Tuesday 9 February, 7 PM
Lecture Room 23, Balliol College, Oxford
TIERRA CALIENTE is the story of an ordinary family from this region of Mexico. As they go about their normal lives, they are caught in the crossfire between the Narco drug cartels and the military.
The screenplay is an edited transcript of conversations from the family recorded over a period of two years. Actors play the members of the family to protect their identity, but we are able to hear the actual recordings throughout the film, to remind the audience that these people are real.
Daughter 2’s husband, a taxi driver, was brutally murdered by a gang that works for the Narco. After he disappeared she and over 100 of her husband’s colleagues, went searching for him in the mountains. When they reached a military check point they were told to head back because if the Narco saw from the top of the mountains, one hundred taxis moving towards them, a massive shootout would begin. They refused to turn back. That morning they found his body lying on a canal.
Throughout the development of the film, we see how the murder of Daugher 2’s husband has affected the dynamic of this Mexican family. Daugher 2 carries on looking after her children, but she suffers from anxiety attacks and depression, a concern for all the family. The Father is the local party planner – putting on celebrations and making money out of the bar. An energetic and popular man, he believes in living life to the full. But in the growing troubles, parties are no longer safe – or profitable. So he becomes a market vendor with his wife.
His wife, the Mother, a Jehovah’s Witness, is solid in her faith and the rock of the family. They have three daughters. Each is impacted by the troubles in different ways.
Daughter 1 has gone to work in the Mexico City and trained as a beautician. Returning to her hometown, she is shocked to see the circumstances the rest of her family now live under. The Narco is extorting money, kidnapping and murdering.
The youngest, Daughter 3, is bright and sparky. She works in a tortillería but also sells shoes from a catalogue. She is fascinated by all things American and wants to leave for the United States, but her father forbids it. He has been to the States himself and knows first hand the dangers. The Father would rather die than see her go.Daughter 3, disappointed, gives in to her father’s demands to stay in her hometown. For Daughter 2 hard work provides a distraction from her pain and the danger that surrounds her. Yet, she is haunted by the memories of her dead husband and she is looking for answers that lead to her husband’s assassins. As she washes clothes by the river, she breaks down and Daughter 1 tries to comfort her. Daughter 2 resists at first, still resentful that her sister has escaped the troubles. But finally she accepts Daughter 1’s help and the two reconnect. They come to an understanding and acceptance of their terrible situation. They also see that they are not alone; other families around the world suffer from violence and oppressive circumstances.
Daughter 2’s son, Grandson, is a twelve year old boy who wants justice. He wants to join the military, but as violence increases thinks of joining the autodefense groups. These groups in Mexico where formed at the end of 2012, and took control of certain towns in Tierra Caliente. They are heavy armed civilians that confront the Narco and the police. Nobody knows who is behind them, if it’s the government or if it’s the Narco.
Daughter 2 who is immersed in her own suffering denies the possibility of her son joining theses groups. Other members of the family have suspicions but don’t know how to deal with the matter either.
Under the direction of President Calderón, the military attacks on the Narco and organized crime become increasingly severe. The Narco and the gangs change their tactics and the violence escalates. The unfortunate situation hasn’t changed with the new President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Nearby villages are evicted by the Narco – who are getting closer all the time. The family fear for their safety but try to continue living their normal lives. For them, the violence around them has become commonplace. Their biggest fear is for their children.
The film ends with the dilemma of Grandson leaving to join the autodefense groups, a sad consequence of Mexico’s tragic situation.