Film Archive

Countries (Film Archive)

Absences

Documentary Film
El Salvador,
Mexico
2015
26 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Anaïs Vignal, Julio López
Tatiana Huezo
Pablo Fernández
Ernesto Pardo
Lucrecia Gutiérrez Maupomé
Tatiana Huezo
Pablo Tamez
Ever since her husband and son were dragged out of the car and kidnapped by strangers four years ago, Lulu has drifted through her life in Mexico like a ghost. Though there is no trace of them she can’t stop searching. When is the right time to bury one’s hopes? Tatiana Huezo visually translates Lulu’s story into a reality that has cracked and shows the invisible: the feeling of absence – but also a path back to life.

Lars Meyer
German Competition 2015
Atl Tlachinolli Alexander Hick

Mexico City, a juggernaut of millions of inhabitants, fighting for survival. Its counterpoint is the mythical Axolotl, which does not undergo any metamorphosis but is losing its biotope. A bold portrait of a city.

Atl Tlachinolli

Documentary Film
Germany,
Mexico
2015
76 minutes
subtitles: 
German

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

University for Television and Films Munich, Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, A.C.
Alexander Hick
Juan Pablo Villa
Alexander Hick
Julian Sarmiento
Alexander Hick, Ileana Villareal
You don’t have to be a zoologist to understand Alexander Hick’s fascination with an animal singularly adapted to the formation of myths. The axolotl, a caudate, refuses to metamorphose. It will not go ashore but prefers to remain in the water as a larva and still manages to breed and regrow limbs. Even its heart and brain regenerate! The only problem is that its habitat has vanished. An 8-million metropolis is now rising where there used to be water: Mexico City. Alexander Hick asks how humans treat the conquered paradise through insistent images full of cultural historical, religious and mythological references. In fragmented parallel episodes he sketches the inhabitants of this megacity and their struggle for survival. Violence and corruption have hollowed out everything: the family, the institutions, the state. The film does not give us any faith in their self-“regeneration”. On the contrary.

So the axolotl, worshipped by the Aztecs, is the last witness of an oppressed and abused landscape and an age when humans were still capable of building advanced civilisations. An intelligent – in the noblest sense of the word – essay film, and the bold portrait of a city.

Cornelia Klauß
International Programme 2018
Atmahaú Pakmát Cameron Quevedo

A poetic and political film about border demarcations and their consequences, the struggle for survival of adobe brick makers in the Mexican-US border region and the magic of a river.

Atmahaú Pakmát

Documentary Film
Mexico,
USA
2017
24 minutes
subtitles: 
English

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Cameron Quevedo
Jesús Gerdel
Jim Hickcox
Cameron Quevedo
Will Harrell
Everybody’s talking about the planned wall between the US and Mexico, but what’s often overlooked is that this borderline is in itself a construct. In the mid-19th century, Mexico had to accept a massive loss of territory to its powerful northern neighbour. The demarcation line has followed the Rio Grande ever since. A poetic and political film about border demarcations and their consequences, the struggle for survival of adobe brick makers in the Mexican-US border region and the magic of a river.

Annina Wettstein
Next Masters Wettbewerb 2015
Dead When I Got Here Mark Aitken

An asylum for the mentally ill in Juárez, Mexico, where the ex-junkie Josué takes care of the castaways. An amazing ballad of difference and loss, violence and caring.

Dead When I Got Here

Documentary Film
Mexico,
UK
2015
72 minutes
subtitles: 
English

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Mark Aitken
Mark Aitken
Mark Pilkington
Mark Aitken
Sibila Estruch
Alex Bryce, John Thorpe
At first sight Josué looks like an ageing heavyweight boxer who found his way back to life – and his vocation – after a knockout. We are at “Visión en Acción”, a home for the mentally disturbed on the outskirts of Juárez, Mexico. A violent city in which Josué wasted his life as a heroin junkie. Six years ago they dumped him here, half-dead. At “Visión en Acción” there are no doctors or nurses, there’s not enough money, only a kind of self-administration run by the inmates. They opened their arms to Josué and healed him. He has lived here ever since and managed the home with the dedication of a man who crossed a border and was brought back to serve his fellow humans in the spirit of charity. “Visión en Acción” is an amazing place, whose daily routines Mark Aitken shows us in very factual images. The situations need no spectacular highlights, they speak for themselves: of being mentally different, of loss, caring and the violence of the city. At the same time this point of view forces us again and again to recognise our own limits in the face of abnormalities. That’s one of the things Josué teaches us, who, in some shots, doesn’t look like a boxer at all but rather like a slumped, thoughtful Buddha.

