Dir. Diego Luna, Spanish with Eng subtitles, 2010
Thu 30 June 2011 // 19:30 / Cinema
First film from Diego Luna, actor in Y Tu Mama Tambien and Milk, this film was selected by the London Film Festival this year, and gathered incredible reviews internationally. This is a very touching comedy-drama about a young 9 year-old who lives in a fantasy world.
Abel was produced by Canana Films, a company that director Diego Luna Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal started with producer Pablo Cruz.
Mute Abel is no ordinary nine-year-old. He is coming home after spending time in a psychiatric facility, having reacted badly to his father's disappearance two years earlier. His mother Cecilia urges patience from his siblings but elder sister Selene and brother Paul resent his uneasy presence.
Then suddenly Abel decides to speak again and alarmingly reinvents himself as the patriarch of the house, screening his sister's boyfriend and ordering his brother and mother around the place. When his father suddenly reappears, however, the fragile family dynamic looks to snap, shifting things definitively for all concerned.
"Diego Luna crafts a visually sumptuous treatment of the disturbed Abel. Real-life brothers Christopher and Gerardo Ruiz-Esparza [the childen actors] deliver charming performances as Abel and his younger sibling, served by a screenplay that moves confidently between comedy and high drama." - LONDON FILM FESTIVAL
Critic's Choice - THE GUARDIAN, SUNDAY TIMES CULTURE, THE TIMES
"Diego Luna is a director to watch" - EMPIRE ****
"Enigmatic and enticing" - SIGHT & SOUND
"Excellent - A True Original" - DAILY MIRROR (THE TICKET)
"There's an intriguing air to Abel and a well-paced finale that prove Luna's direction is mature beyond his years."- THE TELEGRAPH
Shown at the Sundance Film Festival (not in competition)
INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR: DIEGO LUNA
Extracts of an interview with the director in Sight & Sound (whole interview here):
Where on the international festival circuit has Abel been most positively received?
I’d say there were three screenings that were particularly important. The first was Sundance, which was the first time I saw the film working with an audience. People applauded when Abel puts the chocolate cigarette in his mouth, as if they were trying to interact with the film.
Second was Cannes, where the silence in the audience was so intense you could cut it with a knife. They didn’t laugh at all for the first 40 minutes of the film… yet they gave me a standing ovation!
Then last night [at the London Film Festival], because my mother was English, and so half of my family was there to see it.
You yourself have said how little funding there is in the Mexican film industry. How do you explain the proliferation of cinematic talent coming out of the country?
When faced with problems such as poverty and violence, artists get the urge to say, to shout, to vomit stuff. In fact, today the country is in a terrible condition.
I can think of countries that have these problems, but no cinema to speak of.
I guess so. But the same party ruled Mexico for 70 years, and only fell from power eleven years ago. In this sense, Mexico is a teenager: it’s finding its voice, and I think that a lot of filmmakers are celebrating this.
But we’ve got to make a distinction between the Mexican film industry and a small collection of individual voices. There’s definitely a sense of community among those individuals: it’s about celebrating the success of the others.
You and Gael García Bernal are seen as something of a duo. How have your careers been affected by that association?
Positively, because it’s not an association that grew out of professional necessity; we were childhood friends who ended up working together. And when we’re together, there’s a strength that’s otherwise lacking.
Take the Ambulante festival: the two of us together managed to create and organise it in five months. Same thing with Canana Films. We also have our own individual lives… but it’s nice to be able to call each other up whenever. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger.
Tickets on the door £5/£3.50 (conc) or buy advance tickets online for £4.50 from here
PART OF THE VAMOS FILM SEASON (9-30 June 2011)
...Showcasing some of the best and unseen recent films from Latin America:
This film season featured in the GUARDIAN! Here