NIGHT OF FIRE – 7 POINTS
Mexico / Germany / Brazil / Qatar / Argentina / Switzerland / USA, 2021
Direction and script: Tatiana Huezo, about novel Prayers for the Stolenby Jennifer Clement
Duration: 110 minutes
Interpreters: Ana Cristina Ordóñez González, Marya Membreño, Giselle Barrera Sánchez, Blanca Itzel Pérez, Camila Gaal, José Estrada
Premiere on Netflix.
The Latin American reality, the Mexican in particular, provides the elements to build the most lurid fictions, from the wars between army forces and drug traffickers, or from two cartels between them. There, it is known, life is worthless, and the mutilated bodies serve only as messages to the enemy. The sources of subsistence are provided by the drug traffickers, with their crops, their orders and the payment of their crimes. In many towns, young women know that, sooner or later, the soldiers will come looking for them to trade them (if they are drug soldiers) or rape them (if they are from the Army). There is no law, there is no State, there is no escape.
That is the reality with which the Salvadoran filmmaker Tatiana Huezo placeholder image, based in Mexico since she was little, works Fire night, his first fiction. A film released in the section Cannes Un Certain Regard, winner of the “Horizontes Latinos” section at the San Sebastián Festival and Mexican Oscar candidate. What interests the author of the remarkable documentary The smallest place (2011) is not “getting the most out of the potential tremendousness of the matter, using it as a sales pitch. Do not press the pedals of the thriller, although some elements of that genre will appear, for the simple reason that they are an inseparable part of that reality.
Encouraged by the ethics of documentary maker More than by the possible calculation of the fiction director, Huezo approaches his characters, the world he shapes, not to make of them a board and his pawns, but as such, as suffering people in this case. A fact that Huezo does not underline either, achieving keep to line the two demons that usually guide these kinds of projects: the miserabilism and the inspiring fable.
Fire night its protagonists are a girl and her two best friends, schoolmates in a small town in a mountainous area. The story shows them in two moments of their development, at eight and at thirteen. A shot that is between the comic and the fanciful condenses an important part of the reality of the town: at dusk the screens of the women’s cell phones shine like little bugs, who climbed a hill to get a good signal.
The men are all working “on the other side.” Although they are supposed to communicate with some regularity, and send the remittances that allow them to feed their loved ones, this does not always happen as often as “those on this side” would like. There’s a school, military trucks roam the area and every so often 4 x 4 blacks appear, the narco equivalent of the green Falcons of the task forces. Faced with this situation, the teachers left, the last one remains. At one point a group of villagers installs a homemade bell, in case it is required in an emergency.
Huezo builds this world with a fort off the field (The drug traffickers are seen in a single scene, a single military truck passes by, it is rumored that a girl was taken away, the soldiers on both sides ask for tithes, shots are heard, a body appears in the middle of the night ) and a series of details that take on meaning when they echo each other. When her mother takes Ana (played by the sensitive Ana Cristina Ordóñez González and Marya Membreño) to a hairdresser and asks to have her hair cut very short, the viewer assumes that it will be to avoid lice, as the mother says. When he challenges her because she painted her lips, it seems that she does it out of a certain envy. When Ana has her first period, her embarrassment seems logical in a girl who is beginning to undergo changes.
If these dotted lines are joined, however, it is understood that in that area being a girl is a danger, and you have to do everything possible to hide it. The men have another destiny, as indicated by the weapon with which their best friend teaches Ana how to shoot. She does not shoot, she only sings inwardly a kind of guttural plea, with which she may implore what she should keep quiet.