Last weekend, a 34-year-old from Guanajuato, Mexico named Amat Escalante won the Best Director prize at Cannes for his movie “Heli,” which Kenneth Turan, the Los Angeles Times’ film critic, described as “a grim look at a society overwhelmed by extreme drug war-related violence.”
It’s the graphic violence in the film that has received the most attention. Escalante has defended his depictions of violence, and has even had to tell the world that he’s not trying to do harm to the Mexican tourist industry (apparently, a U.S. journalist canceled vacation plans after a screening).
Until its release in the US and Mexico, we have the trailer for “Heli,” to go on. It’s simple, enigmatic, and violence-free. What it captures is the threat of violence, which is oftentimes more terrifying than the act itself.
In it, a young man, for reasons we don’t know, wordlessly confronts one of the thousands of armed, masked warriors who are a fixture on the landscape of modern Mexico.
Some of the masked men are good guys. Some are bad. Oftentimes, you just don’t know.