On 26 January 2017, MLC hosted a screening of a film by the director Ludovic Bonleux, who also discussed his work in a Q&A session after the screening. Reader in Latin American Studies Niamh Thornton tells us about the event.
Ludovic Bonleux is a French documentary filmmaker who has made Mexico his home. A historian by training, his films focus on individuals whose lives have been affected by violence as a result of actions of state and non-state actors. Acuérdate de Acapulco / Remember Acapulco emerged from an investigation into the repression of union activists in the 1970s and, over the course of the four years of filming, developed into a film about the seaside resort of Acapulco. By following 5 locals – diver Alfonso, photojournalist Javier, accountant and passion play actor Marco, strip club manager Yolanda, and the politician and newspaper editor Felix – interspersed with archival interviews and film clips of the star, María Félix (1914-2002), the film draws on the nostalgic aura of glamour that is associated with the city and explores the terrible reality of corruption and violent deaths that has overtaken it in the present day.
María Félix’s inclusion is significant. She was an iconic star who was the best paid actor of her generation during the studio era, the so-called Golden Age (1930s-1950s), when Mexico produced hundreds of films for domestic and international audiences. One of her husbands -she was married several times-was the best-selling songwriter, Agustín Lara. He wrote boleros, which is a style of music very popular in Latin America that mostly speaks of love. “Remember Acapulco” (“Acuérdate de Acapulco”) is a line taken from the bolero, “María bonita” (beautiful María), written for Félix by Lara after their honeymoon in Acapulco. The song was hugely successful, in no small part because, at the time, Acapulco was a playground for the rich and famous. Bonleux draws on the aura that it brought to Acapulco by using distinct versions of this song in the soundtrack to Acuérdate de Acapulco / Remember Acapulco whilst we are shown a present day that is very different from its past glory.
Bonleux’s in-depth documentary was a refreshing and illuminating change from the many travel shows made in recent years, such as this one that I wrote about elsewhere, where famous individuals skim over the surface of Acapulco, talk to few locals, and demonstrate a superficial understanding of the complexity of the place. As a researcher into the war story and having written about the Mexican film star, María Félix, I found much to engage with in this film and was delighted to have Bonleux visit to screen and discuss the process and aesthetic choices that went into making his film. He was eloquent and was happy to reflect on this and other projects.
Thanks to the limited distribution of documentaries, it is difficult to get the opportunity to see films such as this in the U.K., so it was an honour to be able to host Bonleux and screen the film.
His visit took place was thanks to a colleague in Lancaster, Dr Cornelia Grabner, a fellow specialist in Mexican Studies, in collaboration with Poetics of Resistance, and was supported by the Yves Hervouet Fund.