MVFF 35: Aquí y Allá dir. Antonio Mendez Esparza

In a particularly heartbreaking scene, Pedro scrambles on foot all over town, looking for expensive medicines which will save his wife, in danger of dying in childbirth. As he walks through the streets in a state of quiet anxiety, we hear the exhortations of protesting revolutionaries in the background, urging on the proletariat. With this short, effective and devastating scene the message is clear: while the political is the personal, the personal is so much more – physically, metaphysically, spiritually. No political protestation or declaration, no matter how well-intended, can match the daily personal struggle for survival and meaning.

Films about immigration/migration in this century of rapid globalization are not new – filmmakers from Senegal, Mexico, Burma and elsewhere have chronicled the personal toll of economic inequality on human dignity. With this moving and eloquent film, Mr. Esparza does not cast fresh perspective – rather, he grants all his characters a palpable dignity rarely seen in films of this genre. We cannot pity or condescend. While they are subject to external forces out of their control and comprehension, they carry on with grace. Mr. Esparza (and his team of capable and direct actors) further manages to convey those joys which are magnified in times of struggle: the successful birth of a premature baby, dancing, music, lovers talking in the dark, schoolyard gossip. Pedro’s town of Copa maintains these little joys despite life’s hardships and the inevitability of migration to the U.S. to work. Finally, Mr. Esparza wonderfully conveys the dynamics of separation and re-connection, especially through the touching scenes between Pedro and his daughters.

With notable performances by Pedro de Los Santos (Pedro) and Lorena Guadalupe Pantaleón Vázquez (Lorena).

Aquí y Allá was the winner of the Grand Prix Semaine de la Critique at Cannes 2012 and the Spirit of Freedom Award at the Jerusalem Film Festival, 2012. It has shown to great acclaim at AFI Fest, the Busan Film Festival, and the Moscow International Film Festival, among others.

Aquí y Allá. Dir. by Antonio Méndez Esparza. Torch Films et al., 2012. In Spanish.