Off the Road (2020) Visions du Reel ***

April 25th, 2020
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Jose Permar | DoP Ernest Trujillo | Mexico Doc 76′

Mexican filmmaker Jose Permar takes a shoestring budget and makes a ingenious and cinematic western style documentary set in the bone dry beauty of Mexico’s largest desert region, The Baja. This is a story about a race, a group of musicians and a community clinging to both in order to survive.

The Baja 1000 is the biggest off-road motorsport race in the world that each year brings life into this remote desert community along with three flamboyant musicians Rigo, Davis and Paco, three who celebrate the car rally with a classic guitar beat set by the “corridos”, epic lyrics singing the praises of local heroes.

Their stunning costumes and sultry style add a shot of zinging colour to the suede and khaki dustiness of the desert scenery, puncturing the cacti-strewn landscape with their exuberant songs. . Since 1966, this far flung world looks forward to the roaring caravans of the Baja 1000. And José Permar makes a delightful tribute to the event that sees families gathering together to enjoy the music and the excitement of the race.

But the musicians are not just bystanders there to entertain, they also take part. Rigo has customised the family car to join the race and Davis is an avid enthusiast and onetime driver, now retired from the track. Meanwhile Paco is a young journalist seeking to secure the passage of the cars.

Filmed during the year preceding the Baja 1000, Off The Road is a western that borrows from the codes of a musical to depict, with distance and empathy, individuals relegated to the gateway of the North American El Dorado, who seem to replay their destiny every year via this ephemeral mechanical epic.


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