Noche de fuego

An insect climbing a branch, a platoon of ants carrying a flower, a multicolored poisonous serpent: these are the humble wonders of creation that Ana – the main character of the tenderhearted Noche de fuego – watches attentively at the beginning of Tatiana Huezo´s first fiction picture after two remarkable documentaries. The quietness and transparency of such illuminations contrast with the violence beating a path through a village seized by fear of the military and drug dealers. A gorgeous nature underlies the loneliness and vulnerability of a threatened childhood in a community who earns its daily bread in a field of poppies, extracting opium gum from the beautiful flowers, one of the many paradoxes used brilliantly by a mise en scène that privileges insinuation instead of melodramatic logorrhea.

A boyfriend at the service of a cartel, an absent father, an unwanted haircut, a best friend kidnapped, a home always on the verge of being abandoned, an abrupt coming of age: these are the gifts the precarious stability of her country imposes on Ana. The most important lesson she has to learn is how to conceal her femininity in order to preserve it. In this story of transition from childhood to adolescence in difficult circumstances, terror is under the skin and the “enemy” is seen from a distance, as if the observer were hidden.

Noche de fuego is prodigal in striking images: villagers upon a hill at sunset, their phones lit up trying to connect with relatives and friends; Ana under a sheet playing hide-and-seek with her friends in a scene totally dominated by a red tonality; a convoy of narco-trucks, firing into the air as they pass in front of soldiers positioned on a street, as if they were their subordinates; a running girl doused by a toxic substance sprinkled by a plane…

Noche de fuego is at its best when documentary rules fiction, such as when the hand-held camera of DP Dariela Ludlow emphasizes how insecurity forces urgency and stress on the characters. The first part of the film is sculpted with extreme delicacy, punctuated by restrained music and sounds of nature and humans. When the elliptical give way to the literal, the depth of this chronicle of sorrow weakens and experience bows to predictable narrative (shot/reverse shot, a bit of formal redundancy). The difference between the sometimes mesmerizing intensity of the first half of the movie, where the real predominates, and the looseness of the more fictionalized second half, could be interpreted as a strategy to represent the ending of a fairytale and the tyranny of panic.

Nevertheless, this feature about helpless people, especially women, centered on avoiding violence, is not a piece of fatalism. Though sadness permeates everything and to survive seems to be the only reason to exist, the protagonists are what Tatiana Huezo calls “seed-girls”, sustaining each other with strength, fidelity and virtue. More than a journey into quotidian uneasiness, Noche de fuego is a silence within a silence, a cry, a prayer, a whisper.



Noche de fuego | Film | Tatiana Huezo | MEX-ARG-BRA-DE-USA-CH 2022 | 110’ | Zurich Film Festival 2022, Filmar en América Latina Genève 2022

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First published: December 13, 2022