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TRÓPICO DE CÁNCER and Other Awarded Documentaries of 2003

Rafael Aviña

Translator, Andrea Cabrera

The unexpected and unfortunate death of the talented and young documentary filmmaker Eugenio Polgovsky Ezcurra (Mexico City, June 29, 1977 - London, Great Britain, August 11, 2017) coincided with the exhibition of two Mexican feature films of enormous importance: Tempestad, by Tatiana Huezo, and La libertad del diablo, by Everardo González. He was a graduate of Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica (CCC), like Tatiana and Everardo. Polgovsky was one of those enthusiastic filmmakers who broke new ground showing the poverty, marginalization, abuse and ecological destruction of Mexico and several of its inhabitants.

Through the documentary, that cinema without glamour, without stars and without the bureaucracy and triumphalist positions of the institutions of that time, Polgovsky expressed his concern for vulnerable sectors of the country: children in particular. His thesis and first documentary was Trópico de cáncer (2004), the undisputed winner in the second edition of the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM) held in 2004. It was also awarded an Ariel for debut film, the Joris Ivens Award in Beirut, Korea, in the FICCO, among others. The story of human survival from the depredation of nature was screened at Critics' Week in Cannes and at Sundance. That same year, Polgovsky received the award Premio Nacional de la Juventud in Mexico and, in fact, it was Trópico de cáncer that inspired Gael García and Diego Luna to create the Ambulante documentary tour.

Trópico de cáncer
Trópico de cáncer (2004, dir. Eugenio Polgovsky)

At the Tropic of Cancer, in the San Luis Potosí desert, several families survive thanks to the hunting of animals that they sell on the roads or that they eat so they don't perish of hunger. Polgovsky achieves a sensitive and respectful portrait of those invisible beings: children, adolescents, adults, the elderly who make rudimentary traps to catch squirrels, field rats, snakes and other endemic species of the place. He did it almost from a Rulfian perspective: the rural tragedy of oblivion and poverty. Incorporeal beings for the majority; infants whose smiles are never erased despite the adversity and abandonment of that selfish and banal country in which they live and which hides in the desert those beings whose existence it denies.

It is a fact that from a film such as Trópico de cáncer, the appearance of risky documentaries was more notorious, tending to experimentation providing voices of denunciation, unusual, marginal proposals and in some cases vigorous premises such as: La canción del pulque and Los ladrones viajes, by Everardo GonzálezVoces de la Guerrero, by Adrián ArceDiego Rivera Kohn and Antonio Zirión;La palomilla salvaje, by Gustavo GamouDe nadie, by Tim Dardimal1973, by Antonio IsordiaToro negro, by Carlos Armella and Pedro González RubioMi vida dentro, by Lucía GajáEl lugar más pequeño, by Tatiana HuezoLa cuerda floja and El cuarto desnudo, by Nuria Ibáñez, among others seen in Morelia.

After that great work, Polgovsky showed the intense and crushing reality of Los herederos (2008), focused on the natural exploitation of children from the Mexican countryside, who become men very quickly, performing the same tasks as adults despite their bodily and emotional fragility. A direct and uncompromising portrait of their daily survival, inherited from generation to generation in a circle of misery and lack of opportunities from which they seem unable to escape, in a work that was directly connected to Trópico de cáncer.

Eugenio Polgovsky
Eugenio Polgovsky

In that same second edition of the festival, a special mention was given to the documentary Relatos desde el encierro (2004) of the CCC graduate, Guadalupe Miranda, about the emotional experience of a group of inmates inside the Puente Grande prison in Jalisco that provide testimonies of their longings and frustrations. The filmmaker of Por si no te vuelvo a ver (1997), Juan Pablo Villaseñor, won the Audience Award with the emotional long documentary Los niños de Morelia (2003) about those child victims of the Spanish Civil War who found refuge in Mexico, particularly in the city of Morelia during Lázaro Cárdenas's presidency.