Dir/prod:Ariel Gordon.Mexico, 2009. 78mins
Festivals looking for something different may like the notion of a dramatic encounter exclusively observed through the impartial eyes of a surveillance camera. And Black Box also has the villain everyone loves to hate: big business, the root of all evil. With these two elements working in its favour, Mexican director Ariel Gordon’s debut feature may travel far despite its relatively modest scope and an often repetitive and schizophrenic script.
This feature has at its heart the cat-and-mouse play between an unscrupulous operative working for unspecified dark forces and the man he has chosen to murder a political figure. Their encounter - which takes place in an abandoned warehouse, recorded by fixed cameras - is preceded by an introduction which argues that such a story is possible if not probable. Apart from that and a brief coda, the film exclusively focuses on the two protagonists, played by Hernan Mendoza and Juan Carlos Remolina - both experienced performers who keep the ball rolling in the best tradition of deft TV drama. And, whether festivals pick this up or not, television will surely step up to the plate.
Initial footage of a man dying in a hospital bed of an unidentified disease is followed by a furious, overlong animated sequence on the nefarious effects of big business, splashed colourfully across the screen in a loud, brash manner. Gordon then cuts to his main location, a vast, largely empty warehouse observed only through the dispassionate eyes of CCTV cameras. There Emiliano (Remolina), on his deathbed in the first sequence, appears in flashback, trying to convince businessman Juan (Mendoza) to commit murder in exchange for a small fortune.
Juan will be caught and executed, explains Emiliano, but what does it matter since he has colon cancer and very little time left to live. He is also bankrupt. This way, he can secure a future for his wife and children. Juan first refuses, then accepts, then refuses again, begs out, and implores to be shot himself or given some other means of putting an end to his life. He is incapable of cold-bloodedly pulling the trigger on another human being
Mexico ‘s sad history of political violence is not a stranger to acts such as those portrayed on screen here, giving the plot a solid semblance of credibility. None of the notions advanced by this film may be new, and they have all been explored at greater depth, but despite their familiarity they’re as serviceable as ever. Luis Ayhllon’s script with co-writer Ariel Gordon’s direction acknowledge this and opt for top-speed pacing to cover over the cracks. Fortunately, both Mendoza and Remolina have no problem adapting to the tempo. The rigidity of the closed circuit cameras, whose angles are often manipulated beyond their normal capacities, serves well as a contrast to the highly charged events on screen. The bookended colour sequences give the whole piece a documentary feeling.
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Ramon Orozco Stoltenberg
Juan Carlos Remolina
Irela de Villers