Happy Cinco de Mayo, fellow Americans! This holiday has nothing to do with us, and yet we love to celebrate it anyway. And that’s cool; there’s nothing wrong with using a holiday as an excuse to learn more about a particular culture. Just make sure you take the time to find out what the day means before you engage in any drunken revelry.
The holiday extends back to the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862. Outnumber Mexican armed forces beat back French invaders who were trying to lay claim to the state of Puebla. You can learn more about the holiday and its significance on MTV.com in Josh Wigler’s full report. This is MTV Movies Blog though, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t take some time today to shout out some of the brilliant Mexican filmmakers and films that can be found out there.
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Alejandro González Iñárritu became the first Mexican filmmaker to be nominated for a Best Director Academy Award for his work on the 2006 hit “Babel.” His previous film, “21 Gram” also received Academy Award noms, in acting categories. But the feature that started it all, the one that first put Iñárritu on my radar, was “Amores perros,” a fairly disturbing film in which three people’s live become intertwined following a horrific car crash. Dog lovers beware: there are scenes of dog-fighting that are graphic enough to make Michael Vick smile.
Few Mexican filmmakers are better known than Alfonso Cuarón. “Harry Potter” fans recognize him for putting out the strongest adaptation yet of J.K. Rowling’s books, “The Prisoner of Azkaban.” Foreign film lovers will frequently cite “Sólo con tu pareja” and “Y tu mamá también” as must-see efforts. And everyone remember Cuarón’s work on the Oscar-nominated smart sci-fi flick “Children of Men.” He’s a multifaceted filmmaker who has proven himself in a range of genres; the next big one is “Gravity,” another work of smart sci-fi starring “Iron Man 2″ lead Robert Downey Jr.
Guillermo del Toro
If there’s any Mexican filmmaker with more pop culture allure than Cuarón, it’s Guillermo del Toro. His straight-up Hollywood blockbusters are reason enough: two “Hellboy” flicks, his upcoming adaptation of “The Hobbit” and “Blade II” (the best of that trilogy, no question). The influence of David Cronenberg and the body-horror genre can be felt in all of his work, something even more apparent in his more artsy, less mainstream films… “Cronos,” “The Devil’s Backbone,” “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Like Cuarón, del Toro is also a notable producer, helping to give excellent efforts like “Crónicas,” “The Orphanage” and “Splice” a shot here in the United States.
Alex Rivera made his debut at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival with his slick sci-fi tale, “Sleep Dealer.” It won a couple of awards at the Park City, UT celebration, but it unfortunately did not go much further. The movie has a clever premise: the setting is a near-future world in which the United States borders have been completely closed off while corporate military forces conscript laborers south of the border to remotely perform manual labor tasks in the U.S. “Sleep Dealer” remains Rivera’s only feature-length effort, but it’s strong enough to have me looking forward to his next effort.
To be fair, Luis Buñuel was actually born in Spain. He gained Mexican citizenship in 1949 and spent the rest of his life there. He is perhaps best known in film schools for his groundbreaking 1929 avant-garde short, “Un chien andalou,” a collaboration with noted surreal artist Salvador Dalí. But he released 20 films after his move, perhaps most notably the 1950 drama “Los Olvidados.”