DIR/WRI: Diego Quemada-Diez • PRO: Edher Campos, Inna Payán, Luis Salinas • DOP: María Secco • ED: Paloma López • MUS: Leonardo Heiblum, Jacobo Lieberman • CAST: Brandon López, Rodolfo Domínguez, Karen Martínez
“Are you going up to the United States?” It hardly needs to be asked. Most of the characters in this film, even those in the background, are on a journey to the United States. The inevitability of this rite of passage never comes into question, even when those undertaking it are shot at, raped, taken hostage.
Director Diego Quemada-Diez has said that his work is influenced by his former mentor Ken Loach, and it shows. It’s an unflinching depiction of a tremendous waste of youth and life. However, his reliance on this social realist mode is perhaps a drawback, too, because the film doesn’t have the high-concept draw that might help it to succeed with current audiences. While its narrative and imagery are competent and engaging, the film is distinctly disinterested in spectacle or experiment.
The final scene is one of the most refreshing and depressing in modern cinema, but I would have liked to see more of this flair throughout the rest of the film. In many ways, it is a typical “Third Cinema” film of the kind that is successful with Anglophonic audiences: a quick hit of poverty that induces immediate outrage but which is followed by apathy. It’s a well put together film, and there are a lot of interesting moments; it’d be nice to see Quemada-Diez indulge in his obviously vivid imagination a little more in the future.
The social realist mode that has been so popular now appears to be giving way to something else. Look at Lenny Abrahamson’s work, for example. He’s a director who made his name in social realism during the Celtic Tiger Cinema period. Lately, though, he’s been utilising more atmospheric modes; such as the Scandinoir aesthetic in What Richard Did or the absurdism of Frank. In many ways, these modes are more effective methods of dealing with serious issues. The glut of political films means that to stand out one has to not just point out social issues but articulate them in a unique manner. For Latin American cinema, the Chilean No achieved great heights. By examining a dictatorship through the lens of a marketing firm it put its audience’s pleasure first and its message second; much like the advertising campaign at the centre of that film.
The Golden Dream doesn’t do this, and as a result can feel not so much moralising but rather a little boring. We’ve seen this before. Its message is moving and important. The moments of greatness – little visual flourishes, or in the relationships between the three central characters – are wonderful. I think Quemada-Diez can become a good director, and this is a good film. But I think he needs to read The Anxiety of Influence and try to escape Ken Loach a bit.
12A (See IFCO for details)
The Golden Dream is released on 27th June 2014