Friday, March 6, 2009

Award-winning Silent Light, set in Mexico, showing at Belcourt through Monday

The Nashville Scene points us to a Belcourt run of Silent Light (Stellet Licht), a movie set in Mexico about adultery in a Mennonite community. The language of the film is "the medieval German dialect Plautdietsch."

German and Mexico and Nashville last intersected in the Hispanic Nashville Notebook when we were discussing how German immigrants changed both country music in the U.S. and norteño music in Mexico:
Polka, which originated from Bohemia, has also had a significant influence on norteño. Compared side-by-side, some styles of American polka may bear striking resemblance to norteño music. The polka beat is characteristic of norteño. At the turn of the 20th century, Bohemian immigrants flowed into Sinaloa, Mexico to farm the land and mine coal. German immigrants had also settled in large numbers in the cities of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon and Mazatlan, Sinaloa as early as the late 19th century. These German immigrants fueled the demand for a local brewing industry, and they also influenced the music scene by bringing the accordion and the polka rhythm, which were part of the popular music of their homeland.
According to this Wikipedia article, Silent Light won a number of film festival awards and also appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008:
  • 2nd - A. O. Scott, The New York Times
  • 4th - Scott Foundas, LA Weekly
  • 5th - Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
  • 6th - David Ansen, Newsweek
  • 6th - J. Hoberman, The Village Voice
From the Belcourt's description of the film and its subjects:
During the sixteenth century, a Protestant group called the Anabaptists (or re-baptizers, because of their belief that their followers must chose baptism as consenting adults) was formed in Switzerland. Menno Simons (1496-1561), a Dutchman from Friseland, codified their doctrine by introducing radical pacifism. His followers were persecuted mercilessly for their anti-militarist stance. They fled from Holland to Prussia, and later to the Russian Empire, ruled by Catherine the Great. Europe’s relentless thirst for war drove most Mennonites to Canada, where they settled in 1873, and to the United States, where Amish and Mennonite communities had been living since 1683. After the First World War, a wave of anti-German feelings spread throughout Canada and it became increasingly difficult to teach Germanic languages. Many Mennonites emigrated to the north of Mexico in 1922. Today, almost 100,000 Mennonites live there in communities that have their own education system and unique regime of civil liberties. Those who are not content with progress and development emigrate to Bolivia, Belize, or other areas of Mexico, where they establish farming communities without electricity, modern medicine, telephone, internal combustion engines, mass media, etc., and live distant from the local population.

Some moderate groups do not reject progress, but those who are more conservative than our protagonists choose to live according to the standards of the sixteenth century. The Mennonite community depicted in the movie is an intermediate one, to the extent that they have slowly begun to modernise and have come to accept cars and the advances of scientific medicine, among other things, but still refusing modern communication channels such as telephone or the Internet Among them, Mennonites speak Plautdietsch, a German dialect that comes from Friesland and is strongly related to medieval Dutch and Flemish. With the population of Mexico they speak Spanish.

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