We Are One Film Festival: Day Five
Online Screen Editor, Jim Norman, continues his coverage of the festival with a look at the brilliant Detrás de la Montaña
The fifth day of the We Are One Film Festival saw a number of features become available to the public, many of which had not seen a wide global release. One such film was Detrás de la Montaña, the debut feature from writer and director David R. Romay. It is releases such as this which affirm the brilliance of WAO. I knew nothing of this film prior to watching it and I was immediately enthralled into its world of patient storytelling and cinematic parallels.
Critically underseen on its release, Detrás de la Montaña combines an engaging storyline, creative cinematography and a brilliant lead performance to create one of the festival’s best releases to date. It is the story of Miguel, an 18-year-old boy whose monotonous daily routine working as a typist and caring for his mother is suddenly broken when he finds his mother dead, clutching a letter from his estranged father. What follows is a coming of age, road, thriller, revenge movie as Miguel leaves the safety of Mexico City to find his father.
Miguel doesn’t so much solve any of his mysteries as fall from one puzzle to the next as if swept along by the current
What I found the most engaging about this film was its multiplicity. On the one hand, we have a narrative reminiscent of Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here in which familial dependency results in enacting a revenge plot; yet the film balances this darkness with bright characters, each of whom appear to be torn directly from Wes Anderson’s notepad. There are multiple moments where we are reminded that the cigarette smoking, driven protagonist is no more than a child on the cusp of adulthood and is desperately out of his depth. Benny Emmanuel brings excellent nuance to the role, presenting the hard exterior of a grown up that he strives to be, yet frequently showing a chink in his armour as the fading light of infancy shines through in his more intimate moments.
Refreshingly, the narrative is not over ambitious and it works to settle into a rhythm before the next event comes about. The obstacles in the narrative are frequent and the plot rolls from one to another without dashing past nor standing still to marvel at its contrivances. Indeed, Miguel doesn’t so much solve any of his mysteries as float from one puzzle to the next as if swept along by the current.
The festival has proudly released an astounding programme of world cinema, introducing many Western viewers (myself included) to a host of filmmakers about whom I knew nothing prior to these screenings. Marking Romay’s debut feature film, Detrás de la Montaña is surely the start of a promising career in a longer cinematic form in the future. We all need to educate ourselves on cinema outside of the Western bubble, and this would be an excellent place to start exploring Mexican film.