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Through the Falcon’s Eye: Eugenio Polgovsky’s “Trópico de Cáncer” and “Los herederos”

Through the Falcon’s Eye: Eugenio Polgovsky's "Trópico de Cáncer" and "Los herederos"

There is a scene in the middle of Eugenio Polgovsky’s 2008 film Los herederos, a documentary about child laborers across rural Mexico, in which a young girl silently assists an older man in his workshop. Sitting at a loom that’s been assembled from a few bicycle wheels and an elaborate homemade pulley system, the girl cranks the machine to life, weaving threads into what will soon be a rug, probably sold to tourists. As the bicycle wheels rotate and the loom performs its mechanical function, another kind of weaving begins: the sound of a Wurlitzer band organ intrudes from nowhere on the soundtrack, matching the motions of the girl’s hand-cranking, as a series of quick dissolves take us back and forth from the girl’s face to those of several old women, their faces craggy with age. When the loom stops, so does the music; as the wheels roll backwards slightly, so does the organ. Elsewhere in the workshop, the hands of a clock tick in reverse.

While Polgovsky has worked as a cinematographer on a number of more commercial projects (including Gael García Bernal’s first film as a director, 2007’s Déficit), his career rests primarily on his two extraordinary documentary features—Los herederos and 2004’s Trópico de Cáncer—which have garnered him such awards as Best First Documentary from the Mexican Academy of Cinematography and the Joris Ivens Prize at Cinema du Réel (for Trópico de Cáncer), as well as funding from the International Film Festival Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund and Switzerland’s Visions Sud Est. Read Leo Goldsmith’s entry in Reverse Shot’s American All-Stars symposium.

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