El Clasico

By Joel Vazquez Cardenas | Drama
2 friends drive to a big soccer match in Mexico City. Then the police pull them over...

Saul and Jeronimo, are psyched for El Clasico, the soccer game that has all of Mexico excited. Jeronimo is a young teen and Saul is his driver, but the two are bonded over their love of the game.

As they make their way to the game across Mexico City, Jeronimo sees a different part of the city he lives in, where he finds himself in a tight spot in Saul's barrio. But as they make their way towards the game, they run into difficulties -- ones that expose the wide gulf between the two friends, beyond just their ages and levels of experience.

Directed by Joel Vazquez Cardenas from a script co-written with producers Andres Fernandez and Mauricio Rivera Hoffman, this dramatic short explores the coming-of-age of a young man whose eyes are opened to the realities of life outside the bubble of childhood. Jeronimo has grown up well-off and protected by his family. But on one fateful journey across the city, he sees the limits of his relative privilege and the follies of his youth.

Part of the film's compelling vision is its authentic sense of place, evoked by a richly dense sound design, a sometimes deceptively gentle musical score and a naturalistic eye for detail. We never quite get a panoramic view of Mexico City; our perspective is limited to the characters, who travel linearly, slowly transferring one point of view for another.

Jeronimo's broadening perspective is the narrative arc that guides the journey here, played by young actor Camilo Inda Suarez in a compelling performance of a young man whose confidence comes from a certain naivete and privilege. He strikes out on his own in Saul's neighborhood, making choices that will have a dangerous impact later in the trip on both him and Saul, played by actor Fermin Martinez with palpable warmth and protectiveness. Though the dialogue is pared down and natural, their connection and emotional currents run deep, and as Jeronimo understands the consequences of his decisions, he's transformed from a child to an adult before our eyes.

With terrific emotional acuity, "El Clasico" has the gift of capturing this precipice of adulthood, and while its specificity in its cultural milieu puts us right there in Mexico as viewers, it is also a universally compelling narrative. We learn to see beyond the world we have grown up in, and the veil of innocence has been pierced by the sometimes harsh edges of experience. There is no going back after this shift in perspective; there is only moving forward as best as we can. And if we're lucky, we will have good mentors and influences to help us along.

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