Review: “A Tiro de Piedra” @ San Sebastian Film Fest 2010

A Tiro de Piedra
Country of Origin: México
Written and directed by Sebastián Hiriart

Perhaps this one was such a let-down simply because of my expectations.  The synopsis made it sound great – a Mexican shepherd finds a key on the ground and takes it as a sign to embark on the adventure of his dreams, one that takes him thousands of kilometers into the United States.

Wow, I thought, Dreams, wandering, omens, adventure – this sounds right up my alley! 
I imagined it as being a Mexican version of The Alchemist.

Unfortunately, it was just that – a 97-minute boring Mexican version of The Alchemist made on a $300,000 budget.  Absent were Paulo Coelho’s wise words, replaced only by long periods of silence and an almost complete lack of dialogue.  The plot moved along very slowly as he progressed northward, and I felt as if I were actually in the car with him – that is, I wanted to take a nap so we could wake up in San Francisco and be closer to the end.

But the similarities to The Alchemist go beyond the protagonists’ identical lives (both were young shepherds, bored with their lives), their dreams of travel (going to the Pyramids in Egypt versus Oregon in the USA), and the omens that spurred their adventure.

It was, in fact, so similar to The Alchemist that I knew what would happen to the protagonist in advance – essentially the same challenges and vicissitudes that befall Santiago in The Alchemist: naiveté causes him to get robbed?  Check.  People telling him his dream is foolish?  Check.  Getting lost a few times?  Check.  A buildup to the climactic reaching of his destination, in which he is alone and lost, yet so close to home?  Check.

The only part from which the film deviated from The Alchemist’s plot was at the end, which was poorly written, confusing, and underwhelming.  It would have been better if the filmmakers had restrained their creative impulses and simply stuck to Coelho’s conclusion.

But I am being quite harsh – there are a few good things to say, principally seeing the perspective of an immigrant coming to the USA.  As someone who was born and raised in southern California, illegal immigration was something at once a common sight and a misunderstood phenomenon.

This film gives the international audience a first-hand account of the motivations behind immigration, the challenges crossing the border, and the reception in his new host country.  The protagonist actually goes through San Diego and right past my house, bringing home the struggle that so many people go through in search of a better life.  The protagonist struggles to find food, shelter, and onward travel in a country that misunderstand his quest.

I really appreciated this aspect of the film and eventually abandoned my hope for a decent plot and instead imagined the movie was an insightful documentary about immigration.  That was the only way to get any satisfaction from this mediocre film.

Trailer – Here

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