Power, Fanatics and Religious Hypocracy
Gabriel Pérez D. | Chicago, IL United States | 10/09/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This move is in part a scripted documentary (but fictional as far as the filming) and part awesome images of the total chaos created by brainwashed masses who attentively go to mass. An important film for Mexican Cinema, it has startingly images of hate, there is little rhetoric mentioned in the film, we see people acting on what their hearts feel is right. What I do find great about the film is that you actually get to see the mind set of many people going through the first stages of Industrailzation by way of the first steps of Globalization. Although lynch mobs are not as common in Mexico as might have been, this TRUE STORY reflects the living mind set of belittled small town life in Mexico, well at least a side of it that people should know about. Quite humorous at times, it in no way sways away from its truths, the last 20 minutes of the film are powerful. The transfer is great considering it is a film rearly mentioned in popular media (especially in Mexico), the negative was in a good enough condition for viewing, although you do see an occasional vertical line here and there, but barely noticable. The sound is good, but I really did not expect permier sound for such a film (1975). Made in a time where B movies ruled in Mexico, this gem of a film shines out of a list of other great films released by Desert Mountain Media. In letterbox presentation, stereo 2.0 in Spanish with removable English subtitles. Cast Biographies, interactive menus and chapter selections. For one thing I must appreciate the resurecction of the film, another is the decent quality. This film is heavily awared in Mexico, quite popular world wide, it acutally won Best Picture at the Berlin International Film Fesitval. Not for the light hearted, striking images of corruption, innocence and hate."
#14 Mexican Film Ever per SOMOS Magazine Survey
Curtis Allan | Seattle, WA | 08/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's not listed in the horror genre, but it certainly impressed upon me some of the most horrific remembrances I have ever taken with me from a film. Making it all the more frightening, of course, is the fact that this is a true story, one that has been repeated with fairly recent incidents in Guatemala. What's worse, many of the villages of rural Puebla still survive in a similar state of sinister surroundings, to which any astute climber of La Malintzin or Citlalteptl can surely attest.
Back to the film, Canoa starts out with a documentary feel which looks surprisingly crisp and modern. We are introduced rather scientifically to the rural area of Puebla State where the film will take place and some of its principle characters. Much of this is portrayed thru an "interview" with the character knows as "el testigo" (the witness) played by Salvador Sanchez (Salvador, La Ley de Herodes). Much of the film focuses on the students, some of whose faces fans of Mexican television will certainly find familiar from novelas. While none of them provide particularly compelling performances, the film is carried along very well by the supporting cast, including Enrique Lucero (The Magnificent Seven, Macario) in a dark and brilliant performance as the priest, Jorge Fegan (Rojo Amanecer) as the police comandante, and a chillingly sober Ernesto Gomez Cruz (Midaq Alley, La Ley de Herodes, El Crimen de Padre Amaro) in probably his best performance.
The DVD has great widescreen video and stereo sound quality, and the subtitles are optional for Spanish speakers. My recommendation: a must-buy for fans of Mexican cinema, especially at this very reasonable price. Certainly worth checking out for anyone with an interest in Mexico or expanding their horizons.
4.5 stars for this tragic movie
Stalwart Kreinblaster | Xanadu | 05/18/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"misunderstandings can be deadly.. So it is in this fine Mexican film about a group of workers who are mistaken for communist students and brutalized by a crazed town of religous fanatics headed by a hypocritical priest and mayor... I had never heard of this movie but the picture on the front of the dvd really captured my attention and the reasonable price tag made it worth taking a chance... I'm glad I did.. this is a very relevant movie that more people should watch."
A Visceral, Savage, Intelligent Film.
Mr. Fellini | El Paso, Texas United States | 07/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Canoa" is a savage, brilliant work that is usually looked over when Mexican cinema is discussed, especially now when a general audience's experience with Mexican film usually consists of just "Amores Perros" or "Pan's Labyrinth," some of course know of the great Luis Bunuel's highly influential work. But here is a film that should be seen wherever available, it is a visceral mix of politics, violence and realism.
"Canoa" chronicles the brutal assault on a group of Mexican youths by a town ruled over by a corrupt priest who poisons the inhabitants' minds with warnings about Communist hordes threatening to invade. The year is 1968 and Mexico is experiencing the same kind of political upheaval by student movements felt all around the world, it is a time when just being associated with a university means being associated with radical, Leftist politics. In this atmosphere a group of Mexican youths go on a road trip to and end-up trapped by rain in tiny Canoa, a dark place which director Felipe Cazals introduces us with great detail at the beginning. Through an observant campesino we learn about the town and its people, and how a corrupt priest has declared himself the government of the place, ruling over every aspect of the town's life. When the students arrive he stirs the people into a frenzy already made toxic by stories coming out of the cities claiming that the student movement is lead by Communists who seek to destroy the Catholic Church.
The story of the events in Canoa has been somewhat buried when Mexico's history of the 1960s is discussed, probably because the lynching of the group of youths took place a month before the notorious massacre of Tlatelolco in Mexico City where hundreds of marching students were butchered by the military, that event remains the key moment of 1968 in Mexico and has of course, overshadowed or even buried the events of Canoa. But Felipe Cazal's film more than makes-up for a lack of extensive scholarship considering his film is almost a documentary, in fact Cazal directed a documentary short on this subject before making the feature film. The eye for detail is highly impressive and Cazal's masterfully informs us with facts, dates, times and names while at the same time keeping us gripped and horrified. Like the best historical dramas, "Canoa" works as both an enlightening film and as pure entertainment.
"Canoa" also succeeds as a complex psychological study. The film deals with various themes such as mob violence, political propaganda and religious fanaticism. Cazals captures vividly how an entire society can be whipped into a frenzy with pure scare tactics and a manipulation of sacred cultural symbols and beliefs. The events in this film can happen anywhere and do. Much of the hysteria over Communists that we see in "Canoa" is happening today in America over Muslims or illegal immigrants. Cazal's brilliantly captures how each stage of paranoia in the town leads to higher levels of suspicion and ultimately violence. He sets up the world of the film with pure realism, fully transporting us to the world of the characters. The cinematography is both arresting but gritty, scenes are nicely framed, but the images are of a decaying, rotting town where evil rules.
The violence in "Canoa" is very real and very raw, Cazals has probably filmed one of the best sequences ever exploring the brutality of mob violence with shots and scenes that terrify in the way they capture human brings reduced to raving lunatics and bloodthirsty monsters.
And of course Cazals does a great job capturing the Mexico of 1968 and the political debates and conflicts which were raging at the time. The youths themselves are not Leftists, or at least officially aligned with the student movement, but they can't escape the effect the movement is having on society. The film never feels like just a horror show in the spirit of 70s b-flicks because it does have a real political conscience. Cazals doesn't just blame the town's priest for what happened, but the entire Mexican system which viewed the students as a threat and programmed the citizenry to see them as such. "Canoa" deserves comparison to the best works of Costa Gavras and that other great Mexican film of the turbulent year of 1968, "Rojo Amanecer." This is an overlooked masterpiece that anyone interested in foreign cinema and political films should certainly take a look at."