Last week, I was invited by Netflix to an advance screening of Bardo, False Chronicles of a Handful of Truths, a new film by Mexican filmmaker and Academy Award winner Alejandro González Iñárritu. I haven’t attended many film festivals, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Based on the title of the film and knowing it was a Spanish-language film with English subtitles, I thought I might be in for something a bit unique. The film centers on Silverio Gama, a journalist and documentary filmmaker in Los Angeles, played by the amazing Daniel Giménez Cacho. The film also stars Griselda Siciliani, Íker Sánchez Solano, and Ximena Lamadrid.
One of the earliest scenes in the film sets up the bizarre ride we are about to begin. We see a young mother in the hospital having a baby. Immediately after the baby is born, the doctor looks to the child’s mother and tells her, “He wants to go back in because he does not want to come into this messed up world.” We are then shown the young mother being released from the hospital and sent on her way only after the baby was literally pushed back into her womb. And upon leaving the delivery room, her husband asks, “What happened?” to which she responds, “He didn’t want to come out.” That definitely got my attention. That’s when it hit me that I was in for something unorthodox, intense, and pretty special.
Throughout the film, we see how Silverio’s choices begin to affect his family and children. These were choices and sacrifices that our parents and maybe even ourselves have had to make to provide a better life for our families. Silverio encounters his old friend, or frenemy, Luis (Francisco Rubio), a Mexican tabloid television host who slams him for being a “puppet” and sellout for forgetting his roots. I and many other Latinos have experienced similar criticisms when trying to break some of the patterns in our community, so this part especially got to me.
If that wasn’t enough to capture my attention, there are plenty of other emotional rollercoasters throughout Bardo that include generational trauma. Having grown up in a single-parent household, there is a moment in the movie where Silverio’s struggles in connecting with his father hit home hard. The scene leaves you feeling as if you are in the moment yourself, especially in Iñárritu’s direction of the scene, with Silverio seeming smaller in stature, completely vulnerable and almost back to being a child while his father towers over him.
And of course this wouldn’t be a film about Latinidad if it didn’t touch on history and immigration. There are really vivid scenes of the torment in Silverio’s mind on how we have transitioned from our culture to the people we are today. Credit has to go to Iñárritu for his creative genius in the ways he delivered that message which include depicting the streets of Mexico City as dark and lifeless, a mountain of dead Indigenous ancestors, and even a personal conversation with Spanish “Conquistador” Hernán Cortez.
Iñárritu brilliantly addresses the topic of US immigration by demonstrating how Latinos are mistreating and persecuting their own. As they return to the United States from Mexico Silverio’s family is faced with an experience in an immigration office as he and his family return to Mexico. It shows a level of ignorance that is showcased far too often in modern mainstream media.
There is no doubt that Bardo was made to open the eyes of the Latino community both in the US and in our homelands. It comes off as extremely personal and there are some parts that leave you feeling as if the movie was specifically made to trigger your inner soul. Whether you are an immigrant, or the child or grandchild of an immigrant, there was something that you could relate to first-hand.
Daniel Giménez Cacho masterfully plays the character of Silverio Gama with his amazing charisma and raw emotion. Silverio’s journey is all too personal for me and will be for many; it’s as if you were walking in his shoes for most of his experiences, and it honestly left me questioning certain aspects of my life. I hope that Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths will have a similar effect on anyone who watches it.
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, is streaming on Netflix December 16th and I can assure you it will not disappoint.