One film is about a woman who is so desperate to get cosmetic dental surgery that she sues her supermarket employer because she is paid partly in vouchers she can only redeem at her job. Another is about a young Mexican American woman who must find a way to "repatriate" her dead father back to his small village in Mexico, as many migrants do in their passing.
Another film -- by filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia, son of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- is a simple, surreal panorama: Revolution-era rebels on horseback riding in slow motion through the iconic crossroads of immigrant life in Los Angeles, often contested, 7th and Alvarado streets.
"Revolucion," a collection of 10 films each under 10 minutes long, by 10 young and up-and-coming Mexican filmmakers, is a meditation on a pertinent theme in today's Mexico. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Mexican Revolution, a conflict that sought to free the poor from exploitation and disenfranchisement under the regime of Porfirio Diaz.
One hundred years later, these shorts seem to say, the situation isn't much better for millions of Mexicans who live below the poverty line, or the millions more who have abandoned Mexico altogether to seek economic opportunity in the United States.
After the North American Free Trade Agreement, after the fall of one-party rule, after that exodus, what does "revolution" look like today?
The collection is a collaborative production by Canana, the company founded by actors Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal. It had its world premiere earlier this year at Berlinale 2010 and premiered in Mexico on Sunday night at the Morelia International Film Festival. The filmmakers who were asked to participate in the project were given a single task: Make a film that expresses what "revolution" means to you.
The result is a wide array of styles and stories, yet each is told from a perceptively personal angle. That was the idea, Luna said during a news conference in Mexico City Sunday morning.
"It's time to give it a personal touch, because for too long they've imposed upon us what the revolution means, and very few times are we given a space for personal expression," the actor said.
Luna and Garcia both offer shorts in "Revolucion," as does Carlos Reygadas, acclaimed director of "Japon," and Amat Escalante, director of "Los Bastardos."
In the short "Lindo y querido," by Patricia Riggen, Elisa is a Mexican American girl whose father's last wish before dying was to be buried in his hometown in Mexico. She resists the idea at first, but the prodding of an aunt, and the powerfully symbolic heirloom of a revolution-era pistol left in her family, cause Elisa to reconsider.
"I live in Los Angeles. When they ask what revolution means for me, well, it means a bunch of Mexicans living in the United States, no?" Riggen said an interview with La Plaza. "And I ask myself, Why? Why there are so many Mexicans there? Did the revolution triumph or fail?"
Riggen's most recent major feature, "La Misma Luna," also deals with the pressures applied on families by borders and migration. This time, she said, she's looking at "those who return."
"I've realized that Mexicans, despite the fact that they spend an entire life in the United States, they wish to return to Mexico to be buried," she said. "What power does that land have, that they wish to return to a country that did not support them, that did not give them many of their fundamental rights? That's where my story comes from."
-- Daniel Hernandez in Morelia, Mexico
Photo: A still from 'La 7th Street y Alvarado,' by Rodrigo Garcia. Credit: Canana films