Boldly exploring the boundaries of fiction and documentary, emerging Guatemalan filmmaker Julio Hernández Cordón’s original and entertaining second feature follows three unlikely characters from Guatemala City as they attempt to fuse improbable musical styles. The result is a skilfully constructed narrative that reflects on important issues in contemporary Guatemalan culture.
After ongoing harassment by extortionists, Don Alfonso grows suspicious of everyone around him. Fearing for his family’s safety, he sends them into hiding and then follows in their stead, taking only his marimba (xylophone) with him. Don Alfonso plays this traditional instrument for a living; he is employed by a hotel in Guatemala City but, as his music is seen increasingly as old-fashioned, he is left without a job. Through his godson, the glue-sniffing Chiquilin, he meets Blacko, an old heavy-metal legend of the Guatemalan underground. Don Alfonso suggests that they do something radical and fuse the sounds of the marimba with heavy metal. This innovative – some might say bizarre – idea sparks the beginning of an unexpected collaboration.
Filled with laugh-aloud moments – particularly a scene where Chiquilin tries to commission a custom-made marimba from a leading Guatemalan artist and approaches government officials for funding – Marimbas from Hell is brilliantly farcical, but with a sharp strain of melancholy. Guatemala’s lack of interest in its own traditional music and the difficulty of sustaining a living as an artist strike deeply sombre tones.
Following the success of his exceptional debut, Gasolina – a film about the exploits of three teenage boys siphoning gas on the streets of Guatemala –Hernández Cordón continues his work with non-professional actors. By bringing together three very different people and building the story around actual elements in their own lives, he creates an incredibly fresh and unique story that conveys a moving and authentic sense of Guatemalan life. —Diana Sanchez
Julio Hernández Cordón was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, to a Mexican father and a Guatemalan mother. He was raised in México, Costa Rica and Guatemala. Julio began his studies in the field of Communication and Journalism at the University Rafael Landivar in Guatemala. He further developed his vocation for filmmaking at the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica (CCC), in México City. With Marimbas del Infierno he has won the 16th Valdivia Film Coproduction Sessions & Venture Forum (Foro de Inversiones y Sesiones de Coproducción). He has also won the Hubert Bals Grant for digital production, towards the 2011 Rotterdam Film Festival. —Festival Scope
And with this roundup, we finally wrap the coverage of the coverage of this year's Toronto International Film Festival. "Artists have it tough