Saturday, July 10, 2010

El Violin: A Movie for the Masses

Olga García Echeverría

It was the 4th of July weekend and the constant fireworks exploding in the streets of Lincoln Heights could have easily been a movie downer. We're talking real barrio quetes with the occassional crazy balazo. Did I mention the poor howling perros? My girlfriend's tiny TV may have also ruined the film, but neither the cherry bombs nor the limited-sized screen had much of an effect on my viewing of Francisco Vargas' El Violin. That's because Vargas' 2005 Mexican film is more explosive than an M-80.

From its disturbing opening scene of torture to the unpredicatable narrative that unfolds, El Violin hooks the viewer. The film highlights the tension between marginalized campesinos and the government. Although the diction is clearly Mexican, the setting is never revealed, and the story could very well take place in Guatemala, Colombia, or Bolivia.

A true star in the film is Angel Tavira, the 81-year-old man who played Don Plutarco Hidalgo, a humble, rural musician who uses his violin as both an instrument of peace and a weapon for survival. In 2006, Tavira received the Best Actor Award at the renowned Cannes International Film Festival for his leading role in El Violin. I find it a bit ironic that fireworks were blasting in the backdrop as I watched Tavira fiddle his violin with one hand. The first-time actor was a real-life musician who actually lost his right hand to an exploding firecracker when he was 13. ¡Pinche quetes!

Other actors in the movie are Mario Garibali who plays Plutarco's grandson, Gerardo Taracena (Apocalypto 2006) who plays Don Plutarco's son and Dagoberto Gama (Amores Perros 2000) who plays El Capitán. These lead actors create an incredible cast of characters that challenge our sensibilities and keep us at the edge of our seats.

El Violin is definitely a political film, yet it successfully avoids being didactic. Instead the film speaks through its characters, their struggles, and through many scenes that don't even need dialogue. Beautifully shot in black and white, there is also something very romantic and classic about the film. This is the best of film--pure, honest, raw, and so perfectly executed that it doesn't feel like fiction at all.

I can say much more about Francisco Vargas' film, but I don't want to spoil the plot. Instead I'd like to invite you all to come out and see a special screening of El Violin in Koreatown. It's all for a great cause--to help those devasted from the tropical storm in Guatemala.

Remember this?

Luis Echeverria/May 31st/Photo released by Guatemala's Presidency

In May of this year, a tropical storm named Agatha hit Central America and devasted Guatemala. Aside from killing and disappearing hundreds of people, it displaced an estimated 74,000 people. In Guatemala City, the earth caved in, swallowing a 3-story building and creating a surreal sink hole that is about 60 feet wide and 30 feet deep.

Here in Los Angeles, a dedicated group of individuals, organizers, and community leaders wasted no time in responding to the Guatemalan emergency. They formed El Comité Los Angeles de Guatemala and held a series of fundraisers to collect much needed items, such as clothing, shoes, blankets, canned foods, etc. The group also raised money to buy grains, such as beans and rice. They have also raised enough funds to send one of their representatives to Guatemala to assure the aid reaches the right hands.

Originally, the group was generously offered free shipping; however, at the last minute, this was not possible. The group now has to pay an additional $400.00 to transport the aid to Guatemala. In an effort to raise the needed money ASAP, El Comité Los Angeles de Guatemala is having one final fundraiser, the screening of El Violin. Here are all the details:

Trailer Teaser From the Official Website:

Tuesday July 20th at 6:30 PM.
(Movie is 98 minutes long)

$10.00 Suggested Donation

KIWA's Cultural Educational Center
3471 S. 8th Street
Los Angeles CA 90005

Popcorn & Wine!

Rebecca Ronquillo of El Comité Los Angeles de Guatemala says, "We've worked very hard to accomplish this mission and getting the supplies to Guatemala is our last challenge. We're asking people to come out and help us finalize this collective effort to get these supplies to the Guatemalan people. Our movie night is a great opportunity to see a great foreign film. Great movie. Popcorn. Wine. Community. All for a good cause just for $10.00. You can't go wrong with that."

*If you can't make it to the screening, please consider making a contribution to this important and timely cause. Contact Rebecca Ronquillo at or at 213.738.9050


Do These Shoes Make Me Look Illegal?
Come Join us for a Night of Creative Resistance:
Poetry, Photos of Arizona's National Day of Action, Music, Raffle & Other Ghetto Goodies
UCLA Labor Center
675 S. Park View
LA CA 90057-3306
Saturday, July 17th, 2010 from 7-9 PM
$5.00 dollar suggested donation
Several poets/artists will be hositing a fundraiser for Sergio Hernandez, the 15-year-old boy who was shot and killed at the El Paso-Juarez border by an ICE agent. All proceeds go to his family. To learn more about the event or the participating artist:

1 comment:

msedano said...

great film review today on El Violin, Olga. One can ask no more from a review: your words make me want to view it.

hope to see you at the benefit next sat, if the creek don't rise etc.