Matthias Heeder
Focus Latin America 2012
Drought Everardo González

A cattle farm in the dry Northeast of Mexico: man and animal fighting for survival against the drought, until the rain falls... An archaic cycle in impressive images.

Drought

Documentary Film
Mexico
2011
84 minutes
subtitles: 
English

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Martha Orozco, Cienega Docs S.A. de C.V.; Foprocine
Everardo González
Everardo González
Felipe Gómez, Clementina Mantellini
Everardo González
Pablo Tamez, Sound Design: Matias Barberis
“Cuates de Australia” doesn’t sound very Mexican, though it’s the name of a cattle farm in the dry Northeast of the country. A place that’s isolated from the world, without electricity, paved roads or fresh drinking water. The present inhabitants don’t know where the name came from. Life at “Cuates de Australia” is hard and the drought comes earlier every year, threatening to destroy the farmers’ livelihood. They endure until the springs dry up, the first animals die of thirst and the coyotes sneak closer and closer to the herd. Only then do the people and animals leave the village. A long caravan sets out in search of pasture and water, a place where they can wait for the rain while the daily chores must continue even now. Everardo González takes a calm look at the work of these men, women, old people and children and finds impressive images for man’s struggle for survival. When at last the first rain drops fall, the atmosphere suddenly changes: new colours arise, birdsong drives away the silence and a mood of departure spreads among the people. The old cycle of life resumes and hope returns to “Cuates de Australia” and its people. Sustained by a quiet rhythm, this film is a monument to an archaic lifestyle whose end is foreseeable.

– Paulo de Carvalho

Eskimal

Animated Film
Mexico
2011
8 minutes
subtitles: 
_without dialogue / subtitles

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Sem Aser Pérez, Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía
Homero Ramírez Tena
César Urbina Gonzalez
Homero Ramírez Tena
Laura Torres, Beatriz Rojas, Homero Ramírez, Sem Aser Pérez, Eder Navarro, Antonio Torres
An Eskimo and his friend the seal are desperately trying to save their home. Will they succeed?

Isolated

Documentary Film
Colombia,
Ecuador,
Mexico
2015
73 minutes
subtitles: 
English

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Marcela Lizcano, Juan Pablo Solano, Simon Beltrán Echeverri, Sarahi Echeverría
Marcela Lizcano
Daniel Velasco
Marcela Lizcano, Cecilia Madorno
Carla Valencia, Étienne Boussac
Marcela Lizcano
Daniel "el gato" Najar Garcés
The tiny island of Santa Cruz is part of the San Bernardo archipelago off the Colombian Caribbean coast, situated within sight of its big sister Múcura. It’s not really an island, more of a coral reef that fishermen used for storage in the past. Then they brought their families here from the mosquito plagued islands, built huts, and today Santa Cruz is a city: 1,200 square metres, 97 houses, 500 inhabitants. Crowded with people and goods this unlikely place serves as a metaphor for our planet for the Colombian director Marcela Lizcano. El Cabo, an old fisherman and lobster diver, acts as a guide who knows how to describe the changes: fish is running low, the lobsters are disappearing and the sea has already swallowed six of the original 16 islands around Santa Cruz. His reflections lead to a residents’ meeting which demonstrates on a small scale how obstinacy, corruption and greed destroy our world. And then there are the children who roam everywhere and for whom the sea is a playground. Their future is not in Santa Cruz. They are drawn to the mainland, where the fun is. They will miss the sea when they wake up there in the mornings. With “Isolated” the director has created the very affectionate portrait of a community whose crisis mirrors all our problems. The only thing is – where can we go?

Matthias Heeder

It’s Going to Be Beautiful

Documentary Film
Mexico,
USA
2018
9 minutes
subtitles: 
English

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Luis Gutiérrez Arias, John Henry Theisen
Luis Gutiérrez Arias, John Henry Theisen
Luis Gutiérrez Arias, John Henry Theisen
Luis Gutiérrez Arias, John Henry Theisen
John Henry Theisen
Luis Gutiérrez Arias, John Henry Theisen
Luis Gutiérrez Arias
Trump dreams of a barrier against immigration from Mexico become architecture. And we join in the dream. But do we dream in beige or blue? Do we dream with horizontal or vertical stripes, in reinforced concrete or disarming steel? Eight design prototypes are competing here, made ridiculous by the unlimited nature of the landscape and grounded by test climbers that pull themselves up these monoliths. A brilliantly filmed and conceived documentary joke – without the relief of laughter.

