Movie ‘La Zona’ thrills with its ambiguous take on Mexico’s class divide

Miguel runningThis brilliant directorial debut from Uruguayan-born Rodrigo Pla poses some of life’s most fundamental moral questions in a film that grips the viewer right from the start.

The feature also brings to the cinema, with very little exaggeration, some of the social dynamics of Mexican society and its obstacles to justice.

Set in a gated community for the rich in Mexico City, whose golf course is overlooked by shantytowns, the movie grapples with the issues of the rule of law, vigilante justice and corruption. Director Pla and screenwriter Laura Santullo use a bungled robbery that takes place in a suburb that is run by its own rules as the axis of the film’s moral quandary.

During a heavy storm, a billboard comes down on the fence of La Zona, giving three opportunist youths the chance to sneak in. When they’re interrupted robbing a house by its owner, an old woman, the youths kill her and try to make their escape. Two are killed by the Zone’s guards, and the third Miguel (Alan Chavez) goes into hiding after being unable to escape the compound. A security guard is also accidentally shot and killed in the incident by a scared old man.

City policeman Rigoberto (Mario Zaragoza) is probably more acquainted with the rules, or lack of them, in Mexico’s poorer neighborhoods. But the unlikely hand of justice comes sniffing around the residents of the Zone, perhaps spurred on by his own working-class resentments of a community that thinks itself special enough to wall-off the rest of the world.

Alejandro (Daniel Tovar), the 16-year-old son of one of the neighborhood leaders Daniel (Daniel Giménez Cacho), watches events unfold and sees his father join the undeniably bloodthirsty push for vigilante justice demanded by a the majority vote by the Zone’s council. Then he discovers Miguel hiding out in his basement.

Miguel at the fenceAlternating black and white grainy film from the Zone’s security cameras with beautifully shot footage thanks to the artful cinematography of Emiliano Villanueva, the film unfolds to tell the tale of Miguel’s fate at the hands of what effectively become his captors – the rich residents of the Zone.

The film surprises the audience again and again through unexpected twists of plot and unanticipated actions on the part of the main characters. There is very little black and white in the movie. Screenwriter Santullo does nothing to detract from Miguel’s responsibility in the crime of murder, but equally goes some way in explaining his motivation, as well as that of the character of Giménez Cacho, who after having being disappointed by the city police once before decides to take matters into his own hands.

Ultimately, each of the main characters plays out their role according to his or her own sense of right and wrong, and the film climaxes in a brilliantly executed sequence of rage and mob justice that chills even the hardest hearts.

A must-see from Mexico, and if it’s not on release in the UK or the US, get down to your dvd rental place now.

HollywoodReporter review
Variety Review
La Zona official site

One Response

  1. Gostaria de entrar em contato com Laura Santullo. Sou brasileiro e tenho alguns contos que gostaria de mostrar a ela.
    Pedro Borges
    PS: Não escrevo em înglês ou em espanhol.

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