“FELIZ ANO TIJUANA”
A Simple and Powerful Film
Watching “Feliz Ano Tijuana” is like watching a couple days in our main character’s life. Forced to stay in Tijuana after missing his flight, a college professor runs into one of his former students and a hooker. This unleashes many of his emotions and as we watch we feel sad, happy, confused, curious and uncomfortable. This works so well because this is just what our main character is feeling. In a sense, we become the professor. During many scenes we see and know little more than he does. This is especially true of an uncomfortable and shocking scene that takes place in the bathroom. The film moves from fast paced comedy to dark places that make us feel discomforted. The transitions between these places are smooth and work well since they revolve around what the character is feeling. When he is partying very hard, the film is quite funny, but in a scene where he is becoming very paranoid the movie becomes almost painful to watch.
The film begins light. We see the professor getting a hotel room that is very different from what he expected. Yet even with the humor, we sense that something to make him and us uncomfortable is going to come. He is an outsider in this room as he will mostly remain for the rest of the film.
I understand that the film was shot without a script and this adds to it feeling so natural and real. Each line and look from the characters seems to happen as if no one knows what is going to happen next thus creating a feeling of uncertainty and spontaneity that is hard to resist and it pulls us deeper and deeper into the psyche of its main character.
As the professor, Alejandro, Luis Deveze is the soul of the film. It combines elements from different genres while telling the story of a guy whose plans to stay quietly in a hotel room in the border town during end-of-calendar celebrations are seen abruptly changed when invited to a party that ends up moving to the streets. It has drama, comedy, romance and a bit of ‘thriller’, but in reality, it’s like everyday life, where we go through many different situations and emotions. Deveze was inspired by an experience of his own life for the plot, although the film did not have a script or written dialogues. We and Alejandro go through the feelings of insecurities and fears that went to extremes.
The film is a love letter for Tijuana, which is still considered by some to be a dangerous city, but which shows a festive and friendly face here. The intention of the film was to tell a story based on an emotional level and little by little, elements of Tijuana’s culture and circumstances were added. Unlike other films, this is a total experience unlike any movie you have seen before. Andrew van Baal directed this new look at film and how we respond to it.