HECHO EN MÉXICO Movie Review
Duncan Bridgeman took a song to the top ten of the United Kingdom’s singles chart with his music project 1 Giant Leap, and his filmmaking career focuses heavily on music. It only makes sense that he tries to find the gap between music and film in Hecho en México, his third documentary and first without 1 Giant Leap as its focus.
The doc takes a glimpse at various people from Mexico and examines how they feel about certain topics, such as immigration, misogyny, and identity. Diego Luna (Milk) lends some time to the doc, while the late Mexican luchador Enmascarado (that’s masked professional wrestler) Blue Demon appears in archive footage. The film not only incorporates talking-heads commentary, it also fuses performances from music artists to express certain points of view. In fact, Hecho en México tries to utilize the music more so than spoken words, using this technique to identify those in its framework with its audience because the dialogue and lyrics are mostly in Spanish since it is, after all, a film about Mexican culture.
To some extent, the music-based approach works because music is a universal language. A performer’s vocal performance can still elicit the most powerful of emotions even if we don’t understand the words she sings. An instrumental musical performance can have the same effect. This passion expressed through music tries to drive Hecho en México, but music can’t do its job if it’s not used the right way.
The film’s method of fusing musical performances with talking-heads commentary is great in concept, but it ends up being flimsy in its execution. This presentation initially feels unique, but its luster wears off rather quickly, and Hecho en México begins to feel stale even before this talking heads-meets-musical performance technique loses its shine.
For instance, the topic of misogyny feels particularly inappropriate for a variety of reasons – particularly the method in which it’s presented. A little boy sings about a female’s prowess both in the kitchen and in the bedroom, and during this segment a talking head tells us of the dangers of misogyny. The mixing of the two does little to advance any kind of argument about misogyny, and other portions of the film function similarly, often bearing little to no true focus. Even when there is a definite focus, the talking heads emphasize points already made by the musical performances. The segments of Hecho en México either fail to make their points or convey them only by belittling the audience. It’s worth wondering what point is trying to be made by the time it’s all over.
We additionally come to know very little of the subjects interviewed for the documentary. We’re supposed to see a host of different personalities and ideologies, but that doesn’t happen. Hecho en México allows only a brief amount of time with each individual who crosses our path – unless, of course, said individual is performing a song that talking heads babble over anyway – since too many people (more than 50) make their way into the framework.
In the United States, the people of Mexico and people with Mexican heritage are often marginalized and stereotyped. Hecho en México tries to give a voice to these individuals, those who often don’t get the chance to speak. While it’s awesome to see people use their gifts for change and to bring awareness to those around them, the film falls flat with too many subjects and not enough material that carries significant weight. By the end of it all, we have only seen snapshots – often blurry ones – of a culture and have been introduced to myriad individuals who leave little impact thanks to how they’re presented. Everything we witness bears importance to a culture so often poorly represented in mainstream American culture, but it’s the presentation of this speech and music that betrays the urgency of the issues at hand.