Dir.: Tatiana Huezo; Documentary with Montse Hernandez, Sarahi Hernandez, Uriel Hernandez, Ramiro Hernandez. Members of the Tapia and Gonzales families;; Mexico/Germany 2023, 102 min.
El Salvadorian born, Mexican writer/director Tatiana Huezo follows her outstanding drama debut Prayers for the Stolen, with a female-centric documentary feature that follows three families during a year in a remote Mexican mountain village where – once again – a little girl is the focus.
Montse (Montserrat Hernandez) is a studious, soulful child who loves animals and a cares for her elderly relative. She dreams of becoming a teacher and is already practising being ‘very strict but knowledgeable’ in preparation for her future. But Montse realises she must leave the village to pursue her dream career. Her mother Sarahi Rojas Hernandez, who had married young without finishing High School, is not a role model for Montse, who feels -rightly – that she will be held back simply because of her gender. Father, Uriel Hernandez, like many men in the village, works in a factory during the week and expects his wife to look after the children, take care of the animals, and cook for the family, whilst he relaxes at the weekend.
After a meal, he tells his son Ramiro to leave the plates on the table. “The washing up is for the women, you do not have to do it”. Montse can see her mother obeying her husband, even though she sometimes contradicts him. But Montse eventually leaves home with just a back-pack. Another local, visiting the her in the city, communicates Montse’s mother’s desire to keep in touch.
Huezo paints a picture of a society still stuck in the Dark Ages where women are second class citizens and men put their feet up, leaving all the chores to their wives and daughters. Montse is a critical observer of this state of affairs, but her fellow females more or less coalesce to the status quo, and follow the rules without questioning.
DoP Ernesto Pardo stays close to his subjects, capturing the austerity of the terrain, and the womens’ emotions that often betray a contradiction to their spoken words. The Echo is a timely essay about home and exile, obedience and rebellion, all caught with a minimum of drama. Tatiana Huezo proves once again that minimalism is a powerful way to show how the ordinary can become extraordinary. AS
BERLINALE | COMPETITION 2023