The Art of Revolutions, Love, and Politics: Review of Güeros (2014)

“To be young and not a revolutionary is a contradiction”

In a time in which Mexican culture and the Mexican spirit, is so unknown and yet so criticized, Alonso Ruizpalacios’ art film, Güeros offers a helping hand to all of those who want to understand. Unlike many, if not most, of Mexico City classics such as Alejandro González Iñárritu’s, Amores Perros, and Alfonso Cuaron’s, Y Tu Mamá Tambien, Gueros gives a new perspective on what it means to be Mexican, without making the film about crime and corruption with casual shots of robberies and dog fights. Instead, Güeros explores the idea behind what it means to be a young and a revolutionary in a society that prioritizes those with the inherited privilege of money and pale skin; all while still poking fun at the commonly used cliché’s.

Güeros is an embodiment of the hypocrisy of Mexican art house films, while still being a proud member of the group. It uses the often criticized cliché’s of traditional art house such as the repetitive themes of poverty, sense of nihility, and overall low budget feel of the movie, and creates a film that in a way, is everything that it preaches against. This idea is observed throughout the movie, specifically in a scene in which Sombra criticizes a Mexican director by saying “fucking Mexican cinema. They grab a bunch of beggars, shoot it in black-and-white, and say they’re making art films”. This concept that Sombra criticized is one that the whole basis of Güeros is shamelessly based on. Ruizpalacios chose to use the cliche 4:3 ratio, with the black and white film, and the homeless beggars in the background strategically, as a way to parody the often victimizing aspect that many Mexican films have.

The director, Ruizpalacios, artistic choice to name the film Güeros, and organically incorporate the word into the conversations of the characters, gave non-Latinx viewers an idea of the power that words have on such communities. Gueros, which is defined by the movie as “having blond hair” and “having light skin”, is a word used to describe white and white-passing people in Latin America. Words like these tend to create an “us vs. them” relationship that many believe divides communities. Once again, Ruizpalacios’ motive was to point out the victimizing ideology behind the word and how a country that is run by a majority of light-skinned people, can still have light-skinned populations feeling hurt by a word that has never been used to oppress them. This ideology can be seen throughout the film, when people are introduced to Sombra’s brother, Tomás. The jokes were never about if Tomás was the adopted one, as he was a blond, light-skinned teenager. Instead, the joke was always directed at Sombra.

In the film, Sombra is used as the perfect example of the average low class Mexican. A brown man with prominent indigenous features, living in an abandoned apartment building with no job or money, surviving off of free hotel breakfasts, and suffering from crippling mental illness, he is the embodiment of the poverty that the great majority of Mexicans live in. On the other hand, his love interest, Ana, a beautiful green-eyed revolutionary from a wealthy family, whose parents were a part of the UNAM strike of 1968, fits right into the group that Ruizpalacios labels, the “beautiful people”. Here, Ruizpalacios used the two most important figures of the film to represent the two sides of Mexico; Sombra represents the reality of the poverty-ridden country, while Ana represents how Mexico wishes to be seen. Once again, the “guera” representing the positive outlook on the country, while the “prieto” (dark skinned)  represents the negative reality.

In the end, Gueros is anything but conventional. It is a complex film that deals with the struggles of the poor, and the brown/black Mexicans in their own country, and the way they are so often separated into the “other” despite representing the majority of the population. While concepts such as these may be difficult to grasp for people who don’t understand the struggles or have never been exposed to such environments, Ruizpalacios did a beautiful job of creating such a thoughtful and relevant film for all.

 

Rating: 98/100