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Mexican crime drama 'Heli' weaves complex web of violence



"Heli" opens Aug 8 at the Roxie in San Francisco, a Mexican crime drama directed by Amat Escalante. In this brutal story of drugs, corruption, and torture Heli (Armando Espitia) lives with his wife Sabrina (Linda González), his young child and younger sister Estela (Andrea Vergara). He works at an automobile plant with his father.

Andrea Vergara in 'Heli'
Courtesy of Festival de Cannes. Reprinted with permission.

Estala’s boyfriend Beto (Juan Eduardo Palacios) is much older than her. She is clear about not wanting to have sex before marriage. Beto decides to get married and run away with her. He steals packages of cocaine from a corrupt general to pay for their escape. Beto hides the cocaine on Heli’s property and Heli later dumps it in a well. The corrupt army finds out about it and goes to Heli’s house, murders his father and abducts Heli, Beto and his sister. Estala is taken away and Beto and Heli are tortured.

The police investigate the abduction and torture but cannot really help because Heli does not tell them the whole truth. He fears being branded a criminal like his father and never finding Estala.

"Heli" is a narrative about misery and corruption with absolutely no hope or belief in the human condition. The violent complexity of the film is often told without dialogue in open spaces, with frequent shots of nature such as landscape or a star lit sky.

Not everything about the events is understandable and borders on unexplainable violence where human life is cheap. In "Heli" physical satisfaction seems to be all the characters have left from a life of misery and despair.

"Heli" was part of the official competition at Cannes last year, It was one of the shortlisted films for the Palme d’Or and Amat Escalante won best director. The filmmaker will be at the Roxie on Friday, Aug 8, after the 7:00pm screening to discuss his film, something that should prove to be of great interest given the controversial subject matter.

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