Without a Trace (2000)

Mexican road trip film

Without a Trace from Mexican director, Maria Navaro, is a road trip film, but the difference here is that the story centres (as one would expect with Navaro) on women. Ana/Marilu (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) is intelligent, educated and has some nefarious doings with fake Mayan art. A border patrol officer is more than a little interested in Ana, and that interest is personal. He drags her into his office for questioning, and lets her leave after he’s finished drooling on her. The other main character, Aurelia, (Tiare Scanda) is a single mother of two. Aurelia works in a sweatshop in Ciudad Juarez where more than 250 murders of women remain unsolved. Her narcotics-dealing beau makes the mistake of leaving a stash at her place. She cashes in this little nest egg, and hits the road with the proceeds. Ana heads back to her fake Mayan art counterfeit centre, and Aurelia heads for Cancun where she hopes to get a job in a hotel. The two women meet in a roadside cafe, and a relationship begins as they decide to travel together.

The relationship between the two women is the great interest here. They are two different types–Ana is constantly mis-identified as Spanish, and she’s quick to correct everyone that she was born in Mexico but educated in Spain. Ana receives both deference for her Spanish looks and derision from others who tend to see her as an outsider. Aurelia is tough and determined, and yet Ana is beyond her experience. The two women need each other, and they silently accept that fact–along with the idea that it’s better not to travel alone (look what happens to women in Juarez, for example). As the two women travel together, Aurelia sees new country for the first time, and she marvels at the sumptuousness of it all. To Ana, it’s nothing new. The film starts off very strongly, and degenerates into standard fare as the two women travel towards Cancun and are pursued by the annoying men in their lives.

Without a Trace is a visually stunning film and worth watching if you’re interested in Mexican cinema. The male roles are–dare I say it–token stereotypical types. There is nothing terribly new here, and the ending is disappointing. That said, I have to add that Mexican cinema is enjoying an energetic renaissance, and I’m reaping the benefits as often as I can. Flawed though this film may be, it still beats most of the pap churned out from Hollywood. Director, Navaro is to be commended for the making of Without a Trace for the film brings attention to the huge numbers of women raped, mutilated and tortured in Cuidad Juarez. The victims are mainly young sweatshop workers who disappear forever from their families–a fate Aurelia wishes to escape.

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