Mexico is making history with the country’s first fictional film portraying black Mexicans, La Negrada.
Remezcla reports that the film, directed by Jorge Pérez Solano, was shot “entirely in small towns throughout Oaxaca’s Costa Chica” and “employed local non-professional actors to tell the story of two women, Juana and Magdalena, romantically involved with the same man, Neri.”
Remezcla highlights the racism black Mexicans face, writing that “Afro-Mexicans represent one percent of the total population.” According to The Huffington Post, they were only just recognized in a national survey in 2016. La Negrada is a landmark for Mexican cinema, and the film has had its share of accolades–the film won an award for cinematography at the 2018 Guadalajara International Film Festival according to Remezcla and two Impulso Morelia awards according to Variety. But it’s also facing its share of backlash as possibly being stereotypical. As OkayAfrica writes, “the characters appear to be framed through a negative stereotypical lens: black men as hyper-sexual, poor father figures and black women as subordinate to their male counterparts.” This has led to several groups speaking out against the movie. Even the director himself has been under fire for allegedly using the words “savage” in a newspaper interview.
As far as the film’s content goes, Solano told OkayAfrica, “I never intended to offend anyone, much less the Afro-Mexican community. I’m from Oaxaca, one of the most marginalised states in the country, and my family was poor when I was growing up. My father was Indigenous, and I have pronounced Indigenous features. I’ve experienced a lot of racism and prejudice due to being a native Oaxacan, having a poor family background and looking overtly Indigenous. My life experience and feeling, at times, excluded in my own country is the reason why I create awareness of marginalised sectors of our society…My intention was to make a film to raise awareness of the plight of Afro-Mexicans to increase their visibility and start a dialogue about our national identity.”
The film has already debuted in America during Washington D.C.’s African Diaspora International Film Festival, held August 18. It opened in Mexican theaters August 10. Despite the criticisms, hopeful,ly the film’s intentions will help change Mexican cinema and society for the better.
Watch the trailer below: