30 October 2008

LA ZONA (Dir. Rodrigo Pla, Mexico, 2007) - The State of Things

This is one angry film; provocative, satirical and moving. Set in Mexico, possibly sometime in the future, emerging film maker Rodrigo Pla's critical dystopia depicts a society deeply divided on social, political and economic grounds. The wealthy and apathetic ruling elite live in a Utopian enclave, 'La Zona', governed by their own laws who have been granted impunity from the government and they are prepared to go any extremes in order to protect and preserve their racist attitudes. This is a society driven by a culture of fear, xenophobia and paranoia that manifests itself transparently when Miguel, a 15 year old boy and symbol of the dispossessed, is lynched in a chilling sequence which unveils a disturbing level of racism. Such fear of 'the other' is a timely reminder of the increasing economic and class divisions that have become a defining characteristic of late capitalism today. What is possibly more sickening is that the people of 'La Zona' act collectively in their actions and the casual discarding of Miguel's dead body which turns up later as human waste is a frightening metaphor of contemporary social anxieties prevalent in much of western life.

This film could easily have become a vehicle for political preaching and Pla steers his course through the narrative with great assurance by choosing to use an understated directorial style that does not draw attention to genre. Though 'La Zona' has been marketed at a specialised audience, it bears many similarities with Alfonso Cuaron's recent film, 'Children of Men', however where it departs from adhering to Hollywood conventions is in the downbeat ending. No solutions are offered to many of the telling questions posed by 'La Zona', but one question that lingers once the credits have rolled over, is the one question that the greatest political film makers continue to ask today - how long can we allow this to go on for?

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