Friday, July 15, 2011

Copa America 2011: Mexico

Entry #4 for the Copa America 2011 Book & Film Festival.

Book: The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela

Mariano Azuela’s book gives a ground level view of the Mexican Revolution, a landmark historical event that continues to be a source of inspiration for literature and cinema. Revolutions are often messy and sometimes very bloody. Over time, the graphic details of a revolution are softened in favour of the legacy of the revolution and impact it had for the nation and its citizens. Azuela’s book, originally published in 1915, etches out such vivid characters and situations that ensures one will never forget the blood and sacrifice that went into the revolution. The book uses the character of Demetrio Macias as an anchor to depict the revolution and blood letting that occurred. At the start of the book, Demetrio is just a peaceful man but he is thrust into the struggle after his house is burnt down.

“Why didn’t you kill ‘em?”
“Their hour hasn’t struck yet.”
They went out together; she bore the child in her arms. At the door, they separated, moving off in different directions.
The moon peopled the mountain with vague shadows. As he advanced at every turn of his way Demetrio could see the poignant, sharp silhouette of a woman pushing forward painfully, bearing a child in her arms.
When, after many hours of climbing, he gazed back, huge flames shot up from the depths of the canyon by the river. It was his house, blazing....

The above lines come just four pages into The Underdogs and the book does not ease up after that but dives deeper and deeper into the eye of the storm. The Underdogs paints a stark picture of how some people break free from their principles when dealing with survival, poverty or power. The book is made up of quickly paced short chapters akin to scenes in a film. The words are carefully chosen and properly convey the sentiments of the characters without ever feeling dramatic or un-needed. Azuela’s book is a combination of his personal experiences and fictional recreation based on accounts he heard from soldiers and people effected by the revolution. The end result is a work that depicts many powerful scenarios that stay long in the memory.

Film: Duck Season (2004, Fernando Eimbcke)

Best friends Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego Cataño) have a fun afternoon planned out involving video games and pizza. Their video game duel is first interrupted by the young girl next door, Rita (Danny Perea), who wants to borrow the oven for some baking. The boys let her in and resume their gaming only to get hungry. They order pizza from a shop that promises the pizza will be free if it is not delivered under 30 minutes. The delivery man Ulises (Enrique Arreola) manages to arrive a shade under 30 minutes but the boys don’t open the door and count down the seconds until the 30 minutes are up. They then refuse to pay because they claim Ulises missed his deadline. Ulises refuses to leave until he has been paid and a showdown emerges between him and the two boys. Eventually the stalemate is broken when it is agreed the pizza money fate will be decided by a soccer video game. The game is in on the verge of completion when the electricity goes out, something which even disrupts Rita’s baking, a baking task that never seems to end. The four lay around on the couch and new friendships are developed and their personalities are altered due to the presence of some marijuana brownies. Ulises is not happy in his job and not pleased with the direction his life has taken and the brownies only help bring him clarity.

Fernando Eimbcke’s film is shot in Mexico but it has a universal theme and could take place in any city where a combination of video games, pop, pizza and hormones has the power to alter an otherwise average day. The film also raises some other issues, merely by its absence such as the issue of parenting and how it has an effect on young children. The film’s title comes from a painting of ducks in the living room and as per picture, the lives of the four characters undergoes a migration of sorts even though neither of them physically leave the apartment.

Copa America 2011 Campaign

The Mexican team that arrived at Copa America was not the goal scoring machine that won the Gold Cup but instead a younger team, with many talented prospects. A combination of a doping and off-field scandal left Mexico without more than half their senior squad so an U-23 Olympic level team took to the field in Argentina. For such an inexperienced squad, Mexico looked dangerous at times in their 2-1, 1-0 and 1-0 losses to Chile, Peru and Uruguay respectively. Still, a lot is expected from the Mexican national team no matter which age level team takes part because of the immense following of the game in Mexico and also because of the skillful talented players that are present. So it was surprizing to see Mexico finish not only bottom of Group C but also as the only team who did not earn a single point at Copa America. The three games surely provided a valuable lesson for the young players, some of whom will most likely play a part in the senior team’s qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

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