As the film opens with a love scene between two extremely young Mexican teenagers, one begins to wonder what the rest of the film is going to consist of, if the film description has not been read. I suggest reading this summary, or another before going and watching Las Elegidas, as it is a very powerful and emotional film.
The setting is Mexico, in a couple different towns and locations, and is centered around one family, which operates a whore house. The film follows the personal and public conflict of a teenage boy Ulises, as he struggles with the decisions he is being forced to make. Does he join the family business as his brother did before him and please his family, or follow his heart, and the young girls that have stolen it.
Alongside this storyline, the women who are endangered, and essentially removed from society are a focal point of the film, as it tries to show the horrors of human sex trafficking.
The most amazing aspect of the film was the cinematography, specifically the use of the camera to capture the expressions of the individual characters. The most important example of this use of camera was the prolonged time spent on a character’s face during an intense part of the film. Having the character stare out at you and allowing you to sense the emotion that they were going through at that moment was a moving experience emotionally. Many times throughout the film, I found myself looking away or closing my eyes due to the power and the emotion that was being created. The emotions were hardly ones of happiness, and there will be a constant longing to reach out and help the victims of the film for anyone who views it. A second, yet still important aspect of the film, was the limited use of dialogue in various scenes. The main character, Ulises, is not prone to speaking extensively with anyone, and uses short phrases throughout the film. This limited use of dialogue creates the necessary use of body language to convey emotion and meaning in the film. The film does this expertly through the use of sexual encounters, and cameras focusing on the facial expressions of the characters.
The acting in the film is tied in with the aspects of the cinema work that has already been described, and was done expertly. The ability of the characters to convincingly portray what emotions they were experiencing through limited use of words and doing so in situations that were most definitely uncomfortable for actors to portray. The female actors, deserve all the respect one has to offer, for portraying roles that should not have to be portrayed. They gave a voice to a problem that is persisting in not only Mexico, but just about everywhere else in the world. One criticism that can be made of Las Elegidas is that most of the scenes are filmed in very restrictive settings. Bedrooms, kitchens, living spaces, and other locations that are cramped and small were found throughout the film. This forces those watching to focus on one character at a time, and can’t accurately account for all of the reactions and body language of the others in the room. One could argue however, that this contributes to the emphasis of facial expressions and individual body language that the film has, and so expertly executes.
In regards to personal views of the film, I had a difficult time watching it, all the time knowing that real world examples of what the film was about were very real and numerous. The topic of human sex trafficking, or forced prostitution is not one that is frequently discussed in everyday life and the film was uncomfortable to watch. The film was emotionally riveting and moving. For those who view Las Elegidas, it is impossible to not have a sorrowful reaction. The images and scenes portrayed were disturbing for me, yet made me conscious of the overall message of the film. It seems that there is a trend throughout the Latin American film community to produce films that address the issues that they have in their society and bring them to the forefront of their media. This is an admirable endeavor, and one that should be replicated throughout other communities.
The film festival itself, without attending every day, seemed to be three days of great films being watched, analyzed, and hopefully enjoyed. I did not partake in any of the Latin American food that was provided, but as many can attest to, I’m sure it was superb and delicious. As I mentioned before, the festival sought to bring large issues in society to the forefront of our minds and did so expertly both through film and through discussion in the panels that they held after certain films. I recommend the festival to anyone who has not attended, and I am certain to attend next year, because after all, it’s FREE!
Shifting back to Las Elegidas, I will pass along a cautious recommendation of the film to others. To clear any confusion, the film is not something that one should particularly enjoy, due to its message, but rather appreciate. I for one, did appreciate it tremendously and would encourage anyone else to go and see it for themselves. The caution that I wish to extend is for the harshness of some of the content there within. Some of the material that is expressed in the film is difficult to watch, and difficult to listen to.
That being said, it is imperative that we expose ourselves to these issues and these problems, because they exist in our communities as well. For this reason alone I would recommend this film to U.S. audiences. We cannot just watch the films for their cinematic value and expertise, but must also extract the message that they are sending, and be able to keep this in the forefront of our minds as we go about our daily lives.
History of Latin America – Spring 2017