka The Crime of Father Amaro (Carlos Carrera, 2002)

El crímen del padre Amaro

A polemic and ultimately disappointing title, Carlos Carrera’s El Crimen del padre Amaro is loosely based upon Eça de Queirós’ controversial novel of the same title.

The film faced banning attempts from Mexican catholic groups, who claimed it was making hasty generalizations about Catholic Church as well as disrespectful depictions of it. This helped to attract more of audiences and media’s attention it would otherwise lack.

Set in a fictitious Veracruz town, El crímen del padre Amaro is about a young priest’s descent to lust and hypocrisy just after starting his service to the church.

Shocked by the local priest’s affair with his mistress and by the links he holds with powerful drug dealers, Amaro (Gael García Bernal) has his affair with Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancón), a local catechism teacher and the local priest’s daughter. As the events begin to get complicated, Amaro will never feel he is in the obligation of resigning to his ecclesiastic position.


13. Morirse en domingo aka Never on a Sunday (Daniel Gruener, 2006)

Morirse en domingo

Premiered at 2006 San Sebastian International Film Festival, Daniel Gruener’s independent production Never on a Sunday immediately received wide acclaim among Spanish film critics and met exhibitions in film festivals such as Toronto and Mar de la Plata.

The film, relatively less known than other New Mexican Cinema films but hailed by its viewers, is a dark Kafkaesque comedy about the extreme but ultimately possible situations the Mexican bureaucracy deals with.

After a long time of agony, Julio Salas dies. The main inconvenience is he dies on a Sunday, something that hinders his family’s attempts of signing up the services of major funeral homes as they happen to rest on that day.

Julio’s family commissions Carlos, Julio’s neurotic nephew, to supervise Julio’s incineration in a low class business operated by the mysterious and suspicious Joaquin.

One day, a friend of Carlos claims to have seen Julio’s body in his university amphitheater. Intimidated by his authoritarian father and afraid of asking for his help, Carlos will recover the body and demand a true funeral service from Joaquín, who happens to earn his living by smuggling dead human bodies.


12. Perfume de violetas aka Violet Perfume: No One Is Listening (Maryse Sistach, 2000)

Perfume de violetas

The first film of Maryse Sistach’s trilogy about sexual violence against teenagers, is the most famous of it. The film won five Ariel awards and raised tacit discomfort due to the extremity and sadly universality of its story.

Perfume de violetas is uncomfortable. Far beyond its sexual violence, the lack of communication and the open adulthood rejection may be the most disturbing topics of this film.

Perfume de violetas presents the story of Jessica and Miriam, two low class junior high school students, their recent but strong friendship is driven through deception, incomprehension and tragedy.

Jessica is constantly subjected to his brother-in-law’s assaults. He abuses her and trades her as prostitute. Jessica’s mother, sick of her and completely focused on pleasing her husband, doesn’t know the hell her daughter is living in and thus can’t understand her rebellion and constant academic failures.


11. El infierno aka Hell (Luis Estrada, 2010)

El infierno

Featured during the celebration of Mexican political anniversaries in 2010 and sold under the slogan “There is nothing to celebrate”, Hell is a serious satire about the widely criticized war against drug dealers declared by the former president Vicente Calderón.

Estrada explores the social causes of illegal drug trade, its place in a broken economy and its disturbingly rising culture in Mexico. Also, he makes open allusions about the widely suspected ties between drug dealers and Mexican authorities.

Hell follows Benny, a former immigrant returning to his hometown after a twenty year absence. Benny soon finds out violence in Mexico has reached high levels. Also he realizes it would be quite impossible for him to survive by living an honest life.

Benny’s major decision comes after he discovers his beloved little brother is now dead after having lived as an infamous hitman for one of the region’s major drug cartel. Falling in love with his brother’s sister and feeling responsible for his nephew, who enthusiastically wishes to live the same life as his father has lived, Benny asks for a job opportunity from his childhood friend, who is now a hitman.


10. Después de Lucía aka After Lucía (Michel Franco, 2012)

Después de Lucía

A moving statement about bullying, Después de Lucía follows Roberto and his daughter Alejandra arrive in Mexico City after the tragic car accident of Alejandra’s mother Lucía.

Aware of the depression his father, Lucía will remain silent about the bullying she suffered in her new school.

Después de Lucía competed in the Un Certain Regard section at 2012 Cannes Film Festival and won the top prize.


9. La jaula de oro aka The Golden Dream (Diego Quemada-Díez, 2013)

La jaula de oro

La jaula de oro is an uncomfortable depiction of the brutal reality Central Americans and indigenous immigrants suffer across Mexico on their way through the U.S.

The film won many awards and nominations in film festivals, 57 is the number of the awards it has received so far.

La jaula de oro follows Juan, Sara, Samuel, and Chauk, four children who face danger, indifference and injustice but also friendship and solidarity on their way to the U.S. border.


8. Temporada de patos aka Duck Season (Fernando Eimbcke, 2004)

Temporada de patos

A grey but charming exploration of childhood’s solitude and the frustration of unaccomplished dreams, Temporada de Patos was Fernando Eimbcke’s debut. The film holds a cult status and has even received periodical tributes.

An improvised and even absurd reunion, cheerfully symbolized by a marihuana cake, will be the occasion to unfold its members’ personal demons in a Sunday afternoon.

Flama and Moko are two kids attempting to happily waste their times with videogames, comics and pizza; something they will have to eventually forget after their teenage neighbor claims she needs to use their oven and the pizza delivering man disagrees with them about his delivering time.