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A scene from La Civil, A scene from La Civil, the story of a mother's search for her daughter, kidnapped by cartel sicarios.

Film about a mother’s search for kidnapped daughter gets ovation in Cannes

The actors spoke emotionally about their hopes that the film would promote positive change

A film telling the true story of a mother whose daughter was kidnapped by a cartel in northern Mexico received an eight-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday.

La Civil is directed by Romanian Teodora Mihai and stars Mexican actors Arcelia Ramírez, who plays the mother, Cielo, and Álvaro Guerrero who plays the father. It focuses on pertinent political themes such as femicide, corruption and impunity.

In the 140-minute film Cielo follows clues in the search for her daughter Laura’s whereabouts, who was kidnapped by cartel sicarios.

Both actors expressed their hope that the film would bring positive change. “It is very important to be here and that this issue is seen around the world, that it is talked about, that it continues to be made visible,” said Ramírez.

“It is a subject that moves me and touches me deeply. There is so much to do … I hope this helps in some small way,” Álvaro said.

The trailer for the film La Civil.

 

Mihai said she aimed to explain how violence spreads. “When violence touches you, it stains you. You cannot escape from it. Violence makes you a victim but at the same time it forces you to join its vicious cycle.”

However, she added that she did not want to make the film overtly political. “I do not get into politics because it is not my role. I tell stories and I hope that with them certain topics can be put in the spotlight, open debates and continue to discuss themes that are ever more present in our society.”

Meanwhile, critics have been quick to offer their praise. “La Civil is an important, forceful, necessary film,”  Spanish producer Marian Matachana said.

Kleber Götz, a German critic, explained why he believes the film to be so pertinent. “There are many films about this issue and the problem of kidnappings and drug trafficking in Mexico, but this film has something very important, very intense: it is the gaze of those who remain … they have to settle for bones … which they don’t really know belonged to their loved ones, in order to say goodbye,” he said.

“[It is] a tragedy that Mexico is experiencing and that cannot be measured,” he added.

La Civil is running in the Un Certain Regard (from another angle) competition where 20 films with unusual styles and non-traditional stories are presented, and for the Caméra d’Or (Golden Camera) which is for directors presenting their first drama.

According to the National Search Commission almost 90,000 people have disappeared since 2006. Identifying bodies — usually discovered in unmarked clandestine graves — was a key campaign pledge of the president.

With reports from El Universal and Variety

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