Hot – Coco is Hot – for many reasons…

OF COURSE COCOA is Hot, but when we are talking about the latest Disney film, Coco, yes, that is hot for many reasons as well.  From the beginning I had reservations until I did hear the behind the scenes testimony that took place in the streets of Mexico, to get it right.  Not to stereotype, not to discriminate, not to embellish what news articles portray as Mexico, and yet, I still had my doubts, fears, and anxieties of seeing my first film since returning to the states, and having it be portraying all that was Mexico, and freshly arriving from Mexico and finding a balance somewhere in between.  Yet, I was curious and hopeful that it would be something similar to The Book of Life, which I had no idea of until, ironically, I returned to the states, and fell upon during Dia de los Muertos, but stateside.  I fell in love with the tenets, the colors of the film The Book of Life and for an hour or so, memories of Patzcuaro, Day of the Dead, and things many people only might hear hints of about Mexico seeped through.  Would I be so lucky to feel that glimpse of what I felt from Coco?  I was willing to take the risk.  

It was the first snow I had seen in Delaware in six plus years, and the first snow, (minus Chicago which was THE first snow I had seen since actually moving back in six years in the states), and the first time I experienced the cold on the beach, in Delaware, and I have to tell you, I definitely lost my thick skin.  I recalled the image of those mornings, getting on the metro, seeing hundreds upon hundreds of people, going to work in the morning, dressed in winter wear from head to tow at the mention of 50 degree and had to smile . and realized in a warmth and winter level, no, I wasn’t in Mexico City anymore, lol.

As the day turned to the theatre in Rehoboth, I realized, this indeed was my first film in a theatre since departing from Mexico, and I truly felt it appropriate.  In being honest, in a professional way I was lucky to have slid into a job where I was able to make such a connection to the students so quickly, and maintain a connection in such a short time.  The same went for how organized and how much I knew I needed to jump into to change some elements of the library based on the excellent experience I had in a great library in Mexico City.   I felt I did not have the same luck personally in making this shift in how I felt in the attachments, the way I felt like celebrating, and the sounds, tastes, smells, and general feeling inside when I looked around.  It just was, is, has been a huge shift that is very slow in the making, so jumping in to so many things did/has/will have helped, but still only to a degree as I hoped for when I found myself face to face with a chance to experience what all those experiences felt like in Mexico.

Family – I was not to be disappointed.  Family.  I was not prepared for the familial elements that I found at every market, every corner, every store, every events I experienced in Mexico, to be in Coco. Yet, it was obvious as a theme, as a place-you-will-end-up-if-you-let-it feeling would emerge from the film as I felt in Mexico, yet sure enough it eeked out all over.  From characters that reverted back to how important family is despite the good and bad that happen in the wold, despite the elements of success one hopes to achieve through work, fame, talent, etc family still is present, despite anything, the sense of family lingers for all time, and Coco did that and more.

Music – Unreal.  The mariachi and the countless trips in Xochimilco, the brilliant celebrations that ooze into every pore, the art and honor in singing and the guitar, the trumpet, the violin, everything, it is all there.I realized one of the hardest and most difficult things in returning to the states has been the fact that silence greets me right outside my window, and the “noise” I was missing was the very sounds of the street, the instrumentals celebrating a holiday, a family act, a prominent change in one’s life, and so much more.  Coco surrounds you with this blanket of music that get across how much of a thread music is to all the elements that make each of us human, and spiritual, as the same time.   The individual characteristic/connection to the alebrijes, to Day of the Dead, to an individual, to a degree was lost on me until I was reminded of it in this film, and it goes to show, you carry a knowledge of something, sometimes without even realizing it, until a reminder comes at a time that is the right moment for you.  

Spanish – There was a small amount of Spanish disseminated out, not as much as I hoped/expected, but enough to attract and linger with even the vaguest of Mexican phrases that attach themselves to important symbols and meaning.  I loved the fact these attachments and bits of Spanish were in fact attached to the very references that dealt directly with familial images.  I never felt as much related to a culture as I did in Mexico, it took me by surprise how much family was expressed in a culture, and I doubt I will ever experience that in any country as much as I did in Mexico, that carries with you anywhere in the world as Coco went on to show.

Color – there is NOTHING, I mean nothing like you have ever seen when you are walking through the ofrendas of Day of the Dead and see the alebrijes and the ofrendas, the colors seem more surreal than anything you have ever seen.  Coco was a myriad of colors so deeply thick, I felt I could see hundreds of places I had travelled to in Mexico ten times over if i closed my eyes and I did not have to, Coco provided that to me.  I also felt these colors would not be as believable and bright in the film, had I not been to Mexico already.  The color and vividness of all color depicted  cals out to you just as the country of Mexico does when you are surrounded by it.

The ties that bind – there is undoubtedly the feeling you get, the feeling a movie can only do through tears, remorse, longing, and simply deep-down feeling you connect with when you have felt that before.  The thinking that went into a plot that captures the trickiness that comes with decisions that have to do with your life’s calling, your family, and all in between is readily available for you in Coco.  It is all there, and so much comes out, but I think my amazing opportunity to be a part of Mexican culture, being accepted and welcomed and appreciated, and being treated as family, and seeing it on the screen – depicted to ie the absolute real feeling Coco offers, it is easy to see the producers spent time in Mexico to capture this spirit you feel – in good times, times that test everyone around you, times that push you to your limits into the culture of Mexico itself and wraps itself around you – only a country devoted to family, devoted to the aspects you cannot buy, could such a connection occur.

Have I ever felt like this in the very country I was born, raised, and lived in most of my life?  I have to say, yes I have.  The asset of living in Mexico was to realize the depth of this feeling and how deep this connection can be, when I have often felt many times in the United States it is held back, restricted, and placed limits on.  I realized after living in Mexico for six years that the opportunities to be #1, be the top of a career or be above everyone else and climb any ladders other than a familial/cultural one, is one that wastes the richness that life has to offer.  That is a difficult realization when you have seen that all around you growing up and fed that level of success, until you feel and see it in a completely different culture, something totally different than you have ever known.

I felt that realization again in watching Coco, if only in the brief time that I was in the theatre, and that is priceless, something you cannot review, categorize, or paraphrase. You have to feel it and portray that every day for it to become a reality.  That is what is priceless about the feeling you get from Coco and experiencing it for real in Mexico! – the trick is to carry that in your heart and bring that out every day no matter where you are.  I have been in a VERY lucky position to fall into a host of friends in coming back that allowed me to feel that when i am around them, not something that comes easy, but was lucky enough to remain to me from when I lived in Delaware before, and now I have the chance to fight for the time and moments to let the depth of Mexico enhance those very moments on an even deeper level in returning.




About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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