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Now at MSPIFF: 'This is Not Berlin' celebrates Mexico's pansexual punk rock scene of the '80s

'This is Not Berlin'

'This is Not Berlin'

If you are a fan of Alfonso Cuarón’s sexy and sad Y Tu Mamá También, get thee to the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival to watch Hari Sama’s This is Not Berlin.

Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival 2019

St. Anthony Main Theatre
$15; $11 Film Society members; $8 kids and students

Set in the 1980’s punk art scene of Mexico City, This is Not Berlin follows two upper class teen boys taking a coming of age crash course. They discover their sexualities, experiment with drugs, participate in creating art, and live life in extremes amidst the backdrop of political unrest.

THIS IS NOT BERLIN - Trailer with English subtitles from Latido Films on Vimeo.

Carlos (Xabiani Ponce de León) and Gera (José Antonio Toledano) spend much of their time at their prep school getting into fights with a rival school and renting out issues from Gera’s father’s porn collection. All that changes when Gera’s sister Rita (Ximena Romo), the lead singer of a punk rock band with an affinity for Patti Smith, asks for Carlos’ assistance. When he fixes the keyboard of her bandmate/boyfriend, Carlos and Gera are invited to an uber hip and seedy nightclub called Azteca.

As the two boys become immersed in the underground world, they must navigate their own sense of selves. Not wholly a gay bar, Azteca harbors sexual liberation. “Let’s just say we are all fun people who like to live with fun people, and do fun things,” explains Maud (Klaudia Garcia), an older denizen of the scene who helps draw Carlos into an artsy inner circle.

With his luscious long locks and wide eyes, Carlos finds himself a sought after commodity amidst the new crowd of friends -- both men and women alike. He shaves the side of his head and begins to wear makeup, which marks him for scorn at his prep school. But he’s soon often too hungover to go to school anyway. He’s too busy making protest performance art and starring in avant-garde films to worry about exams. Carlos’ sudden popularity causes a rift in his friendship with Gera, and the film ultimately follows the journey of their friendship.

Sama’s direction includes lots of visual details that ground the film in its aesthetic moment. He also chooses to not make this a tragic film. While the threat of AIDS hangs over the characters in action, it’s not a film about AIDS or its consequences. Rather, This is Not Berlin is a celebration of art and creativity, offering a complex and often touching portrait of characters living through a certain period of time.

This is Not Berlin
8:45 p.m. Saturday, April 13 at Capri Theater
7 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 at Parkway Theater
10 p.m. Friday, April 19 at St. Anthony Main
$15; mspfilm.org/festivals/mspiff