La Zona @ IFI

The Campo Viejo Spanish Film Festival recently came to a close in the IFI with a screening of Robert Pia's La Zona, a movie set in a Mexico that most movie goers would not recognise. The Zone is an area of Mexico City that has been given a large amount of autonomy by the authorities, through a suspicious deal with a judge. It is populated by the rich who can afford to pay to live in such security. Behind a wall and guarded by their own well-armed police, they are under camera surveillance, ostensibly for their own security.


This ominous situation takes on a frightening aspect for some of those that live there, when three thieves from outside the wall, in the 'colonias' (Mexico's slums) which surround La Zona, take advantage of storm damage to gain access. Two are killed, but one is trapped inside, leading to a manhunt. Those who manage the Zone quickly take on dictatorial attitudes, in conflict with the morals of some residents and one lone policeman, who tries to fight against the corrupt system of which he is a part.

   The movie is shot in a grainy handheld style, reminiscent of the television show CSI at times. It is usually dark, grey and cold, with none of the colour you might expect from Mexican movies, even those set in the metropolis that is La Districto Federal.

   In a coup for the Irish Film Institute, the young actor and main protagionist in the movie was there to answer questions after the screening. Daniel Tovar informed us that while La Zona was not a true story, it is based on reality. Mexico City does have gated communities, and what goes on inside them is hidden from the outside world. He spoke of the tensions these communities create, as, typical to South American cities, the poor live directly alongside the rich in many cases. For Tovar, the most truthful aspect of the movie was the behavior of the police and their bosses, whose corruption is so complete that justice no longer has any meaning in Mexico. But there is also some hope in the movie, which shows some people, in the police, in the gated communities, and in the slums, being able to think for themselves, and decide what is right and wrong.