By Jeffrey Sipe and Nina Rodriguez
“Dos Estaciones,” director Juan Pablo Gonzalez’s debut fictional feature, is a documentary-like depiction of Maria Garcia, played by Teresa Sánchez, whose stunning performance in the role earned her the Best Actress award at the film’s Sundance premiere. At 50, she is struggling to keep the family tequila business afloat in the face of pestilence in her agave fields, local flooding, and competition from a predatory US concern that wants to buy her out. When she is forced to curtail her workers’ wages, the demise of the decades-old family business seems within sight.
We learn an awful lot about the Mexican tequila business in this movie and inadvertently marvel at the resilience of the family staple in the face of natural and market forces far beyond its control. It is a hands-on operation from the executive level down to the cultivation of agave, not always a recipe for success in an automated, globalized world.
This is not an uncommon topic in contemporary Mexican cinema. Not long ago, Compartimento Cinematografico screened “Gods of Mexico,” which highlighted various isolated industries around Mexico that still function as they have for decades if not centuries. They also produced a podcast, an interview with the director, Helmut Dosantos, available on Stereo Dragones.
But the issues facing Maria Garcia’s “Dos Estaciones” tequila brand go beyond just the means of production. Although the depiction of the struggling enterprise is largely documentary-like, it is threaded with elements that are far more likely to occupy your thoughts following the film than are the vicissitudes of tequila production and sales.
Maria Garcia is so butch that the film is well underway before we recognize that she is a woman. Her manner with her employees is likely to strike audiences as being far more masculine than one would expect from a female superior. It’s only when she hires a pretty young woman, Rafaela Fuentes, who is already a veteran of the tequila industry to help put the company back on track, that a woman who rarely allows any cracks to show in her taciturn personality is suddenly joking, projecting warm smiles towards her protégé.
Specific and expansive at the same time, “Dos Estaciones” is as much a drama as a character study while also an exploration of globalization’s after-effects. The fact that it avoids genre conventions or any easy categorization is part of the film’s accomplishments. In something of a detour midway through the film, we suddenly find ourselves a part of the personal life of Tatin, who is Maria’s hairdresser, listening in on her thoughts as she expresses them to a client.
Tatin Vera, a non-professional trans actor is playing a version of herself. After an extensive festival run and several international awards, “Dos Estaciones” was selected as the opening film of the current edition of the Cinetaca’s renowned Muestra. The film will have a special screening presented by the filmmaker at Compartimento Cinematografico (Calzada de la Estación 59) in San Miguel de Allende at 7pm on Tuesday, June 6.