"Disquieting documentary about murders in Mexico"
Dir. Lourdes Portillo (not rated)
During the past decade, 200 to 400 young women have been abducted, molested, and murdered in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Lourdes Portillo, whose films include The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead, and Corpus: A Home Movie for Selena, set out to investigate. During the 18 months it took her to document the crisis, 50 additional women were slain, and the crimes seem no closer to solution.
Before an August 20 broadcast on KLRN-TV as part of PBS' superb summer nonfiction series, P.O.V., Señorita Extraviada will be screened June 29 at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. Portillo, a frequent visitor to San Antonio, will discuss her disturbing film. If it were a Hollywood production, the psychopathic killer would be revealed, apprehended, and brought to justice in the final frames. But Portillo bears witness to life and death of the powerless in a Mexican border town, and neither justice nor revelation appears on camera.
Most of the victims are slim, dark, and poor, and many worked in Juarez's maquiladoras, which leads Portillo to see villainy in NAFTA. "As a model of globalization," she contends, "Juarez is spinning out of control." The city that she visits is an ugly clutter of unregulated development, but who the actual killer is remains a mystery. When pressed to end the homicidal spree, the authorities arrested a hapless Egyptian engineer and kept him in prison though the killings continued. A tearful, painful account by a woman who claims to have been beaten, raped, and threatened by the police suggests that those paid to protect the community have been terrorizing it. "Justice has been corrupted at the highest levels," contends Portillo, whose film demonstrates why official indifference, incompetence, and iniquity have put the young women of Juarez under siege. Portillo creates an effective elegy for victims by retrieving them from obscurity. She offers an unnerving inquest that demands a proper sequel. - Steven G. Kellman
SEÑIORITA EXTRAVIADA (MISSING YOUNG WOMAN)
6pm reception with Lourdes Portillo, 7pm screening
Saturday, June 29
Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
922 San Pedro
"A character as big as a world war"
Dir. Franklin J. Schaffner; writ. Ladislas Farago (book), Francis Ford Coppola and Edmund H. North; feat. George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates, Ed Binns, Stephen Young (PG)
Patton was released in the same year as the virulently pacifist M*A*S*H (1970), and in that climate some reviewers called it anti-war, as well. Hard to believe that now, when you look at this epic that paints such a loving (if not entirely uncritical) portrait of one of the 20th century's most prominent military men. This ain't no flower power agit-prop, rest assured.
When it comes to the movie's philosophy, you learn all you need to know in the very famous five- or six-minute speech that begins the film. Patton stands before a basketball court-sized American flag to address the troops he'll lead into bloody battle. As he salutes them, the camera finds significant details: the riding crop, the crisp salute, the pompous sneer, the chest loaded with medals, the ivory-handled gun.
He addresses the men, and it's impossible not to keep some of his lines in your head. It's amazing the degree to which Patton saw America as an extension of his own war-loving self: "All real Americans love the sting of battle ... Americans play to win all the time - I wouldn't give a hoot in Hell for a man who lost and laughed." And on the team sport of combat: "This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap."
As self- and Army-glorifying as he was, though, he cut through a certain amount of romantic bullshit: "I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." You couldn't ask for a bigger, more complex part to play, and powerhouse actor George C. Scott (fresh from that other anti-war hoot, Dr. Strangelove) does such a job that he's become as immortal as his real-life inspiration. - John DeFore
Texas Public Radio's Cinema Tuesdays
Tuesday, July 2
$10 members, $12 non-members
AMC Huebner Oaks
Patton is available on DVD Fox Home Entertainment.