Dir: Julio Hernandez Cordon. Guatemala. 2008. 72mins.
Had Julio Hernandez Cordon’s debut been located anywhere else but Guatemala, it might never have been noticed. A clumsily-handled tale of bored teenagers taking out their frustrations on each other and everyone else isn’t exactly a novelty. But its provenance - Guatemala is hardly known for its cinematic output - lends the film a degree of exotic appeal which should see it into festivals following its Locarno world premiere and draw the attention of adventurous art houses.
Taking place over the course of one night, the film consists of a series of episodes following three middle class adolescents on a nocturnal joyride. Gerardo (Dardon), Raymondo (Armas) and Nano (Jacome) are all rebelling against parental authority. Proudly flaunting their irresponsibility, they steal gasoline and anything else they can lay their hands on, borrow money from indulgent relatives, wind each other up to see how far they can go, pretend to dump each other but stick together even when they run someone over and set his dead body on fire to eliminate the evidence.
To Cordon’s credit, he captures the pent-up anger of these aimless youngsters which leads to outbursts of violence including an incident in which one is almost suffocated. But Cordon refuses to allow them any vulnerability which would render them sympathetic and perhaps redeemable. The triois also virtually interchangeable, equally vacant and fed up, and harbouring dreams of escaping.
Cordon does himself no favours by using mostly long shots and dark exterior locations, relying only on the tone of their voices to convey the trio’s irascible and aggressive behaviour and desperate one-upmanship.
Produced and financed with donations, the film can’t disguise its meagre resources. Possibly the most serious disappointment for the viewer curious to find out about Guatemala is that the country portrayed here is so shrouded in darkness that almost nothing is visible.
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Julio Hernandez Cordon