Children who grow up in the lush mountain country of rural Mexico soon learn to spot danger. The dry rattle of a scorpion, the red, black and yellow banding of a venomous coral snake. And then there are the human threats: government helicopters that periodically drench the region in poison – a tactic in the war against drugs – and somehow never seem to target the opium poppy fields themselves, but rather the village and its environs.
Ana (played by Ana Cristina Ordóñez González as a child and by Marya Membreño as an adolescent) has been trained by her mother to map out the sounds of the night – the film’s busy soundscape takes in crickets, barking dogs, a cow without an owner – in order to identify the one danger the villagers prefer not to talk about. The locals call them “those people”, as if to name them is to give them power: they are cartel foot soldiers, equipped with jeeps and automatic weapons, who tear through the community, snatching young girls from their families to be trafficked.
This is an extraordinary, haunting first fiction feature from Mexican director Tatiana Huezo, best known for her 2016 documentary Tempestad. It captures the wary, precarious nature of a community that relies financially on the same forces – the rampaging drug cartels – that also terrorise it. Huezo taps into the intense vibration between young female friends who treasure each other above all else.