Monday, 17 March 2014


“It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” - PopeJohn XXIII

A very good Mexican film for Movie Monday today. It is Gustavo Loza’s 2004 film “Al OtroLadostarring Carmen Maura, Héctor Suárez, Vanessa Bauche. Loza also wrote the screenplay for this movie, and it was selected by the Mexican Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as the Official Entry for Mexico in the 78th Annual Academy Awards in the Foreign Language Film category. Although the film did not win an Oscar, it was awarded the prize of the Jury at the 4th Latin America Film Festival in Bremen in 2006. The film also won awards at the Lleida Latin-American Film Festival 2006 and the Newport Beach Film Festival 2006.

The film is a drama featuring three stories on a similar theme about the bonds between children and absent fathers. A Mexican boy, Prisciliano, experiences the absence of his father who decides to go and work in USA as an illegal immigrant. A Cuban boy, Ángel, who lives in poverty with his mother and grandfather, longs to visit his father who lives in USA. A Moroccan girl, Fatima, attempts to reunite with her father, who is working in Spain. The stories are interwoven and the themes are explored in each case with the dangers facing the children who seek their fathers highlighted as the film progresses.

The Mexican story is the most extensively covered and is strengthened by the quasi-fantasy inset of an ill-fated Pre-Columbian princess who haunts a lagoon. The Cuban story was quite tragic and the Moroccan tale had us squirming with its realism, and we were very concerned about poor little Fatima’s fate. As the tales mingle, the pathos of the three children who all wish to be reunited with their absent fathers makes for compelling viewing.

The acting was extremely good and the three children played admirably. After all it is their film, with the adults having supporting roles. The cinematography was very good and the music outstanding – sympathetic to the action, appropriate and never intrusive, but always noticeable. I guess that is what good film music is all about.

“Al Otro Lado” is a modest movie, 90 minutes long, but nevertheless contains great storytelling and avoids cheap sentimentalism, which it could easily have descended into. Telling the story from the viewpoint of the children, reduces it to its most essential and human component, with emigration seen as terrible thing that separates families. The stories are told sincerely, with some funny moments and some poignant ones.  We enjoyed it very much and recommend it most highly.

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