Monday, January 17, 2005

I spent a good part of the day on Friday at the cinema, where I took in 2 Mexico-related movies.The first was a low-budget comedy called “A Day Without a Mexican.” I’m not sure if this one has made much of a splash in the States, but it’s been a huge hit here – it’s playing everywhere around town and has been routinely selling out theaters during its first two weeks in circulation. It’s tells the story of a 24-hour fog that descends around the state of California, cutting it off from the outside world and mysteriously enough, also causing all of the state’s “Mexicans” to vanish (One of the recurring jokes in the film is that Californians think that all people from Latin America are Mexicans. Of course, here in Mexico, Canadians and Europeans complain that the locals think that all white people are Americans.) Suddenly, the non-Latino community appreciates how important the missing people were to their state, for not only have the illegal immigrants who pick 90% of the state’s agricultural crops vanished, so have prominent Mexican-Americans and Latinos like the fictional governor, lieutenant governor and top scientists and entertainers. Even the Los Angeles Dodgers have to cancel their game where their 8 Latin players are missing, though the NBA assures the public that its games will go on without a problem.

Anyway, it’s a pretty funny film with some poignant messages and statistics added in as well. See it if you can.The other film I saw yesterday that I would not recommend is “Man on Fire,” starring Denzel Washington. It’s a very bleak and far too violent film about an ex-U.S. Army hit man who comes to Mexico City to bodyguard a rich couple and their daughter against kidnapping. Guess what? The cute little daughter gets kidnapped anyway and a whole slew of people get brutally murdered as a result.The only thing I enjoyed about this film was that it was shot in Mexico City and has scenes depicting the various faces of the city, from the wealthiest communities and historic downtown to the sprawling, impoverished slums. The problem was that the film was shot with such an overwhelmingly dark, paranoid feel that to me, it didn’t reflect what it honestly feels like to be here.

The movie certainly isn’t going to do anything positive for Mexico City’s image, and actually there have been a few editorials in the local newspapers bemoaning the hit that the city’s already poor public image takes from the film. It’s really too bad that so many people, Mexican and foreigner alike, are fed such consistently lousy images of the city. After all, it’s the nation’s capital and home to some of Mexico’s best museums, theaters and archaeological sites. Sure, there’s a lot of crime here, but there also are a lot of great neighborhoods and parks where you see children running around and families looking perfectly content and non-paranoid. Hey, Washington D.C. has a ton of crime but plenty of people who live there happily. Just ask some of my friends that live in D.C. (Dave and Steve Bowen, along with part of the Armstrong Family). And you don’t see tourists avoiding the chance to the Smithsonian Institute, the Washington Monument or the World War II memorial because they think they’ll be shot in the process. Someone at the D.C. tourism office is doing a good job with their PR.

I think Mexico City needs to get that person on the case down here a.s.a.p.

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