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The Richter Scale: Leaf Blower + Panamerican Machinery
30
Jul

The Richter Scale: Leaf Blower + Panamerican Machinery

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Panamerican Machinery

Official Selection Mexican Feature

Dir. Joaquín Del Paso

GTO | Saturday 30 | 14:00 hrs | Juárez Theater

The Richter Scale says: The future is scary. Even when we have an idea, we can never be sure exactly where we’re going and we don’t know whether what the future holds includes everything we dold near and dear to us in the present. This is why we have a tendency to want to freeze time and stay in the present as long as possible, but eventually the present becomes the past and staying in the past when the rest of the world is moving forward is harmful. That’s exactly what director Joaquín Del Paso explores in his feature debut set in a company that sells and repairs machinery for construction, a company that stopped being profitable a long time ago and the salaries of its employees were paid directly from the pockets of their boss Don Alejandro. However, when they arrive in to work this Friday, they discover that Don Alejandro is dead in his office and all of the employees, most of them elderly, will be on the streets without any possibilities of receiving a pension. Because of this fear, they all agree to lock themselves in the company offices and find a purpose for the company, or maybe they just don’t want to deal with what waits for them outside.

The world that Joaquín Del Paso builds for this film is one that appears to be frozen in time, with computers so big they look like televisions, internet connection through a phone line, cassette tapes to listen to music and even the famous Walkman that practically no one uses anymore. Fredrik Olsson’s cinematography gives the images a grainy quality, with colors that don’t pop, giving it the feel of something we might see on a VHS tape. This is the aesthetics’ way of saying that this story doesn’t belong and a highlight is a shot of the second floor of the Periférico on the other side of the wall, where you can see the future that everyone wants to avoid.

The characters are defined efficiently, the accountant who is desperately hiding the fact that he failed everyone, the boss’s secretary who no one takes seriously, Ignacio the doorman who is there youngest and cares for everyone, among many other workers, some who just want to destroy the factory and others who just want to forget about everything by drinking a potentially poisonous potion. All of this makes for a film that is more about observation than plot and even though it suffers from having two endings (one that leaves a certain ambiguity and an extra one that feels a little too conclusive) it results in a fascinating exploration of our fears of what comes next, bute ven more an exploration of how harmful it is to hold on to something that’s not working anymore simply because it worked once. A montage of this factory in its prime makes it clear why these characters are holding on to it and cements that message that when nostalgia stops you from moving forward, it can destroy you.

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Leaf Blower

Official Selection Mexican Feature

Dir. Alejandro Iglesias Mendizábal

GTO | Saturday 30 | 16:00 hrs | Juárez Theater

The Richter Scale says: There’s a moment in all our lives when we realize that our lives can’t go on like they have been going. When something makes us stoop and reflect upon our actions that have consequences and the responsibilities we have to take on. For Rubén (Alejandro Guerrero), Emilio (Paco Rueda) and Lucas (Fabrizio Santini) that’s the day they spend looking for a set of keys in a pile of leaves. Those keys are for the car of Lucas’s domineering girlfriend Daniela, and for fear of her finding out, Lucas recruits his two best friends to help him find it. That same day is the funeral for Martín (a friend of our protagonists and the best goalie among them), which has these three facing their mortality and examining the place they are in now in their lives with an uneasy feeling that something has to change.

Stories of teenagers reaching these crucial points in life are very common and their success depends on the construction of the characters we’re seeing go through that epiphany, the script and the performances. Rubén, Emilio and Lucas are very well-defined characters, each with his own fears, interests and character flaws and through the natural camaraderie of the three actor son the screen the audience gets a sense of a long history. Many of their interactions are played for comedy, built through the stupid things they say to each other, Emilio being so proper (in spite of being obsessed with his neighbor) and Rubén not caring about much. Director Alejandro Iglesias Mendizábal allows his actors the space to develop these situations and create very genuine moments where they face how fragile this moment in life is, a moment where what is trivial still matters, but the world of the adults (given the necessary gravitas here by casting several well-known Mexican actors) is just around the corner.

The film’s other great success is the construction of its characters’ world, a neighborhood in Mexico City like many others, filled with houses, parks with piles of leaves, a drug store, a few restaurants here and there, neighbors who get upset by petty things and a cop here or there looking for a bribe. All of this exists in Mexico as we know it today, but through these three youngsters and the eye of Alejandro Iglesias Mendizabal, this world feels unique, like the neighborhoods we all grew up in, sometimes it feels as if they are ours alone. The way the director injects his own criticism of Mexico is not very subtle (a scene with a corrupt cop goes on for too long and becomes incredibly obvious the more it does), but they add a realism to this world that at times seems surreal (it begins with a ringing payphone that no one wants to answer, a detail that puts right into these characters’ head spaces). Adolescence is a time of life with which, even though we may be ashamed of it, we can all identify.

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