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The Terror and Agony of Being a Mexican Hitman’s Son

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Gian Cassini’s Comala is one of at least two documentaries showing at major film festivals this year—another being Karim Aïnouz’s O marinheiro das montanhas, premiering in Cannes—in which a filmmaker digs into the family history tying him to an absent father. Just like Aïnouz in his masterly film, Cassini is decidedly ambivalent about his father, having more than ample reason to be so: his father was a Mexican hitman, or sicario, who walked out on Cassini and his mother.

That word, sicario, crops up more than once in clippings examined by Cassini to describe his father, James “El Jimmy” Oleg Cassini Monarrez: seen here, the word is a needling throwback to the American action-thriller Sicario, whose perspective on Mexican drug wars was hardly a lesson in empathy. Comala takes a richer, more humane route, embedding its elliptical portrait of a wayward father in a sensitive understanding of the drug wars and patriarchal culture that shaped him. Although Cassini, as a director, is too gentle in his approach to force the point, his film adds up to a bitter broadside against a poisonous, and poisoned, type of masculinity.

The context in which Comala must be understood, is the Mexican chapter of the so-called War on Drugs as practiced by the United States: the U.S. is the world’s biggest........

© The Daily Beast

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