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  • Hooman Razavi

KoKoLoKo: Romantic Dystopia In Oaxaca | 2020 Tribeca Film Festival

Updated: May 7, 2020

By: Hooman Razavi

Does violence spice up the image with a sense of realite and politicize spectatorship? Gerardo Naranjo, second feature nine year after Miss Bala resurrect this question and politics behind image and filmmaking. Starred with award winning actor Neo Hernandez (Mundo) who won the best actor prize this year at Tribeca Film Festival along with Alejandra Herrera (Marisol) and Eduardo Mendizabel (Mauro), the tragic romantic story takes us into the heart of rural Mexico and how and why love and death are so entwined.

The simple story of a controlling Mauro who wants Marisol to be fully submissive is interrupted by Mundo who works for Mauro but make Marisol to long for him passionately and uncontrollably. The early scenes close to Oaxacan coast and the majestic waves signal not only a rough romantic endeavor but the ocean of desire that characters carry with no or little control over their manifestations. Superbly acted by all three-protagonist named, KoKoLoKo depicts rural gang and macho culture, the ugly power dynamic, sheer culture of violence among family, clan and gang members, corruption at basic levels of the society, intrusion of technology and varied modes of communication in deep rural Mexico and dysfunctional family and human relationships gone astray leading to scars and irreversible damages to both bodies and souls. Shot with 16mm camera, the sex scenes (Mundo-Marisol) though rough and uncut but climatic points in the story to show moments of mundane life that makes two people closers together. The other sex scene (Mauro-Marisol), diametrically opposite, showing the banality behind the familial ties and the submission to the evil who could be ever-present. This eroticism was interfused with scenes of verbal and physical abuse, torture, amputation and death, with accompanying local symbolism of rocky nature, machete and ammunitions.

The journey is another key theme of this action thriller. Marisol, after intense connection with Mundo wants to join him in the guerrilla fight, he embarks on. In turn, this is the only way to de-possess herself off Mauro. The abundant and recurring road scenes signal this key feature and the absurd idea of not just reaching Mundo but setting one free. The finale of the film is the clash of Eros and Thantos with no clear winner. The cinematography, framing, lighting and exceptional acting have made these thematic focuses crystal clear to the audience. The use of extreme close-ups in many scenes, contrasting camera shots (wide vs. close) and point of view shots allow the viewers to sense the roughness, tension and the absurdity of the struggles. The camera in Kokoloko knows no boundary either; even to the extent that one may think some scenes are choreographed professionally. Apart from all these features, the rough scenes of violence, hard eroticism and being in run are sporadically interrupted by dreamy sequences. In a sense those scenes seem natural as Mundo constantly fantasize to be with Marisol, but in fact these dreams which as usually superimposed with scenes of the coast and rough ocean waves make the viewers to rest the mind for a fleeting time to recover and engage with the next coming intense sequence. In short, the realism of the story is captured aptly with the use of formal feature of cinema and the talents of all cast.

In sum, one can view Kokoloko, to be a sequel to Miss Bala (2011), Revolucion (2010) and Drama/Mex (2006) as meditation into the lives of characters stuck in the roughness and toughness of Mexican zeitgeist and militarized life. This aspect is undeniable. However, on a different level, this film is more a personal meditation on the life of subjugated Mexican women who can dream and desire wild but chained to the local circumstance of their family and toxic culture and society. They may take refugee in lovers as Mundo innocently, but their will and agency can’t be unchained unless they unite as film ending implicitly hints. KokoLoko politicize and disturb spectatorship not because it portrays the fantastical but precisely because it exposes the layers of realite, albeit in the context of rural community in coastal Mexico.

Grade: A-


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