Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Un Dia sin Mexicanos|
Actors: Caroline Aaron, Tony Abatemarco, Melinda Allen, Frankie J. Allison, Fernando Arau
Director: Sergio Arau
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery & Suspense
Social satire really needs to be savage and not so subtle
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 12/20/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It is easy to think of Sergio Arau's 2004 film "A Day Without a Mexican" as a great idea poorly executed, especially when you check out the original 1998 short film version provided on the DVD. In both versions the citizens of California wake up one day and discover that all the "Mexicans" are gone. Actually, it is all the Latinos in the state, but as several people are quick to point out, everybody from South of the Border is a "Mexican," even if they come from Guatemala or some other place (like Israel or Armenia). "A Day Without a Mexican" attempts to show what would happen to California if suddenly one-third of its population disappeared.
But whereas the original short film sticks to the mocumentary approach, the full-length feature tries to be a real film as well. In addition to working in many of the bits from the original short film, Arau now includes several narrative threads following Caucasians with strong ties to missing Latinos: Mary Jo Quintana (Maureen Flannigan) is a school teacher whose husband and son have disappeared; State Senator Steven Abercombie III (John Getz) and his family have to overcome the loss of their maid (now they cannot get the peanut butter off the top shelf) and then he becomes the acting governor; and television news anchor Vicki Martin (Suzanne Friedline) is concerned about the station's missing weatherman. Then there is television news reporter Lila Rodriguez (Yareli Arizmendi, the co-writer and wife of the director), who would appear to be the only Latina who has not disappeared from California. Meanwhile, an eerie pink fog has surrounded the state, cutting it off from the rest of the world.
The result is a hit and miss proposition. All of the explanations offered by the experts on what has happened are the stuff of bad science fiction. There are those who are happy the "Mexicans" are all gone, but then there are also the normal citizens rioting over fresh vegetables. Arau obviously has a bit more money this time around, so ideas that were only talked about in the short film get expanded, so that now we get a television commercial for the "Disappearance Day" sale. There are a couple of points where the film tries to get poignant, and while Lila's big speech is fully of admirable sentiment, it just goes too much against the grain of the satire of the film. Going from tongue-in-cheek to heart in hand is tricky business, and "A Day Without a Mexican" never quite pulls it off. Besides, if anything I want to say that this film lets it audience off of the hook too easily. Even insipid racism deserves to be skewered and while there are parts of this film that remind me of a "MAD TV" skit, but without either the savage wit or the big laughs.
After watching both versions I have a preference for the original short film because I appreciate the irony that it does not include any Latinos outside of photographs: even the dramatizations have to use non-Latino actors (a fact which is duly noted). But it also has a lighter touch than the expanded film version, which often uses sub-titles to make points and provide statistics (e.g., how many Latinos are on the L.A. Dodgers, how many countries are south of the border). Basically it comes down to the difference between showing and telling, and the failure of this film is amplified by the fact that the underlying message is rather important."
Fear of a brown planet
Jeffery Mingo | Homewood, IL USA | 09/26/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This film is vvvveeerrrryyyyy West Coasty! It only speaks about Cali. Characters make statements like "All Latinos are Mexican anyway!" You would never hear someone say that on the East Coast. I saw a film about the abuse of illegal immigrants in the San Diego area a few months ago. This movie uses comedy to address issues whereas that movie used tragedy.
This movie actually reminded me a lot of "Bamboozled." It doesn't take long to understand satire. Maybe that's why it does well on quick things like sketch comedy and not in feature-length films. I was the only non-Mexican American in the audience and some theatergoers left midway and I heard one woman say, "That was the dumbest movie ever!" It was okay for what it was trying to do.
Like many satirical works, the references weren't always subtle. The racist governor is named Abercrombie, obviously in reference to the lawsuits against store. Someone says, "The number two guy in California is Mexican and he vanished too." Can we say Bustamante? The one woman who doesn't disappear is labeled "the missing link." She is kind of a sellout/una vendida, so it's a swipe at Latinos that try to front. If this weren't a minority-made film, I'm sure folk would be upset about referring to any person of color as the missing link, and rightly so.
Class-privileged people may be rubbed the wrong way by this film. It implies that California would suffer without Mexicans because no one would be there to clean houses and pick fruit. There was no mention of Latino professors at Berkeley or Congresspersons Sanchez and Becerra and stuff.
This film also implies that if there were no Mexicans, then white, blonde women would lack their Latin lovers. The film starts and practically ends with a Latino male-white female married couple. You never see any white male-Latina couples even though they exist a plenty in California and around the nation. Not only is this portrayal cool with a stereotype, but it also kinda puts white blondes on a pedestal. This part of the film is somewhat of backhanded slap posing as a compliment. I think many should be rightfully outraged by this two-way fetishization.
This film also portrays whites and blacks as being against Latinos and Asians. I felt bad about this as a black man that supports black-brown unity. However, blacks did play a significant role in Villaraigosa not getting elected as L.A.'s mayor, so maybe it's real. I have seen blacks and Latinos have more in common than Latinos and Asians. It's hard for me to think that the main dividing line in the US is immigrant versus non-immigrant, even in Cali.
There is a metaphor of a dripping faucet and an overflowing glass of water. Perhaps it relates to the push-pull factors that explain multinational immigration. However, it was somewhat lost on its symbolism and I doubt most others would get it either.
But yes, I do recommend that people of any ethnicity see it. Independent films don't stay in theaters long, so if this is playing in your city, go see it. Whether I liked the flick or not, I want to support filmmakers of color and this sounded curious."
Interesting, but wanders
wiredweird | Earth, or somewhere nearby | 03/21/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I'll allow a movie three impossible things to get itself moving. After that, is has to follow its own rules.
1) Suddenly, a purple fog appears around California, isolating it from radio, internet, phone, and travel in or out.
2) Suddenly, all the Mexicans in California swiftly and silently vanish away.
3) No third one, two was enough.
Once started, it wanders pleasantly between a plotless assortment of vignettes: a wife whose husband and son disappeared, a Latina reporter who didn't (!), a clueless governor pro tem whose naivete borders on racism, and a farmer's son who's blatantly anti-Latino. Parts of it are funny - like the fact that being "Mexican" has little to do with Mexico. Parts are warm and touching, and a few very human surprises keep it from dragging.
There's a political subtext, rubbed in our collective faces with occasional comments scrawled on-screen. It never crosses into the shrill, however. The director has the good sense to realize that I'd turn off a blatant rant. He also knows that, if he wants to make use of my attention, he'd better give something in return - and what a movie returns is amusement. I consider myself repaid, mostly.
It wanders back and forth between a few sub-plots, and it has a happy ending. It's pleasant and just a little thought provoking, but I don't feel that my library needs it.
Good idea, horrible execution.
Todd Dwyer | Austin, Texas United States | 03/11/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"When I heard about the concept of the film, I laughed. I looked forward to seeing this film and really wanted to like it, but I gotta say that I was disappointed by the final result.
ALL the characters in the film came across as charicatures, and that includes the Hispanic characters. Don't even get me started on the white characters. If this movie hadn't been made by a Hispanic person, this would have been called out a lot more.
The writing was TERRIBLE. NOBODY talks that way! NOBODY ever says stuff like that. The fact that the acting was even worse didn't help this fact.
The facts presented in the film were interesting, but I hate being clubbed over the head with stuff like that. They were all presented with the subtlety of an 18 wheeler speeding down a crowded sidewalk. Way too preachy.
It's a shame this movie was so bad. The idea was brilliant and there certainly was no lack of available matieral.