Cinco De Mayo Viewing: The Best Movies of Mexico

Mexican cinema has had a long and diverse history dating back to the silent film era. Though in the last twenty years a new wave of talent has swept in and ushered a renaissance of film in that country. A variety of relatively young and extremely talented filmmakers have made their way to Hollywood from Mexico. However much of their best and most personal work was done in their native country in their native language. How better to enhance a celebration of Cinco De Mayo than by indulging is some of the wonderful works that Nuevo Cine Mexicano has brought to us.

Many filmmakers have been part of the modern Mexican cinema, however there are three key figures that have become the most noted: Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. These three filmmakers started out young, directing films while still in their 20s or early 30s. The three have actually become friends and collaborators, often one of them will serve as a producer for a film directed by one of the others. This sense of camaraderie, as opposed to competition, has been part of what has made modern Mexican filmmaking so exciting. Rather than trying to be better than everybody else they’ve chosen to lift each other up and achieve greater success as a whole.

Alfonso Cuaron is probably best known in America for his contribution to the Harry Potter film series. He directed “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” which is generally accepted to be a notable increase in quality over the first two entries. However, before getting involved in that children’s film series Cuaron made a in Mexico that was much more mature: “Y Tu Mama Tambien.” This coming of age story received only limited release in the US due to it being released unrated for fear that the frank sexuality of the picture would earn it an NC-17 rating. However those who have sought it out have been able to enjoy the deep and compelling story of two young men and the summer they spend with an older woman.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu exploded onto the Mexican film scene with his debut feature length film “Amores Perros.” With the interweaving of three separate stories connected by a car crash and in their depiction of the uglier sides of humanity. The nature of the narrative lead some to call the picture the Mexican equivalent of “Pulp Fiction,” and the film was nominated for the Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Following this film Inarritu immediately went to Hollywood to continue with emotional film and often dark films. However he recently returned to Mexico to make “Biutiful” with Academy Award winning actor Javier Bardem, which lead to another Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

Guillermo del Toro has become something of an icon to fans of dark fantasy. His first feature film was the unique take on vampires known as “Cronos.” As with Inarritu, his success lead him immediately to Hollywood following his debut. However del Toro has frequently gone back to the land and language of his birth to make his most personal films. The ghostly film “The Devil’s Backbone” and the Oscar nominated fantasy “Pan’s Labyrinth” may have been set in Spain rather than Mexico but del Toro brought to those films the same unique feeling of dangerous wonder that was so prominent in “Cronos.”