Saturday, October 14, 2006


A Day Without A MexicanYareli Arizmendi Directed by Sergio Arau
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



Trying to conceive of a "Left Behind" style film happening to a specific race in a specific State is pretty out there. But director Sergio Arau does so admirably in A DAY WITHOUT A MEXICAN.

Part comedy, part mockumentary, the film’s liberal leanings are sure to turn some viewers off. Taking consistent jabs at prejudices (and hitting their target more often than not), the film takes on the premise that a strange, magical fog has surrounded California one fateful day, blocking all incoming and outgoing traffic, internet access, and all forms of communication. And this weird atmospheric disturbance has also taken away all of the Mexicans. The disruption to the Sunshine State is evident as fruit rots on trees, vegetable aisles in grocery stores go empty, and car wash patrons have to dry their own cars!

Lilia Rod(riguez) played by Yareli Arizmendi (LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE) is a televison news reporter who doesn't disappear. The supernatural phenomenon seems to have passed her by even though she’s Mexican. Or is she? More unseen prejudices arise as we learn that most Anglos label anyone with a coppery-toned complexion as "Mexican." Lilia learns her true genetic heritage along the way but feels, in her heart, that she’s Mexican and promptly vanishes in front of a televison audience.

John Getz (BLOOD SIMPLE) plays Senator Abercrombie who has to take on the position of California Governor Pro-Tem, as the current Governor and Lieutenant Governor were Mexican. Thrown into the spotlight, the new Gov has to deal with all of the chaos caused by the disappearances as well as the disruptions to his own household when their maid/nanny/cook vanishes.

Other characters include two border patrol officers who are forced to deal with their prejudices when they learn that they no longer have a viable job. This is one particularly hilarious portion of the film that will really tickle audience’s funny bones.

As California tries to deal with the loss of an entire race, the remaining folks come up with some great reasons for the Mexicans’ disappearance. Some say that the sombrero is shaped like a UFO for a reason {wink!}. Others believe it’s a form of the rapture, and the apocalypse is upon us. Still others believe that it is because the other races didn’t appreciate the Mexicans and so they just up and left. Regardless of the reason (true or not) the effect is felt throughout the State. Anglos and other nationalities turn to looting and diving into black-market fruits and vegies in order to save their restaurants. Talk shows swing from one extreme to the other, some saying their glad that the Mexicans are gone while others struggle to stay on the air with a skeleton crew (many camera operators were Mexicans).

The film’s faults are that this probably won’t be for those who live outside California. A Day Without a Mexican has a fairly specific target audience. But the great message, often funny and poignant at the same time, cannot be denied: we all need each other, regardless of race.

Special mention of the
film’s musical soundtrack must be made, too. The mariachi version of California Dreamin’ is outstanding, as is the theme song A Day Without A Mexican.

Click here for the A Day Without A Mexican movie trailer!


Anonymous akmitch25 said...

I recently viewed this film in my Ethnic American Literature class, and I was amazed! Firstly, I was surprised that I hadn't really heard about the mocumentary, and secondly, that it didn't get more attention- it's fantastic! It's interesting this day in age how often we hear about illegal immigrants and all of the problems they cause for our country, so on and so forth. Having a film bring out a lot of the points that people often miss or take for granted really gets the point across that maybe the information people continuously process and believe is not exactly true. Last year I attended a panel on a group of local immigrants and one of the panel speakers put forth multiple statistics that showed the economic benefit illegal immigrants provide as well as statistics showing that they do not all life on "welfare" and abuse our medical and social systems. What it really comes down to with illegal immigrants from Mexico is racism. As Charles Mills in his work "The Racial Contract" says, "racism is itself a political system, a particular power structure of formal or informal rule, socioeconomic privilege, and norms for the differential distribution of material wealth and opportunities, benefits and burdens, rights and duties." Americans are truly setting up a political power structure that privileges "Americans" and uses "Mexicans" for benefiting American economics. I'm amazed at how our communities can look at some illegal immigrants who have been living in our country for 20 years working in necessary low wage jobs and decide that they are no longer welcome and no longer have the right to live here (as I have often seen on news channels of late). The film's presentation of the point that Mexicans and illegal immigrants contribute more to America than America cares to recognize poignantly suggests that Americans may need to re-evaluate their perspectives and value systems and consider the situation with open eyes.

9:08 PM  
Blogger "The Fanatic" said...

Glad you enjoyed the film, too. It's really a thinker.

8:04 AM  

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