Festival Review: The Barbican Focus Film Festival 2016 presents: Güeros

The Barbican Focus Film Festival runs Sat 19 – Sun 20 Mar in Cinemas 2 & 3.

Take a look at the programme in full to discover more. 

Güeros directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios |Mexico 2014, 107 min.


The Barbican's Focus Film Festival 2016 celebrates coming of age stories and tales about breaking the rules, with films featuring young people who do things differently and see the world in distinctive, exciting ways. What also makes the festival unique is the programmers: the entire festival is curated by the Barbican Young Programmers, a group of 16–25-year-olds developing their knowledge of the film industry with the help of the cinema’s in-house programme team. 

This year's programme includes the acclaimed Mexican drama Gueros, the carbon-black beauty pageant satire of Drop Dead Gorgeous starring Kirsten Dunst, and the adrenaline-filled documentary about race car drivers in the occupied Palestine territories; Speed Sisters. 

The young programmers have also been blogging and tweeting about putting the festival together, as well interviewing some of the filmmakers. You can listen to Kat Kourbeti's interview with the director and subjects of race car documentary Speed Sisters here as well as check out the entire archive of interviews by the team.

Smoke Screen dipped into the festival to check out first time director Alonso Ruizpalacios lively black-and-white road trip movie about two brothers in Mexico City: Gueros. A tribute to the stylish, monochrome French New Wave classics of yesteryear, the loosely plotted, but charming and intimate film, shot largely with hand held cameras and presented in gorgeous monochrome, follows young teen Tómas and his older student brother Sombra as they roam across a sweltering Mexico City trying to chase down a faded rock singer who they both grew up listening to.

This unlikely plan is really an excuse for the filmmaker to take us on an engaging romp across the four corners of the bustling city by day and night, with Sombra's slacker buddy and flatmate Santos plus his political activist and on-off girlfriend Ana joining them for the ride. They wander into various side-stories and capers, ranging from their natural sibling friction, Sombra and Santos's hilarious attempts to steal power for their dingy student flat from the neighbours below, a party for smug movie stars in the swankier part of town, and the fervent atmosphere of Ana and Sombra's University which has been taken over by various revolutionary student committees, who seem more interested in fighting amongst each other than getting anything done.

There is an appealingly dreamy, smoky atmosphere to the entire film, with the constantly roaming camera giving a real sense of restless energy to things, even when the characters are just standing around arguing about what to do. The soundtrack is playful and immersive: though we are denied hearing the magical music of folk star Epigmenio Cruz (making him some kind of mystical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow) the busy mix of diegetic sound and music, and sudden drop outs of all peripheral noise to focus on particular stylised sound elements (such as when Sombra has his panic attacks) works really well at making everything feel alive. Despite the surface-level artistic pretensions, the film is far more sweetly funny and relatable than it is highbrow. This a great love letter to Mexico City, perfect for fans of Jim Jarmusch.

 

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Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.