The Austin Chronicle

Tales That Must Be Told

Previewing the ninth Cine las Americas

By Wells Dunbar, April 14, 2006, Screens

Noticias Lejanas (News From Afar)

D: Ricardo Benet; with David Aarón Estrada, Mayahuel del Monte, Martín Palomares, Gina Niret, Lucía Muñoz, Fernando Pérez Castro

In this 2004 film, Mexico's struggle between its urban and rural instincts is writ large in the lives of its protagonists. The plot is spare and ambling, yet colored with implications boundless as the baked plains where its protagonists reside. Following a family tragedy, young Martin leaves his desert outpost known only as 17, a village folding into itself having been passed for water and electric infrastructure, to find his biological father. On his journey into the 21st-century moloch of Mexico City, Martin's hopes of success – saving up enough to bring his family out of 17 – turn more fleeting and illusory. Benet's easy, naturalistic approach is similar to Carlos Reygadas' Japón (although giving viewers more narrative pegs on which to pin their expectations). Visual similarities abound too, the evocative, sun-bleached, dusk-dusted camerawork emphasizing the film's emotional truths. Bikes drift over scorched salt plains like ghost ships; geese are clubbed to death for dinner; the dog-eared pages of a travel magazine come to represent the rest of the world. An ethereal haze hangs over Martin and his family: Although he drifts through the ghost towns of globalization, the country floats through him and his family. Perilously positioned between tradition and modernity, Benet's ending bodes ill for the cost at which Martin (and his country, for that matter) tries to realize their dreams.

April 22, 6pm, Metropolitan

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