Vagoneros (Marioneta) first published by EyeforFilm at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival 2019
A celebrated actor and director in Cuba, Ernesto (Rafael Ernesto Hernández) finds himself down and out in Mexico city, when a chance encounter with mendicant Belén (Fátima Molina) leads him to her gangland boss Torrico (Juan Manuel Bernal). Torrico hires Ernesto to train his army of street- and subway-beggars to play out more convincing, more lucrative sob stories – and so begins a course of lessons in street-level method acting, in which Ernesto always emphasises the importance of drawing on essential truths to bolster lies, and also expands the horizons and aspirations of his impoverished pupils. Ever assured of his own talents, cocky Ernesto is nonetheless unaware when he too is being played like a marionette, and blind to the truth behind the lies of his new friends.
As a film focused precisely on the art of acting, Álvaro Curiel de Icaza’s Vagoneros (Marioneta) makes special demands on its cast, all playing characters who in turn create and perform other characters, selling the parts with a reality that proves ever more complicated in its layered elusiveness. In a sense this is a melodrama, as more and more of these characters’, especially Belén’s, histories and relationships are gradually revealed – but this is also an exposé of the performative dance between imposture and authenticity in which we all engage as part of life. Here secret sorrows and hidden losses fuel the shows these players put on for others, and even fake scars can conceal real ones. It is a colourful story of low-level organised crime and ‘professional’ duplicity, with Mexico City for its stage – and it shows (or does it?) that sometimes the best actors are the least professional.
© Anton Bitel