Cine Las Americas 2011
By Caitlyn Collins | May 5, 2011
Director: Julio Hernández Cordón
Writer: Julio Hernández Cordón
Starring: Alfonso Tunché, Blacko González, Víctor Hugo Monterroso
Cine Las Americas opened with the regional premiere of Marimbas del infierno (Marimbas from Hell), a Guatemalan film written and directed by Julio Hernández Cordón. The film begins with Don Alfonso retelling his lamentable tale of a gang trying to extort him for money. Cordón’s style almost has the viewer believing that this tale is actually a documentary rather than fiction, especially with the opening footage. The camera is pointed directly on Don Alfonso as he answers the questions of an unseen interviewer. As the camera pans the space occupied by the interviewee, the viewer sees and hears Don Alfonso’s nightmarish reality. He sleeps in a chair while covering himself with a cheap blanket every night as the gang has taken all of his possessions. He has nothing, including his family, as he has moved to protect them. His family and their whereabouts remained a bit of a mystery.
The one precious object in Don Alfonso’s life, and one suspects more precious than his own family when he dramatically drapes himself over it weeping, his marimba. The marimba is the national instrument of Guatemala and resembles a wooden xylophone. Don Alfonso takes his cumbersome marimba with him wherever he goes as he’s afraid the gang members are trying to steal and harm it. The very thought of this potential harm is what sends him into tears. He’s a character you want to sympathize with but at the same time find difficulty truly understanding why his marimba brings him to tears and not the separation from his family. (The marimba, aptly, displays Siempre Juntos [Together Always] across the front.) Eventually, Don Alfonso decides to leave his home altogether, with his marimba of course, and moves into a space provided by his glue-sniffing godson, Chiquilin.
Shortly after the introduction of Chiquilin, the scene changes to that of a doctor’s office where two women are upset that their regular doctor is not in the office that day. Neither of the women wants to be seen by the replacement physician as he looks like a drug addict in their opinions. The three characters come together when Chiquilin (somewhat likable, somewhat sketchy) puts his out of work godfather in touch with the physician Blacko, a member of a death metal band called Metal Warriors as well as a born-again-Christian-Orthodox-Jew-ex-Satanist. Don Alfonso is fired from his part-time gig as a marimba player as people just don’t appreciate that style of music anymore, something that disheartens and dismays him. Desperate to find work as a marimba musician, Don Alfonso tells Blacko that he’d like to incorporate the marimba into Blacko’s death metal band, an idea Blacko finds intriguing due to his love of the marimba song “Theresa’s Tears”. The two begin to speak in earnest about the idea much to the amusement of Chiquilin who confesses he brought the two together in order to prove the ridiculousness of the idea. After playing a few of his favorite metal songs for Don Alfonso, the two agree to jam soon. Only Blacko cannot rehearse on Saturdays as he must observe the Sabbath. Together, the hodgepodge group forms a band, the Marimbas from Hell.
Chiquilin fancies the idea of being lead singer and goes to work writing a few songs. At their first rehearsal, it becomes apparent that Chiquilin knows nothing about the genre of music and certainly isn’t able to sing. Still, in order to be involved he sets himself the task of finding a gig for the nascent band. After some time and much effort, he does find one on a marimba music radio program. The hilarity that ensues afterward is also the demise of the band; their dreams of playing a gig never come to fruition. Cordón’s directorial style is raw and personal, providing intimate glimpses into the lives of the three characters.