What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Netflix’s Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison, about the legendary mariachi band, also addresses Mexican music and politics in an engaging manner. And French musician Matthieu Chadid similarly gathered musicians from far-flung international locales to make a spirited statement about solidarity in the documentary We Are One.
Performance Worth Watching: Guadarrama is a truth-speaking firebrand, a musician, emcee and political barker who enlivens the film considerably with his charisma, passion and optimism.
Memorable Dialogue: It deserves to be repeated: “This is not music. This is life.”
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: Fandango at the Wall lets us tag along as O’Farrill pursues a noble passion project, and never once does it come off as self-aggrandizing. It’s just one musician seeking out other musicians to play together for a noble cause — and that cause isn’t anything specific, really. These people never get lost in the weeds of modern politics; they’re philosophical about broad ideas and concepts, primarily, how music functions as a means of unity, celebration and healing in culture, and especially this niche of Mexican culture.
Director Varda Bar-Kar doesn’t over- or understate the film’s themes, keeping a steady focus on the music, which is uniformly wonderful. Eventually, all parties gather at the Tijuana beach-wall and perform; they do so again when O’Farrill arranges for everyone to play in New York. But these aren’t the film’s great moments — not even close. It’s experiencing these musicians perform in their village squares without amplification or pretense. It’s seeing them in their homes, showing us their gorgeous handmade instruments and telling their stories. Music is so deeply ingrained in their lives, you’ll truly believe they couldn’t live without it.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Fandango at the Wall‘s mini-profiles of true son jarocho musicians are truly inspiring portraits capturing the authenticity of their musical expression. Those moments are simply wonderful.