The Voice of Silence
Official Selection Mexican Documentary
Dir. Jorge Uruchurtu
The Richter Scale says: On September 19, 2017, like every year on the anniversary of the 1985 earthquake, there was an earthquake drill throughout Mexico City at about 11:00 in the morning. These drills are already a tradition and like every year, some take them seriously while other mock or ignore them. What nobody could ignore is what happened two hours later that day. An earthquake of a 7.1 magnitude on the Richter Scale (yes, we’re aware of the irony of mentioning that particular scale in one of these reviews) shook Mexico City and several towns in neighboring states, once again uniting the population in solidarity and this time with the use of social networks, mobilizing the population to rescue people from the rubble of fallen buildings and gather necessary supplies for people affected by this event. This documentary, produced by Cultura Colectiva and directed by Jorge Uruchurtu (who previously served as a music producer), shows us what happened that day and the response of the people and authorities. People mobilized and demonstrated the solidarity that only they could, while the authorities don’t seem to have learned anything from the ’85 quake.
The style of this documentary is “talking heads”, where you can find interviews with different people and each one offering their point of view about the subject at hand, intercut with images that support what each one says. Among those interviewed are Sergio Beltrán-García, a young architect who created a guide for people to know where they can help others, Daniel Moreno, director of Animal Político, a publication that covered the days following the earthquake extensively, Rob Heredia, a rescue worker who shares his experiences rescuing people from the rubble, highlighting their names and describing how seeing someone come out of the rubble is like seeing a rebirth, social anthropologist Olivia Dominguez describes her experiences going to Oaxaca to help out those towns, among others. Meanwhile, we get images of Mexico City seen from the sky, as we see people walk the streets, or see videos that they recorded with their cell phones, to the buildings that fell or protests in the city, even some images that show the authorities in their least productive moments. IT may be a biased point of view, but this documentary has something specific to say about Mexico as a country and Mexicans as a society, and how wonderful they can be in times of crisis, until that crisis blows over.
Uruchurtu gathers these testimonies and images to create a document that details the experiences of that day and that projects what it means to live in this moment, with the technology that we have, the knowledge that we have but don’t always take advantage of and the authorities that supposedly keep us safe. It is one of those documentaries that one could see in 20 or 30 years and have an idea of what it was like to live in Mexico City at the end of the 2010’s (however things develop in our country in the coming years). Those who lived in Mexico during these days will recognize what they see in this documentary and therefore, it will remain as a document of what it was for all of us.
Official Selection Mexican Documentary
Dir. Luke Lorentzen
The Richter Scale says: Mexico as a country has many shortcomings, and something usually arises to combat each one, something that can contribute to a citizen that needs it. One of those shortcomings is a government ambulance service for the entire population. As there are very few government ambulances in Mexico City, there are some private ambulances that look for injured people in certain areas to take them to the hospital (although in this case, someone has to pay them, either the hospital to which they are taken or the insurance of the person they treated). This documentary is about one such ambulance belonging to the Ochoa family, father Fernando, son Juan, and the youngest son Josué who always goes with them on the ambulance. They pick up injured people, look them up, look for the best hospital possible (or the best the person can afford) and then have to deal with the matter that someone has to pay them, as well as the fact that they exist outside the law and are constantly on the lookout for policemen who seek to stop or extort them, as well as other ambulances that do the same as them and could steal their clientele, but despite that, this family continues with their work and help whoever they can.
Filmmaker Luke Lorentzen (who has spent his career documenting the day-to-day life of people in different fields that are somewhat extraordinary) does not make the classic documentary in which he records interviews of our protagonists and edits them with scenes that show us their day-to-day. This film is told exclusively through the interactions of our protagonists, almost all at night with the natural lighting from the location, the camera fixed in a place that can capture the scene or following our characters to capture their conversations. One of the most heartbreaking moments happens early in the movie when they find a teenage girl with a broken nose dripping with blood, terrified that they will charge her mother who has no money and once they examine her, she asks for one of them to hug her to make her feel better. This interaction is filled with small but strong details (so much that one might ask if it was written, although we trust it was not), like Fernando showing this girl (her name is Andrea) where he is putting her purse so she can see that he is not going to steal anything (which accentuates the country’s insecurity and how aware Fernando is of it), or Juan talking to Andrea’s mother on the phone, making sure she is as calm as possible.
Luke Lorentzen, who also shot and edited the film, maintains a very casual aesthetic so that the audience can feel like they are there with the characters, living these moments, feeling the adrenaline when they save someone’s life and frustration when the police try to stop them or when someone doesn’t pay them. We see this same rhythm at home when they are preparing to work and the father tells the son Josué that he cannot be in the ambulance if he does not go to school (Josué offers a few moments of “comic relief” with his observations on what happens ). This documentary is an example of how one does not have to invent people or situations to capture dramatic, touching, and even comical moments. These are moments one can find in real life and only need someone who knows where to find them.