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THE DEVIL NEVER SLEEPS

USA / Mexico, 1994 (MIFF 1995, Documentaries)

Director: Lourdes Portillo

It all begins when Luli's favourite uncle Oscar dies under mysterious circumstances in Mexi­co. Luli, aka writer-director Lourdes Portillo heads south in search of some answers. What we get is a 'documystery', an ever-so-slightly fic­tionalised account of a death in the family.

Under the kindly eye of St Rita, the patron saint of Chihuahua-"not to mention unhappy marriages, boils and desperate causes"-Tia Oscar had prospered. His rise from labourer to mayor was neither swift nor uneventful. It is little wonder that Oscar's sudden demise was sur­rounded by gossip and scandal. Found face­down outside the gymnasium with a gunshot wound to the head, Oscar's death is variously attributed to lethal doses of class envy, sexual indiscretions (of all manners), bad business deal­ings, and most simply cancer.

Portillo's hand-held camera is a willing assis­tant in her unsteady search for truth. Together they confront family members, business associ­ates and friends constructing the image of a man that is both part bricolage and part mortar. In a country "where history is followed like melodra­ma", where the intricacies of a telenovella can bewitch the nation, there is a faith in visions that Portillo herself succumbs to. Even Luli's reflective glasses tell a story or two. And that's the point-in the end there are no singular answers to the mys­teries of life (or deathj-just half-grasped truths and those tantalising suggestions.

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