Sylvia Görke

Magic Words (to Break a Spell)

Documentary Film
Guatemala,
Mexico,
Nicaragua
2012
82 minutes
subtitles: 
English

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Jorge Sanchéz, Amaranta SA de CV
Mercedes Moncada Rodríguez
Leoncio Lara Bon
Carlos R. Rossini y Cuco Villarías
Mercedes Cantero
Mercedes Moncada Rodríguez
Lena Esquenazi
On 19 June 1979, the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua triumphed over the Somoza regime. This moment of upheaval in Nicaraguan society made an deep impression on eight-year-old Mercedes Moncada – even though she was still a child, it shaped her political consciousness. Three decades later the filmmaker takes a very personal and emotional look at the revolution by going in search of what’s left of Sandino’s promise in Managua. The growing disappointment at the path chosen by the Sandinistas is gradually revealed in observations, flashbacks and reflections. What started out with the aim of creating a “new man” ended in a system of political wangling and personal power and class interests. The revolutionary movement is slowly turning into a new authoritarian regime. Mercedes Moncada Rodriguez’s political and courageous film does not seek the moral high ground but presents a critical self-examination whose implications go far beyond the political developments in Nicaragua.

Paulo de Carvalho

Mutatio

Animated Film
Mexico
2011
8 minutes
subtitles: 
_without dialogue / subtitles

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Rita Basulto, Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía
León Fernández
Luis Palacios
Manuel Aldana
León Fernández
A strange humanoid wakes up abandoned on a great rock in the middle of the ocean. Without shelter or food, he must confront the very purpose of his life and the great mystery that sustains his species.
International Programme 2016
Plaza de la Soledad Maya Goded

The prostitutes of La Merced in Mexico City: between 50 and 80, often abused and beaten, courageous, strong and completely devoid of illusions. Highly intimate confessions brimming with burlesque humour.

Plaza de la Soledad

Documentary Film
Mexico
2016
84 minutes
subtitles: 
English

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Martha Sosa, Eamon O’Farrill, Monica Lozano
Maya Goded
Leonardo Heiblum, Jacobo Lieberman
Maya Goded
Valentina Leduc
Lena Esquenazi, Miguel Hernández
First of all, “Plaza de la Soledad” opens with an amazing, made-for-cinema scene that works in a documentary only if filmmaking is considered a collaboration between the people in front of and behind the camera. In this case it’s a project realised by photographer and filmmaker Maya Goded and the prostitutes of La Merced in Mexico City, whose trust Goded won over years of work on a series of photos about the neighbourhood.

These women, who have sold themselves to men ever since they were young and live off them even today, are between 50 and 80 years old. That means a lot of bottled-up stuff, and cinema is their medium of choice to give vent to their stories. They are brave and strong, women who were abused or raped as young girls, had to raise their kids without husbands and describe their biographies with no illusions – no self pity, focused only on survival. At the same time there’s an energy vibrating in this film, whose narrative scope ranges from burlesque everyday humour via sexual practices with customers to the most intimate confessions that reveal glimpses of their longing for a little security and love. There’s no doubt that the renowned Magnum photographer Maya Goded is also one of the great voices of contemporary Mexican cinema.

Matthias Heeder

Potentiae

Documentary Film
Mexico
2016
98 minutes
subtitles: 
English

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Alejandra Liceaga
Javier Toscano
Daniel Hidalgo Valdés
Ricardo Garfias
Omar Guzmán, Paulina del Paso
Javier Toscano
Luis Mercio, Carlos Aguilar Zafra
A literal change of format. A car door is pushed open and the image follows. The narrow frame widens, the camera starts to fly, floating slowly high above the roofs of Mexico City. Then it starts to descend, sinks down into a narrow alley, finds its protagonist and rises again. It’s the shot that changes everything, that translates everything seen so far into a new order of seeing, a new form of perception.

So the question is: what exactly is director Javier Toscano documenting in his film “Potentiae”? Is it the routines of moving without legs – on steps, in the water, on the cinder track? The technique of brushing one’s teeth without arms? The skilled handling of the white stick? For a long time we watch a closely observing film about the various daily practices and techniques of handicapped people: documents of different concepts of self-determined life on the outskirts of a megacity. But is that all? How does this car door that opened the image affect our own vision? Is it shifted or freed from limitations? Is our perception expanded or even exploded? Can we still trust our eyes?

