Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 5:45 am 
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Runaway adventure

The talented young Mexican filmmaker Gabriel Mariño chooses a sexually adventurous girl's road trip across northern Mexico as the subject of his handsomely shot and engaging debut feature. María (a compelling Lucía Uribe) is 18, middle class, urban, a loner who has unenjoyable sex with random boys. It's graduation time and instead of going to the celebrations of her school, disgusted with herself, without telling her mother (Claudia Ríos), whom she keeps at a distance, she stuffs a backpack and boards a bus. The photography, which captures Mexico City's raw diagonals and the blurs of the countryside with flair, is a strong aspect of the tale. Things away from María are often fuzzy at first. She has no soulmate or girl pal to share secrets with. These she confers upon a journal with drawings and descriptions of herself in the third person. Mariño easily achieves the essential: María is clear in our eyes and we feel close to her, even though she's mysterious.

After being hosted by a chatty, poor young mother (Olivia Lagunas, excellent) whose husband has gone to the States to work, and sleeping with a man met in an all night cafe, María meets a sweet, dark young man, Juan (Roberto Mares) headed also to the States for work, the innocent lover she may have been longing for. His touchingly painful shyness is a compliment to her loneliness. This is yet perhaps too easy and obvious and her final moment reaching a dream location near the Pacific may be obvious too, but what has come before has felt too authentic and real for these fumbles to mar the whole

Mariño has experience as a cinematographer, documentarian, writer, and editor, and this shows in a strong sense of narrative and pacing and images that continually sing without being distracting: visual poetry is an essential part of any loner's experience on the road.

I liked this film a lot -- the way it slowly unearths buried emotions in its protagonist. However it has tough competition in other Latin American journey films with visual magic and more radical adventures, such as Ricardo Benet's 2005 News from Afar (whose hero is a Juan, actually called Martín, who goes in the opposite direction, to Mexico City), or Lisandro Alonso's strange, riveting Los Muertos. The voyage into strangeness and real danger is something this generation of Spanish-speaking filmmakers does particularly well. But the comparison is a little unfair and Mariño may understand his middle class girl more intimately, and Uribe is terrific.

Un mundo secreto debuted at the Berlinale in February 2012; Robert Koehler reviewed it favorably at Guadalajara for Variety in March and spoke of "excellent word of mouth combined with these [European festival screeningss] and a Cartajena showing "set up the film for buyers on various platforms." The film is represented by Shoreline Entertainment, Los Angeles for International sales. It was screened for this review as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival (April 19-May 3, 2012), as part of the New Directors series. SFIFF showings at the PFA (Berkeley) and Film Society Cinema and Kabuki (San Francisco) are as follows:

Sun, Apr 29, 2012 3:20 pm
Mon, Apr 30 6:30 pm
Wed, May 2 6:00 pm

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