CANNES, France (AP) — The Cannes Film Festival has had its first shock to the system, in the shape of Mexican director Amat Escalante's unsparingly violent drug war drama "Heli."
The story of the devastation wreaked by narco-violence on an ordinary Mexican family, the movie paints such a bleak picture that one journalist told its director Thursday that she had cancelled a planned trip to the country after seeing it.
Escalante said that wasn't the reaction he was hoping for.
"It's not an anti-tourism movie for Mexico at all," he told reporters in Cannes, where "Heli" is one of 20 films competing for the top prize, the Palme d'Or. "It's a drama that is quite extreme because I think it's even worse, the reality in Mexico — but not the everyday reality.
"It's a great country, a beautiful country that has this virus that invades certain parts, and many people are suffering," said 34-year-old Escalante, both the youngest director and the only Latin American in the main Cannes competition.
"It would be very socially irresponsible not to talk about those bad things that are happening in our country," added Gabriel Reyes, who co-wrote the screenplay with Escalante.
"I think if we never talk about the bad things then problems might never be solved."
Filmed in the bleak and beautiful landscape around the central Mexican city of Guanajuato, the film focuses on Heli (Armando Espitia), a young man who works in a car plant and lives with his wife, baby, father and 12-year-old sister, Estella (Andrea Vergara).
When Estella falls for a police cadet, the family is sucked into the world of the country's drug wars.
With shocking suddenness, violence busts over them, then leaves the damaged survivors to pick up the pieces as best they can.