CORAZÓN Has Heart, Will Propagandize


At the risk of sounding like a Sundance mouthpiece, I must say that the festival has long been a champion of Latin American cinema. This year is no different, with around a dozen films either made by Latin Americans or which pertain to their experience. CORAZÓN DEL TIEMPO, an entry in the world dramatic competition, falls into both categories.

Having spent half my adult life in Latin America (that assumes I became an adult upon graduating from college, which isn’t entirely true), I’ve long had an affinity for the region and its culture. So I’m about as sympathetic a gringo viewer as a film like CORAZÓN DEL TIEMPO can expect to have. And not only was it the first Spanish-language film I was going to see at the festival, but also the first dramatic entry, world or otherwise.

Point is, I really, desperately, wanted to like it.

(Hey, Stop wincing. I’m not about to trash the movie—not exactly.)

The film, set in an indigenous village in a Zapatista-controlled region of Chiapas, Mexico, concerns a young woman who has been betrothed (for the price of a cow) to a fellow villager whom she doesn’t love. The woman, Sonia, falls instead for an insurgente, which naturally disrupts the traditional order. Meanwhile, the Zapatistas are trying to bring electricity to the village without alerting the federales who patrol the area.

To its credit, the screenplay presents the village’s social complexities with subtlety rather than oversimplification, and never takes the easy route. (Sonia’s fiancé, for instance, isn’t demonized to justify her love of the insurgente, nor is armed conflict inevitable.) Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of its political complexities. CORAZÓN DEL TIEMPO often feels like Zapatista propaganda: Only once are the insurgents characterized as anything less than angels from heaven, so I was unsurprised when the film ended with several paragraphs proclaiming unabashed support of the EZLN’s armed struggle.

Okay, fine. So it’s a partly a message film made by Zapatista sympathizers. Big deal. I still wouldn’t have minded that much had the film not been poorly edited and acted. I can forgive the latter; the actors, as the movie’s concluding paragraphs suggest, weren’t professionals. But I can’t find a reasonable excuse for the editing, which was maddeningly inconsistent. Jump cuts served no purpose except to disrupt an otherwise effective, meditative mood. The fact that I’m even addressing the editing—something I’ve never, ever done before—should indicate how egregious it is.

There are films that people want to see, for entertainment purposes. And then there are films people feel they should see—those well-intentioned works, made with a miniscule budget, that portray oppressed peoples somewhere else on Earth. I saw CORAZÓN DEL TIEMPO for another reason entirely, but if you must choose one of the above, then choose the former.