Monday, April 4, 2011


Directed by Alejandro Molina
Written by: Alejandro Molina and Roberto Garza
Starring: Manuel Balbi, Sandra Echeverria

As a film lover and native Mexican, I am surprisingly and shamefully devoid of knowledge about my country’s cinematic output.  Most of my knowledge are vague childhood memories of greats like Cantinflas, or Pedro Infante, but it’s nothing that I can really remember vividly.  A big reason of why I’m not keen on Mexican cinema is because of most of it falls under the categories of Stories About Poor People, Stories About Drugs and Gangs, or Stories about Poor People Doing Drugs In Gangs.  So imagine my surprise when I see that there’s going to be a Mexican Science Fiction movie showing at this year’s Dallas International Film Festival.  I was beyond ecstatic.  In the not so distant future, society is now divided in two sections, those that work and live during the day and those that work and live during the night in order to combat overpopulation and maintain worker productivity at its maximum.

When you have high concept sci-fi movies, what I feel always makes or breaks the movie is how the world and the situation is set up.  A prime example of how to not do that is SURROGATES, with the cheesy and oversused “newspaper exposition” technique.  Whereas this movie’s premise just unfolds organically through better part of the movie, where  you get little hints here and there of what happened in the past.  Things like the fact that there are no parents and sons or daughters just guardians and infants.  Children are systematically separated from their guardians at a young age to begin life training; there are strict rules about when to go out and about.  This is the sort of stuff that is never flat out told to you, and you just figure it out. 

The main story begins with doctor Aurorra (Echeverria) is missing her infant, Luna, since she has on to get trained by The Leadership.  Thing is, no one can find her.  In a highly moderated and controlled society, this is seen as strange. Meanwhile, there is a mysterious former research scientist, who still remembers the “old ways”, who befriends Aurora for some rather dubious reasons. During the night however, we have Doctor Urbano (Balbi) discovering a mysterious little girl with strange markings on her back.  There is no record of her, and there is no reason for her to have died, but Urbano recognizes these markings. Once we find the true nature of Luna and how it connects the four people involved, the story gets into very interesting places.

The reason why there are  “life shifts” assigned to people is that the overpopulation in Mexico has become rampant enough to deplete natural resources and jeopardize the well being of the country.  Through the research of Dr. Pol, a scientist who has gone missing, an enzyme was created that would make people only sleep during the day or night.  I found this to be an interesting concept in which to root a sci-fi movie in.  It definitely plays to real problems that Mexico has, especially if you consider the metropolitan expansion of Mexico City that has devoured nearby cities into the capital. On the science fiction aspect of the movie, we have a story where it seems that once again, we have humanity willing and able to succumb any freedom in order to feel safe, even if that freedom is their humanity.  Not only that, it really touches on some rather strong things about the human condition on a very basic level, which is where I think the movie really shines.

For the first part of the movie, I figured that the movie would be this super epic sci-fi movie where the main characters finally break humanity free from their oppressor.  The end result is more MOON than say, THE ISLAND.  Eventually, the story doesn’t become so much about the evil Leadership, who wants to crush any remnants of humanity that are left in the population.  A big theme in the movie is the essence of family and how we as a species rely on each other for support and caring.  Even though none of the main characters in the movie were born before the New Order, they still give in and think about such things as pleasure, pain, and just plain emotions.  The fact that they never can all be together is a completely different matter altogether.  In a world where referring to a guardian as a parent is considered sacrilege, they take an awful lot of risks breaking the rules.

What really bothered me about the movie is I felt that apart from the original mystery of the young girl, there is not much conflict.  A lot of things just happen, they happen very poetically, but there didn’t seem to be a huge struggle.  The characters all seemed to be doing a lot rule breaking, and yet you never felt a sense of danger come about, and I think that’s why maybe a lot of people got up and left during the movie.  I particularly enjoyed the slowly building relationships between the characters, but even I had hard time with a lot of parts with the movie where it just seemed to be losing a lot of focus.  I could barely call the movie’s final act as having a climax, though it did have a rather interesting conclusion, which is where the movie brought me back slightly. 

Overall, this was a very interesting concept and I want to see what director Molina does in the future. This is a very creative attempt at sci-fi from a country that mostly deals with the dark and bleak side of life, and I like that Mr. Molina chose to focus on a positive message in a more creative way. 

BY DAY AND BY NIGHT will screen again Tuesday, April 5th at the Magnolia at 4:00 PM. 


  1. This is the great blog, I'm reading them for a while, thanks for the new posts!

  2. Excellent!
    Great article, I already saved it to my favourite,