Anyone who has read this blog or knows me knows that I have become Mexico’s biggest defender, as well as her most acute critic. It is a country that has given me the very best and the very worst moments of my life.
And I’ll be damned if I ever want to trade in any of it for sugar-coated bullshit.
That said, I went to see the new Matt Damon/Jodie Foster flick “Elysium,” a futuristic story about an Earth we’ve screwed up to the point that it’s become the fairgrounds of the poor, while the rich live long and healthy lives on the space station, Elysium. The movie was directed by Neill Blomkamp, a South African who brought us “District 9.” I mention this because had it not been for his portrayal of a poor Johannesburg and the clash between levels of society, I would have questioned a bit more harshly his directorial choices.
As I watched the first half of the movie, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the shanty town where Damon’s character grew up was really the outskirts of Mexico City. There was also the use of Spanish as the poor language, while those on Elysium spoke in French. Foster spoke in a sort of Thatcher-like English accent, as well as French. The agents that Foster hires, however, are South African and throw in the occasional Afrikaans word.
The universal language? English.
And the kicker? In the part where the nun gives Damon’s 10-year-old self a locket with a picture of the Earth, telling him never to forget where he came from, a friend told me that when he was a kid, he used to play in that same field where the Bugatti crashed.
It was the outskirts of Mexico City.
There was also a part where the plant manager obliges Damon’s character to put his life on the line or he’ll lose his job and that poor treatment of the day laborer was what I (and many friends of mine) experienced in previous jobs. Regardless of whether we were teachers, engineers or in the government. Regardless of which flag flew overhead. The long lines in the hospitals. Shoddy living conditions. The pleas that fall on deaf ears.
In order for a movie to work, the story has to resonate with a person and so even though this movie was set over 100 years in the future, I saw a world in which I and many others live in. Borders and city limits may separate us but the same conditions can travel freely. There are still those who are ignorant, living on both sides of the border, because money guarantees neither entitlement nor intelligence. And Blomkamp saw that. He saw that in his native Johannesburg. I saw that in my Mexico City. From the crummy bits with the poor lighting and dirt roads to the luxury boutiques and elegant buildings.
Because he’s not singling out Mexico City or Johannesburg; he’s pointing a finger. And with that finger he’s saying that in that world where you think life is lovely, there is a world disguised in a costume. In a paradise like Elysium, you can find a heartless bitch like Delacourt, who shoots down a ship filled with sick people, whereas in a dirt street, a poor old woman with a pig pen hides a fugitive at great personal risk.