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Friday 02 of December 2022

'Te Prometo Anarquía': Mexico City's Dark Underbelly

Blood bags,photo: Pixabay
Blood bags,photo: Pixabay
It seems that violence is an inescapable a subject for Mexican cinema, as it is for all of us living in this country


An image: a group of teenage boys, riding on skateboards, rolling between the stalls of a Mexico City mercado. The camera follows them without a single cut. The only sound is that of wheels on cement.

“Te prometo anarquía” (I Promise You Anarchy) is the third feature film of Mexican-American-Guatemalan director Julio Hernández Cordón. At first, it presents itself to the viewer as a slow, almost sleepy collection of vignettes about the lives of skaters Miguel (Diego Calva Hernández) and Johnny (Eduardo Eliseo Martínez) living in Mexico City. Both live an amorphous existence wandering the city, raising whatever money they can through shady deals where they illegally sell blood to corrupt paramedics. Miguel and Johnny are lovers. This relationship is as diffuse as the rest of their lives: the former is clearly in love and the later is sort-of dating what could be a girlfriend.

It is then that they decide to make a deal with the devil: they are promised a sum of money that is impossible to reject in exchange for a massive blood donation. Miguel and Johnny decide to recruit a diverse cast of characters for the donation: other skaters, city gang members, restaurant employees, an elderly man. These donors are referred to as “cows.” Like any Faustian pact, this one will not end well.

The main characters, maybe just out of their teenage years, slide through a Mexico City that is all bridges, asphalt, night and traffic jams. The sound design is superb: the city is perfectly encapsulated in its mix of horns, shouting, street music, vehicle tires on cement. The anarchy of Mexico City, one might say.

The film dismisses a conventional narrative: the camera languidly follows the characters as they meet with the people who hope to give their blood for a few thousand pesos. Then, almost suddenly, the plot becomes more tangible.

It seems that violence is an inescapable a subject for Mexican cinema, as it is for all of us living in this country. The narco topic, is usually associated in Mexican films with desert landscapes and the North of the country. But “Te prometo anarquía” shows parts of an implicit truth: this is a problem that is everywhere. The film takes a dark turn when the nature of the deal they made is revealed. Miguel and Johnny realize that they have been deceived and that they have no control over anything that is happening, that maybe they never did. The city swallows up their friends. It might seem that this violence appears out of nowhere during the middle of the film, but Hernández Cordón gives us little signs of it throughout: a young friend of the main character faints in the metro; the sinister corrupt paramedic who takes their blood; the apocalyptic poem screamed by the owner of a skateboard shop (a cameo by Mexican writer Ashauri), while the characters stare between ecstasy and fright.

Calva Hernández and Eliseo Martínez are not professional actors, but this is never apparent during the movie, as both manage to push their characters to credibility. Their relationship is also treated very elegantly, never falling into vulgarity or melodrama. Theirs is a love that rings true and raw.

“Te prometo anarquía” is a film that is beautiful in its apparent simplicity.