Films: Flor de Muertos

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Flor de Muertos

Flor de Muertos

USA, 2010, 86 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Human Rights, Religious
Program: Documentary Films
Language: Spanish, English

DIRECTOR: Danny Vinik
Producer: Danny Vinik, Douglas Biggers
Editor: Jim Rundel
Screenwriter: Danny Vinik
Cinematographer: Lisa Rinzler
Principal Cast: Charles Bowden, Margaret Regan

Flor de Muertos examines the realities of living on two borders at once—one between life and death, the other between Tucson and Nogales. On the American side of the border, an ever-increasing number of patrol agents works to round up the illegals who try to cross—before they join the ranks of the perished (some 200 bodies are found in the southern Arizona desert each year). On the Mexican side, people face untimely death on a daily basis. But whereas, in the words of one local author, “American culture can accept killing but not death,” the Mexican tradition is to honor the dead and find a greater truth in their passing.

One-on-one interviews on the subject of death and the disparate ways in which Americans and Mexicans perceive it anchor what is otherwise captured in imagery and music. The film opens with moody indie band Calexico performing at the Rialto Theater on the night of the All Souls Procession, a parade of skeleton-costumed characters who carry out ancient traditions of honoring the dead. In another telling scene, Mexican children tap out rhythms on the border wall as if it were a musical instrument. The marigold, a symbol of life after death from Aztec times, crops up throughout the film.

Tucson-based director Danny Vinik shot this luminous documentary digitally on a budget of $145,000; though his original intention was to make a concert film, the members of Calexico themselves convinced him to take a refreshingly unconventional approach.
—JOEY PORCELLI

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