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Posted by martinteller on December 17, 2013

In a small Mexican fishing village, the working people break their backs to scrape together a few centavos a day.  The business is controlled by Don Anselmo (David Valle González, the only professional actor in the cast) with the help of his opportunistic lackey Mingo (Felipe Rojas) and a silver-tongued politician Rafael Hinojosa.  Miro (Silvio Hernández del Valle) has just lost his young son, unable to afford the medicine that would keep him alive.  Fed up with the pittance he receives from Anselmo, Miro starts to plant the seeds of revolt.

There’s not much more plot to this hour-long feature.  Commissioned by a left-leaning government as part of an educational initiative that began and ended with this film, it has a revolutionary, Marxist spirit that recalls the Soviet masters in many ways.  The plight of the working man, the call for unionization and collective bargaining, the use of dynamic montage and iconographic shots recalls the work of Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Dovshenko.  Miro is filmed like a figure as large and inspiring as Alexander Nevsky.

Co-directed by Fred Zinnemann and Emilio Gómez Muriel, there is little subtlety (perhaps to reach a wider audience) to the movie.  Shots are beautifully edited to compare the lives of the fishermen to the fish caught in their nets… but the point is loudly driven home by several subsequent lines of dialogue.  However, what the film lacks in artful nuance it makes up for in power.  Besides the directors, one must give credit to two others.  First is noted photographer Paul Strand, who not only shot the film but co-wrote it.  His images are very strong, mostly done with an unmoving camera but bursting with energy from their bold compositions.  Low-angle and high-angle shots lend the cinematography a dynamism that more than compensates for the lack of showy camera movement.  And Silvestre Revueltas provides a fantastic score, one that seems ahead of its time in its power and expressiveness.

The cast is not particularly great, and as I said, the film lacks subtlety (again, like the Soviet masters).  But there’s a vital revolutionary spirit at work here, and the aesthetic qualities make it a memorable experience.  Rating: Good (77)


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