“Ruido’s strongest moments do not arrive in its most shocking scenes, when Beristáin fatalistically denounces the systematic assassination of journalists in Mexico or the violent answer of authorities towards feminist movements, but when she juggles with a documentary format”
Over the past few years, the crisis of enforced disappearances of persons has become a central subject in Mexican Cinema. And how could it not, after tenths of thousands of civils have gone missing over the last decade, raising the number of disappearances to around 100,000 in the whole country. These works, among which we can include the work of Tatiana Huezo, Fernanda Valadez (Identifying Features) and Teodora Mihai (La Civil), have focused on the grief and despair provoked to the families surrounding the missing persons, in particular the mothers, rather than treating the subjects as a statistic (as news media does) or glamourizing crime and its prosecution, as it has happened in mainstream fiction. It may not be a coincidence that these films have all been directed by women.
Natalia Beristáin’s Ruido (Noise) joins this filmography. The film starts nine months after the disappearance of Gertrudis, a young woman from Mexico City that travelled to San Luis Potosí with her girlfriends to celebrate her college graduation. Beristáin casted her own parents, Julieta Egurrola and Alfredo Beristáin as those for Gertrudis, somehow situating the filmmaker as a hypothetical victim. The film focuses in Egurrola’s character, Julia, a plastic artist that loses grip of her everyday life in her quest to solving what happened to her daughter.
Julia’s frustration with local authorities leads her to a weaving support group formed by relatives of disappeared persons. There, she meets Abril Escobedo (Teresa Ruiz), a journalist researching the crisis. Abril insists they should travel to San Luis Potosí to meet with some of her contacts, namely a lawyer and a search group formed by women exclusively. Julia’s journey in the region is conditioned by the corruption of authorities, the constant threat of cartels, and the challenge of reconstructing, through text and videocalls, what’s left of her family. A glimpse of hope comes with the demonstrations led by feminist groups in the streets of San Luis Potosí.
In an attempt to intertwine a complex scenery around Julia’s quest, many narrative fronts are opened but shallowly explored. The premise behind Ruido would’ve probably worked better on a longer format, one that allowed Beristáin to patiently portray the never-ending impunity of Mexican crime prosecuting institutions, its relation with organized crime and the recent feminist uprising in Mexico. Textile art has historically been associated with feminism, but here works mostly as a prop and a typographic tool. Julia’s character is also neglected: we only learn about her art practice as a means of financing the investigation instead of it as her own vision of the world. This should not be a problem for Beristáin, whose previous work Los Adioses (The Eternal Feminine) prospers in rendering the depth of the work and thinking of Mexican writer Rosario Castellanos. Egurrola’s Julia is, however, an inspirational character; often fueled by Ruiz’s naturalistic performance as April, a silent co-lead.
Ruido’s strongest moments do not arrive in its most shocking scenes, when Beristáin fatalistically denounces the systematic assassination of journalists in Mexico or the violent answer of authorities towards feminist movements, but when she juggles with a documentary format. The mass grave search group is portrayed by actual rastreadoras, who interrupt Julia’s story to speak about her cases. But it is the ending credits that provide a much needed requiem to these stories.