Lukas Stern

Reality 2.0

Animadoc
Germany,
Mexico
2012
11 minutes
subtitles: 
English

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Victor Orozco Ramirez
Victor Orozco Ramirez
Victor Orozco Ramirez
It was autumn when the filmmaker arrived in Germany. Leaving his homeland Mexico he hoped to distance himself a bit from drug traffickers and the war on drugs. But he couldn’t escape.A short animated documentary about the drug-related violence in Mexico.
Disobedient Images 2016
Removed Naomi Uman

A film of unfulfilled dreams. Naomi Uman removed the objects of desire from a 1970s porn movie. Using nail polish remover and bleach, she made the women’s bodies invisible, frame by frame. What’s left is a phantom.

Removed

Animated Film
Mexico,
USA
1999
7 minutes
subtitles: 
No

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Naomi Uman
Naomi Uman
Naomi Uman
Naomi Uman
A film of unfulfilled dreams. Naomi Uman removed the objects of desire from a 1970s porn movie. Using nail polish remover and bleach, she made the women’s bodies invisible, frame by frame. What’s left is a phantom. The upstanding Romeos grasp nothing but emptiness and are left alone with their manhood.

Ines Seifert
International Programme 2013
The Convict Patient Alejandro Solar Luna

After an assassination attempt on the life of the Mexican president a man is locked up as a psychiatric case for the next 23 years. A record of the extinction of a human being.

The Convict Patient

Documentary Film
Mexico
2013
83 minutes
subtitles: 
English

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Alejandro Solar Luna, Rodrigo Herrnaz, Issa Guerra, Armando Casas
Alejandro Solar Luna
Luis Leñero Elu
Ignacio Miranda
Ernesto Contreras, Alejandro Solar Luna
Alejandro Solar Luna
One of those stories that it would be a reckless understatement to call incredible: during a protest rally in Mexico City on 2 October, 1968, almost 300 people are killed as President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz deploys the armed forces and special units of the presidential guard to re-establish order in the country. Carlos Castañeda de la Fuente witnesses the events as a bystander. But that day was to determine the rest of his life: in a helpless act of outrage one and a half years later, the professed Christian attempts to assassinate Ordaz, but is arrested carrying a weapon before it happens and picked out to be groomed by the secret police as the fanatic mastermind of an attempted coup. When this fails, mainly because of the accused man’s naiveté, he is declared insane and locked away. He is believed to have disappeared. For years he is subjected to massive physical and mental abuse, later he is more or less forgotten. It is not before 1993, after 23 years as a psychiatric patient, that he is helplessly shoved off into “freedom” to eke out a miserable existence as a deranged homeless man in Mexico City. Director Alejandro Solar Luna spent a long time reconstructing the depths of this case: the extinction of a human being over four decades.

Ralph Eue
International Programme 2017
The Mermaid Kingdom Luis Rincón

Mysterious incidents occur in a Nicaraguan fishing village: divers re-emerge paralysed from the waters. A strong belief in mermaids correlates with the tragedies.

The Mermaid Kingdom

Documentary Film
Mexico
2017
75 minutes
subtitles: 
English

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Rigoberto Perezcano, Bruno Cárcamo
Luis Rincón
Juan Pablo Ramírez Ibañez
Lucrecia Gutiérrez Maupomé
Luis Rincón
Bernat Fortiana
The boundary between the land and the sea is magic. When we see a few cows walking along the coast right at the start, it’s a picture of unity. Just like the bodies of mermaids who are said to look like fish from the belly down. There are many legends around these creatures. For example that people one of them falls in love with begin to stink of fish. Only special herbs can remove the smell, which makes locating the person impossible. Mermaids can cause pregnancies, too. And have huge banquets at the bottom of the sea. But the inhabitants of a Nicaraguan fishing village seem to have lost the local aquatic creatures’ favour: recently, incidents were observed where men returned paralysed from dives. Luis Rincón shows life on this boundary, the work above and below the water line. And he focuses on one paralysed man who almost never appears without his sunglasses. Once Rincón films him sitting at the window, so that the light playing on his skin looks like fish scales.

Carolin Weidner


Nominated for Healthy Workplaces Film Award