Thinking of visiting Mexico for the first time? Watch a few films before you go. Like great works of fiction, movies often provide an illuminating insight into the culture of a country, its landscape and its peoples. Mexico has always been a rich source of movie material, with its own prodigious film industry and plenty of Hollywood blockbusters set in the country. Here are a few cinematic gems to whet your appetite:
Like Water for Chocolate (1992)
Any shortlist of Mexican films must include this historical drama, based on the novel by Mexican writer Laura Esquivel. The hype really is justified: it’s about as powerful and beautiful an evocation of middle-class Mexican culture in the early twentieth century you could hope for, featuring doomed love, superstition, eroticism, suffocating tradition, Revolutionary skirmishes and, of course, mouth-watering Mexican food. The backdrop is the dry scrub and copper-coloured deserts of northern Mexico, near the border towns of Ciudad Acuña and Piedras Negras.
Amores Perros (2000)
While calling it “Mexico’s Pulp Fiction” is a bit of stretch, “Love’s a Bitch” is certainly one of the most creative and thought-provoking movies from south of the border, and comprises three distinct stories linked by a single car accident in Mexico City. There are disturbing dogfight scenes, scary neighbourhoods, disloyalty and infidelity – it’s pretty grim stuff, but compulsive viewing nonetheless, offering a journey into the darker side of modern urban Mexico. Filming locations include the trendy boho district of Colonia Condesa.
Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
Super-horny slacker duo Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna represent the affluent, slang-spouting youth of Mexico City in this sexy, bleak but humorous Mexican road trip movie. Whilst their relationship with the alluring Maribel Verdú (including the notorious threesome at the end) anchors the story, the extremes of Mexican rural and urban poverty are never far from view – the contrast is artfully achieved, with scenes shot in the mountains of Oaxaca and on the beaches of Huatulco (mainly Playa Cacaluta) and Playa Zipolite.