Director Alonso Ruiz Palacios’ groundbreaking debut shot completely in crispy 4:3 black and white offers an authentic lens into the world of Guero, a troubled Mexican adolescent. When he gets to be too much for his weary single mom, Guero is sent away to live with his estranged older brother, Sombra (named after his dark-skin). The two brothers may look nothing alike, but their shared love for the songs of (imaginary) musician Epigemio Cruz make them damn near twins. Added to Cruz’s legendary status is the title of being the guy whose songs made Bob Dylan cry -- which only adds to the appeal of any music fan. San Diego Latino Film Festival’s Moises Esparza, who helped hand-select this indie film for local music-loving audiences, tells us why “Gueros” will inspire brotherly revolution and why Natalia Lafourcade’s theme song is the perfect fit.
Dita Quiñones: Why do you think the filmmaker chose an imaginary music star "Epigmenio Cruz" vs. real-life musician?
Moises Esparza: The film’s plot, at least initially, is focused on the Sombra and Tomas’ search for Cruz. As the narrative progresses, Cruz reveals himself to be a bit of a MacGuffin as it becomes abundantly clear that the two brothers’ journey they embark on is full of experiences that are more important than the actual destination. Essentially the director needed Cruz to be a blank canvas, not an established musician so that he could craft a complete and multi-layered identity for him without any interfering preconceived notions of real-life music celebrities.
DQ: Do you think the film will connect with young adults on this side of the border?
ME: “Gueros” will surely connect with young adults on this side of the border. The film’s tagline is “To be young and to not be a revolutionary is a contradiction.” It should appeal to anyone who has ever pushed for institutional reform, challenged the status quo, and felt comfortable existing within “the struggle” in order to create progressive change. Young spectators will see parallels between the activism presented in the film with the social justice movements taking place in Mexico. Hopefully it will inspire them to stand in solidarity with the young people of Mexico staging their own revolutions.
DQ: Do you like that “Gueros” is shot in black and white?
ME: The film’s heart is full of reverence for the cinema of Godard and Truffaut, both vanguards of the French New Wave. The most obvious signifier of this is the film’s aesthetic: shot in luminous black and white, maintaining a 4:3 aspect ratio throughout. The effect is a sweetly nostalgic love letter to the cinema that inspired it. The joy of “Gueros” is in being witness to how it transcends established cinematic conventions by proving itself to be modern in narrative and style.
DQ: I love that Natalia Lafourcade is involved in the soundtrack! Tell me more.
ME: Natalia Lafourcade sings the official theme song, “Azul.” It is inherently a hopeful song. One that identifies the color blue as having the power to transform one’s bleak existence into a beautiful one. The film is about displaced individuals searching for a purpose, for a stronger sense of personal convictions, and for meaningful relationships -- Lafourcade’s song reaffirms this is all possible.
With this being Palacios’ feature debut, it confirms once again the strength of Mexican cinema. “Gueros” is a brilliantly candid coming-of-age film. When you have two siblings who share the universal experience of finding strength and faith through good music, it's inevitable that it will have crossover appeal to any audience even the toughest of critics like the NY Times and Roger Ebert.
Mexican filmmakers did it again with this soon-to-be-cult-classic.
“Gueros” is now playing at the Digital Gym through July 9. For more ticket and showtimes go here. Watch the trailer here.
Dita Quinones is a multimedia journalist born in Tijuana with a passion for Latin alternative and hip-hop music news. Her main goal is to uplift and inform so that the Latino, Filipino and hip-hop community get knitted into the fabric of American history. In addition to SoundDiego, she contributes to Latina, Fox News Latino, Poder, VidaVibrante, San Diego CityBeat and HipHopDx. She is also the founder of the infamous music and politrix blog GN$F! Follow Dita on Twitter or on Facebook.