Roots

Roots ★★★

A Mexican director picks up the neorealist playbook and runs with it. Alazraki became the Great New Hope for local art-cinema fans on the basis of this one, but his career petered out and he ended up making cowboy musicals and Santo movies just like everyone else.

Four short dramas under an umbrella, stories about tribal Indians in different parts of the country. Number three, the one-eyed child anecdote, turns on a deep dark ugly black joke that even Bunuel might have thought was too transgressive, but the two white-devil stories are over the top in their own ways, too... straw-man style. Could a 1950s anthropologist like the one in story #2 really have been that ignorant of cultural-relativity issues? Seems like the contrivance of people who don't know how that level of academia functions. Likewise the archeologist in #4 who has so much trouble with the concept of sexual consent, who ends up trying to buy himself a young woman at the farmer's-market livestock exchange. (His comeuppance, though, came from an unexpected conceptual twist and was very gratifying.)

Worth watching, I'd say, but 'art cinema' here was more a question of ambition and imitation than anything personal that the director brought to the table.

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