Japanese Movies and Convention in Mazatlán

 

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I announced to you back in January that this year we celebrate 400 years of Japanese-Mexico relations. We had the “black ship” float and two Japanese dance troupes in Carnavál, and this weekend the Mexico-Japan Association will hold its Nikkei convention in Mazatlán; I can’t wait for that!

In preparation, CULTURA got in on the action this week with a series of three Japanese movies, subtitled in Spanish. While the free tickets were given out within just an hour or two, and those of us living outside Centro Histórico, as usual, were not privileged to get any, we have been able to get a seat the past two nights. The last movie in the series will show tonight, Wednesday, at 7:00 in Casa Haas. Oh how I have enjoyed them! Greg has generously accompanied me to each of the two so far; hopefully he will again tonight, despite what he’d prefer to be doing.

Then on Friday night, also at Casa Haas but beginning at 6:00 pm, will be an exposition on the history and impact of Japanese immigration in Sinaloa state. Yes, I am so excited!!!! I hope to see you there.

Below is a short recap of the three movies in the series.

Monday’s Movie: 生きる、Vivir, the award-winning 1952 Kurosawa classic

I’ve seen “Ikiru” several times. It’s the only Kurosawa movie of that period that does not feature Mifune, and it was required viewing in the 1970s when I first studied Japanese. This was my first time to view it in Mexico, however, and the similarities I noted between my two oh-so-different adopted cultures were really striking. The protagonist, who’s dying of cancer, goes out on the town at one point, and despite the kimono and tatami you’d swear he visited Mazatlán—from La Botana to trumpets in a banda surprising you from behind and poorly sung karaoke, it was puro Mazatleco. The main character (Watanabe-san) is a city official who works in a dysfunctional bureaucracy in which very little gets done and nearly no one thinks about community needs, and at one point he has to navigate the Yakuza (mafia) visiting the vice-Mayor’s office. Sound familiar? I thoroughly enjoyed this re-viewing.

Tuesday’s Movie: 歩いても歩いても、Caminando, Still Walking, the 2008 movie by Director Hirokazu Koreeda

I had not previously seen this movie, nor am I familiar with this director, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The film so well captured everyday Japanese life—the love of nature, cooking and eating (it sure made me hungry!), respect for elders and ancestors, the pace of conversation, the communalism of family life. The people in this movie were bitterer than most Japanese I know, but it is, after all, a movie, and a movie needs tension.

Tonight’s Movie: そして父になる、 Like Father Like Son, last year’s movie by the same director, Koreeda

This is the story of a businessman who learns that his six-year old son is not his biologically, but that two boys were switched in the hospital at birth. Now he must choose between the son he has raised and his blood kin. Sounds pretty interesting but, for me, the real joy is hearing the Japanese language, the sounds of my other adopted home, and feeling as if I’ve visited this other land I am so very fond of. なんて懐かしい!!!

Behind the Scenes of Carnavál: The Making of a Giant Statue

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This year’s Carnavál de Mazatlán statue of Marcel Marceau

Every pata salada loves the monigotes, those super-sized statues that go up along the malecón and in the Plazuela Machado each year in the weeks prior to Carnavál. The tradition began in 2005, with Maestro Jorge González Neri’s replicas of the work of Antonio López Sáenz, Mazatlán’s illustrious painter and sculptor. Last year, for Festival de los Imperios, we had gigantic warriors from major world civilizations protecting our fair city. And we all loved it! Excited to see them go up, rather heartbroken to see them taken down, it is a terrific tradition.

Every year we wonder and guess, what will the monigotes be this year? On Saturday we were driving down Avenida del Mar and happened to see them putting up the first statue: the mime Marcel Marceau. Ah, the excitement! This year, with the theme of La Linterna Mágica, we are privileged to enjoy eight-meter tall likenesses of international film stars — Las Luminarias de Neri.

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Maestro Jorge González Neri in his taller

Marlon Brando, my beloved comic actor Cantinflas, the pachuco Tin Tan, actor and luchador El SantoPedro Infante, and Al Jolson were erected over the last few days. Marlene Dietrich went up this morning at Playa Norte. Just this afternoon we watched them put Charlie Chaplin up in front of our home. Oh, the thrill! The rumbera from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, La Tongolele (Yolanda Montez), went up late this afternoon. We watched it leave the taller after final painting and varnishing. Towards the end of the week the final monigote, of Marilyn Monroe, should make her appearance. We watched her head being carved today (see video and slideshows below), and her body being welded. Maestro Jorge González Neri himself told me that, yes, her skirt will be flying up in that iconic pose of hers.

So, how do you make one of those giant statues for Carnavál de Mazatlán? Well, the Maestro is a set designer who creates pieces for the stage as well as for public events. He is based in Monterrey, so there is a lot of sending of drawings and designs back and forth, between Monterrey and CULTURA here in Mazatlán, as they agree on what the monigotes will look like each year. It sounded to me like Neri himself is a bit astounded at how large they’ve become — the bar higher every year.

Once designs are agreed on, the staff of his taller begin working. Finished parts and parts in process are shipped to Mazatlán. A month or so prior to Carnavál, the Maestro travels here with a crew of 15 of his people from Monterrey. They hire papier maché people here locally, people who have now been doing this for years.

And, in an incredible open-air artistic assembly line, they create magic!

STEP ONE: WELD THE METAL FORM

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STEP TWO: COVER THE FORM WITH FABRIC/MANTA

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STEP THREE: COVER THAT WITH PAPER

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STEP FOUR: CARVE THE HANDS AND FEET OUT OF STYROFOAM AND ATTACH TO THE BODY

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Below is a very short video clip of one of the artists carving Marilyn’s face:

STEP FIVE: PAINT THE MONIGOTE & SEAL IT WITH VARNISH

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Below is a very short  clip of the artists lowering La Tongolele (from vertical to horizontal) so they can paint her shoulders:

STEP SIX: WRESTLE THE STATUE ONTO A TRUCK. TAKE A CRANE, FIGHT THE OCEAN WINDS, AND PUT THE MONIGOTE ON DISPLAY

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Below is footage of the workers loading the huge statue onto the truck for transport.

Below is a clip of the crane workers installing Charlie Chaplin in front of our building. They stake the monigote to the beach, and counterbalance the stand with sandbags.

As you can see, it’s a bit like making a piñata, or one of the papier maché projects we all did as children. But, not really. It’s nothing like that! What an incredible dream to make magic in this way, don’t you think?

Click here for a slideshow of all the 2013 Carnavál de Mazatlán statues. Thank you, Maestro and crew, as well as CULTURA and all involved! This year’s “Luminarias” rock!

Are you curious to learn more? A couple of years ago we visited Maestro Rigo Lewis in his taller, as he and his crews worked on the parade floats or carrozas for Carnavál royalty. He was born during Carnavál and the event and its magic run in his veins. Need a schedule of events? It’s posted on CULTURA’s Carnavál site. The inside scoop of what to attend and how it all works? Check that out here.