Review: Nudo mixteco (2021)

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Nudo mixteco (2021)

Directed by: Angeles Cruz | 91 minutes | drama | Actors: Sonia Couoh, Noé Hernández, Myriam Bravo, Eileen Yañez, Aida López, Jorge Doal

San Mateo is a village in the Sierra Mixteca, in the highlands of the Mexican state of Oaxaca (in Southwest Mexico). Filmmaker Ángeles Cruz grew up in this culture, a culture characterized by a strong sense of community and traditional, say old-fashioned customs. There is a lot of poverty and there is a lot of migration to make ends meet. But there are also other motivations for leaving this region. In her debut ‘Nudo mixteco’, the director examines the effects these choices have on three different main characters, but also on those left behind, when they return to their native village for various reasons.

The events take place during the feast of the patron saint of San Mateo and each of the three storylines briefly intersects, only to go their separate ways. First we get acquainted with Maria who works as a maid. One day she gets a call with the bad news that her mother has passed away. Of course she wants to attend the funeral, but her estranged father does not want to know of her presence. It won’t be long before we find out why: Maria’s sexual orientation clashes with her father’s beliefs; in fact, he blames her for her mother’s death. How traumatic the farewell to her mother must therefore be: Maria hardly gets the chance to mourn. A small ray of hope is her renewed contact with her former lover Piedad, now a mother herself.

The second storyline is about Esteban, a typical macho, who, after years of working in the US, visits his wife and children and his mother who lives at home again. During the period of his absence, however, Chabela has taken in another man. Esteban is furious about this to say the least, he expected a very different welcome. He immediately takes measures to reclaim his place in the house. The village council may consider the matter; both spouses are allowed to have their say and then a vote is taken on what should be done. The result is a bizarre scene: you cannot imagine in our culture that you ‘voluntarily’ let a bunch of strangers decide your fate.

Toña, the third main character of ‘Nudo mixteco’, lives and works in the city. She sells backpacks and handbags. Business is not going too well, competition is fierce. Her mother and daughter still live in San Mateo. Toña has a boyfriend, who invariably puts on a lucha libre mask to have sex with her, which she undergoes patiently. Her return to San Mateo also starts with a phone call, but it is initially not clear what forces her to return to her roots. It is clear that it is not a pleasant experience. The reunion with mother and daughter is a bit difficult, but only when another family member is mentioned, the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

The female voice comes through loud and clear in this patriarchal society. The characters are filmed close to the skin, which enhances the intimate atmosphere and connection with the characters. The way in which the stories touch is subtle and artless. In terms of playing time, the film could have been a bit longer, because not all questions are answered; we would have liked to see more of some women. How are they going? Despite this, however, ‘Nudo mixteco’ is an impressive feature film debut.

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