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Thu April 11, 2013
Riches To Rags: A Comedy About Income Inequality Hits Home In Mexico
Originally published on Wed April 10, 2013 7:54 pm
In its first three weeks in Mexican movie houses, the film Nosotros Los Nobles (We Are the Nobles) is breaking records. The movie, about the father of rich, spoiled children trying to teach them how to live in the real world, has grossed more than $110 million and has been seen by more than two million Mexicans. At this rate the movie is on course to overtake Mexico's previously number one (non-animated) grossing movie The Crimes of Father Amaro.
Set in the posh neighborhoods of Mexico City, where high walled mansions and bodyguards keep the rich securely insulated from the rest of society, the Noble family patriarch decides its time to teach his three grown spendthrift children a lesson. He stages a fake police raid on his own mansion and hauls all their worldly possessions away.
On the run and in a common taxi, Barbie, the daughter dressed to the T in designer clothes and high heels asks her Dad, "Why are they taking everything away .... as if we were living in Venezuela?"
With nothing but the clothes on their backs the three kids, Barbie, a bulimic snob, Javi, the oldest son and full-time partier, and Charlie, a hipster with few aspirations, have to do the impossible ... get jobs. Along the way they learn humbling lessons about themselves and how the majority of Mexicans live.
This riches-to-rags story is resonating with movie-goers. Mexico has one of the largest income gaps in the world. Ten percent of the population, which includes the world's richest man, Carlos Slim, owns 40 percent of the country's wealth. Nearly half of Mexicans live in poverty... earning about $175 a month.
Movie goer Francisco Beristain Bravo enjoyed the movie and loved watching the rich characters fall from their high perch. "The rich here in Mexico are parasites," he told me. Beristain added what was best about the movie was how entertaining it was.
That was the reaction writer-director Gary "Gaz" Alazaraki hoped he'd get. In his debut feature length film, Alazaraki says he wanted to make a movie that touched on important social messages, like income inequality, but more importantly the movie had to be funny.
Alazaraki gained his sense of humor watching Saturday Night Live, on Cablevision in Mexico City. And he loved the screwball comedies that poked fun of the economic disparities during the U.S. Depression.
Comedies have been absent from the more serious serving of Mexican films of late, think Amores Perros and Crimes of Father Amaro. It looks like Mexicans are enjoying this comedy and its rich message.
(NPR's Carrie Kahn is based in Mexico City.)