Austin Film Festival 2016 Review: DESIERTO

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By Liz Lopez

Rating: B

Taking the Trek in the Badlands Seen in Desierto Makes You Thirst for More from this Filmmaker

With all the talk of immigration, the policy or lack thereof heavily discussed before the presidential election, the feature film Desierto, directed by Jonás Cuarón (Year of the Nail, Gravity), may spark some additional emotions regardless of what side of the debate people chose to be on. Desierto is not a film made to debate the issues, but I have no doubt there will be varied conversations once the film is viewed. I highly recommend viewing the film by this young filmmaker who will make the viewer ask “what is next” by this writer/director. If you have seen the trailer, you know to anticipate a thriller.

In this film with a screenplay by director Cuaron and Mateo Garcia, a group of immigrants who are to arrive at a specific destination, end up having to attempt crossing the badlands desert after the truck they are traveling in conks out in the heat of the day. The terrain can get the best of the travelers on foot with little water as it is, but the journey is cut short when an unexpected sniper decides to pick them off, one by one after he mutters something about “free.” (Not spoiling it.) There is plenty of tension during the attack by Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a gun-toting unlikeable individual who is driving a beat-up pickup with a dog named Tracker. The violence is hard to watch, but it is the harsh reality these people face as they try to reach the U. S. for varied reasons.

Moises (Gael García Bernal) is a mechanic who is trying to return to the States to his wife and child, so his knowledge from prior journey helps him take the lead to help the remaining group members try to survive by keeping out of sight of the vigilante sniper. Cuarón’s cinematographer, Damian Garcia, does an excellent job of showing the desert as a place death with both the close up shots and the wide ones of the unrelenting landscape where the brutal and relentless murders occur in this thriller.

I won’t spoil the ending as to who is left “standing.”

What I do know is that when I met the writer/director a few years ago, he hinted about a project he had in the works in collaboration with family members. I did not know that Gravity was one of the films, nor Desierto, but am extremely glad to know this latter film was a special presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival in June of this year, and the Austin Film Festival at the historic Paramount Theater.

The film is produced by Alfonso Cuaron, Carlos Cuaron, Alex Garcia, Charles Gillibert and Executive Producers are David Linde, Gael Garcia Bernal, Nicolas Celis and Santiago Garcia Galvan. It is in Spanish, with English dialogue, is rated R and is 94 minutes. The film also stars Diego Cataño, Marco Pérez, Alondra Hidalgo, Oscar Flores, David Lorenzo. Look for the film at Tinseltown North in Pflugerville.  Source: STX Entertainment

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