Mexican journalism exists in a world of exploitation and aggrandizement that is uniquely its own. In newspapers throughout the country pictures of naked models are juxtaposed with images of cartel massacres. Sex and violence are interwoven as they quickly address the most base of our desires. There is an honesty in this kind of media that (while not high-minded) speaks volumes about what excites us and arouses our darkest senses.
WE ARE THE FLESH starts with a young brother and sister in a crumbling Mexican city. It’s safe to assume they have been roaming the streets for years in search of food and shelter. Early in the film, they take refuge with an older hermit who quickly puts them to work building a cavernous structure inside his building. The hermit begins to act out on his fantasies and pushes the brother and sister to explore/take action on their most deplorable impulses.
Director Emiliano Rocha Minter began working professionally in film at 16. Casting Director, Set Photographer, Director of Photographer… if you can think of a position on a film set there stands a good chance Minter did it. That history and experience allowed a 27-year-old filmmaker to make one of the strongest feature-length debuts I’ve seen in years.
When dealing with incest, cannibalism, sadism… few films have the nerve to cast a non-judgmental lens on their subjects. In many ways, the film is celebrating the actions of its protagonists. In fact, they are all antagonists from a societal view. But the film isn’t concerned with such labels. We as an audience see them as bad people doing bad things. We notice how they didn’t really need to be pushed that hard to start acting out. So, we conclude these must be some pretty deranged kids. It would be incredibly easy to be reductive dismiss this film based on the content and not its context. Yes, this film is incredibly explicit but it has more than sex on its mind.
WE ARE THE FLESH is an exploration of our most intimate and carnal desires. I’m sure some people will be offended and they are not wrong to be offended, this IS an offensive film. But to treat this film as if were not worthy of consideration is a mistake. It uses vulgarity to speak a greater truth about our culture. For some the election of Donald Trump is offensive but it speaks a truth about who we are as Americans. To dismiss that part of ourselves with examination would be dangerous.
I’m incredibly curious to see what Minter will do next. I'd like to see what he can do with a more traditional narrative. Films like MULHOLLAND DRIVE, LOST HIGHWAY, and BLUE VELVET are made better because of THE ELEPHANT MAN and THE STRAIGHT STORY. We know David Lynch can use established formulas to tell his stories if he so chooses. So, when his films go off the rails it’s easier to believe it was a choice, not a mistake. I have that same feeling about Minter.
We Are the Flesh will open in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre January 13th and in New York City on at Cinema Village.
It will also open for weeklong runs in Laredo and San Antonio on January 13, Denver and New Orleans on, and San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Columbus on .
Special screenings include El Paso, Houston, Phoenix, Cleveland, Portland and Albuquerque throughout January and February.