It's been 100 years since the Mexican Revolution sought to even the playing field between the country's rich ruling classes and its poor populous. Has anything changed? That's the question asked by Revolución, a collection of short films by some of Mexico's most exciting young directors.
The country's film industry, ignited following a renaissance of the early 2000s, is clearly the right medium for this sort of discussion, and the shorts all follow a simple pattern. They're each no longer than 10 minutes and every one of them is contemporary. They were also created in isolation, with each director unaware of what the others were working on.
And while each short has a different story to tell, the consensus seems to lean towards a conclusion that Mexico is still fundamentally troubled. Stories explore inequalities between the classes, rampant problems with crime and generational and situational disconnects about what it means to be Mexican.
Obviously the biggest draws are works from Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna. Neither of them stars in their respective shorts, but they're clearly the catalysts which got the project off the ground, and they receive Associate Producer credits for their efforts.
García Bernal directs Lucio, a coming-of-age tale about a young boy preparing his flag salute for school. When his troublemaking cousin Omar comes to stay, he's forced to question his religion and patriotism and everything he's been taught by his aging grandmother.
In Pacífico, Luna explores family and the ties that bond with a story about a young father whose separation from his wife and child becomes unbearable during time spent at his beach-side holiday home.
What unites every film in the collection is a sense of disappointment. Whether it's Lucio realizing that what he's been told may not be wholly accurate or the grandson of Pancho Villa in Rodrigo Plá's 30/30 discovering that his chance to make a statement about the centenary of the Revolution has been stolen by a mayor only interested in a photo op.
Perhaps the implication is that a revolution is still being fought, or that another is needed. Whatever the answer, the disappointment of the characters within seems to be reflected by the filmmakers.
But while every short has a message to impart, there's plenty of humor to be found. Patricia Riggen's Beautiful & Beloved is a sweetly comic tale of a Mexican family living in the US whose dying patriarch's final wish is to be buried in Mexico. His daughter, Elisa, an American citizen, can't understand why a home country burial is so important to her father until she makes the trip and learns the value of her homeland.
Meanwhile, Carlos Reygadas's This is My Kingdom takes a documentary approach, shooting a street party in a countryside town. As Mexicans from all walks of life gather to celebrate family and friendship, a picture of small town life emerges.
Short film collections are always a mixed bag; some are bound to be better than others. But the real question is whether the shorts belong together. Individually, Revolución sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. But as a whole – including other shorts from directors Mariana Chenillo, Fernando Eimbcke, Amat Escalante, Rodrigo García and Gerardo Naranjo – it's a remarkable exploration of an important historical event 100 years after the fact. Definitely worth seeking out, whether the issues raised are personally relevant or not.