Learning to See

By Sergio Huidobro (Mexico)

People say nowadays, that Mexican films are exploding worldwide – that they’re revolutionary, courageous and sometimes too graphic. Even as a Mexican film critic, I can’t say if that’s an undisputed truth. Filmmaking and film criticism are used to mirror, either in obvious or oblique ways, the inner core of both society and individual beings. That’s what art is about. And it sometimes does better than sociology, historical facts or academics. But how should we regard and understand Mexico and Latin America through its recent cinema?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a continuous tradition regarding Mexican film magazines or professional film critics. Not in the French-‘n’-Britain way. Instead, we have a series of brilliant, vigorous attempts. Discontinued attempts. Classic texts. Outstanding books. But we, as a society, have never realized that the film experience should trespass the movie theatre zone or the screening time. We’ve got to read more about films, think about films, discuss films to achieve the real thing: to see ourselves clearly.

But what’s all of this about, anyway? Is it about the film industry? Is it about art criticism? About box office versus auteur theories? About narratives? Movie stars? Aesthetic experience? No. For me, to be a film critic means to share a passion. To share a look and a way of seeing. To write about films means to watch every single film as if it were the first one, like entering into a new place for the first time, like a child’s first encounter with the ocean.

Last year in Mexico, there were 130 films produced and three journalists killed by organized crime because of their work. These are unrelated facts, except for a third one: most of the people hardly care about them. The same year, more than forty college students just vanished from the southern region of Iguala and were allegedly killed and burned in a trash landfill. And Mexico reached six thousand cinemas, too.

Maybe these facts are as unrelated as it seems. Maybe our fascination with spectacle and fiction can’t discern between film and newsreels, between blockbusters and the surrounding violence anymore. And maybe, just maybe, film criticism could say something about it. It could help us to think ourselves through cinema and to think cinema through ourselves. We may find that films are deeper, richer and more compelling than we are use to thinking, and also, so are we.