B R I E F   S Y N O P S I S
Six American women (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daryl Hannah, Marcia Gay Harden, Susan Lynch, Mary Steenburgen and Lili Taylor), trapped together in a South American motel run by the colorful Señora Muñoz (Rita Moreno), anxiously await the local bureaucracy to process their adoption of newborns from the nearby orphanage. Over the weeks, they share hope and desperation surrounding their overwhelming desires to have a child. Writer/director John Sayles (Sunshine State, Lone Star) offers an insightful look at clashing cultures, modern maternity and the mystery of fate.
  Casa de los Babys

The roosters never wait for sunrise to start their crowing. In the colonia on the steep-sided mountain above Acapulco they crow whenever the mood strikes them throughout the day and night. The dogs, short-haired mongrels with skinny, pointed tails, bark at each other and at humans who pass by, and at nothing at all. Some commandeer the unpaved streets they live on, challenging every newcomer with their hackles raised, and some take a passive approach to traffic control by sleeping for hours unmovable in the center of the sun-baked road. Some spend their days on top of the many 'dream houses' (flat-topped cement boxes with re-bar sticking up to indicate they are unfinished and thus qualify for lower taxation) rushing from edge to edge monitoring the action below and yapping out their frustration. Some, judging from the iridescent green tickling of flies about their eyes and ears, are not sleeping but dead, and linger for a few days as ground markers ("It's about ten paces left of the dead dog up there—") till somebody in charge of their removal gets around to it. Scrawny hens and chicks dash around the flood-gullied streets, garden hoses snake through the trees above, connecting the shacks made of cast-off doors and plywood and plastic and corrugated metal to the huge blue water tanks that are hauled up to the top a few times a week. Pickup trucks can make the climb, and once in a while one of the blue-and-white VW bug taxis struggles high enough to drop off a night-shift worker then turn and roll clattering back down to the city.

There are wide cerros, steep, dry ravines pocked with spiny yucca, between each colonia and the next, the colonias stretching up like gnarled fingers from the palm of the harbor. Every time we ask if there is a shortcut between them we are warned that the people over there are muy mala gente and that we'll be taking our lives into our hands if we go. In each new neighborhood the people prove to be friendly, the dogs mostly indifferent, the roosters vocal and self-centered. The interiors of the dwellings do not always match up with the exteriors. Some of the grander two-story cement structures have been stalled in mid-construction for years, waiting for a change in fortune or change in government (the two usually go hand-in-hand in Mexico). Enter a little makeshift house tacked together with this and that and you may find a hard-working, happy nuclear family with a fully furnished bedroom, dining room and living room separated by walls of rusting traffic signs, an altar to Nuestra Virgen de Guadalupe complete with guttering candles, as well as a TV, VCR and state-of-the-art stereo system, extension cords slithering out through the gaps in the walls to feed into the tangle of wire and cable that crisscrosses overhead of each street, twisting vine-like in search of a power source. People here find a way. The colonia, at first like a parasite ignored or actively opposed by the city, evolves into one of its neighborhoods. The streets are festooned with flapping paper images of the candidates a full four months before the upcoming mayoral election, the whitewashed stone walls peppered with the red lettered acronyms of the contesting parties—PRD, PAN, PRI and their offspring—you deliver the vote and we deliver the water tanks or the electricity or maybe eventually a school. In the morning, starting before first light, we see the workers descend, men and women, some carrying tools, some already in their coveralls or pastel service outfits—nurses' aides, mechanics, construction hands, hotel workers—followed by kids in their school uniforms, making their way down the slope till they reach any spot flat enough and wide enough for a bus or a canopied pickup truck to turn around and haul them the rest of the way for a few pesos. As the sun comes up there is one man strolling in the other direction, shirtless and with a rifle over his shoulder, climbing to hunt rabbits on the peak above.

We are here to shoot scenes for a movie. Our crew is small, almost all Mexican professionals, trying to finish a feature in four weeks. We're shooting super-16, without cranes, Stedicams, helicopter mounts, Winnebagos, blue screens or many of the high-tech toys taken for granted on bigger productions, but that won't matter much in the end. People find a way. The working conditions may be funky and archaic at times, but our days are full of energy and color and noise and purpose. In time most filmmakers, most film movements, are incorporated into the mainstream whether that's what they're aiming for or not. But then new colonias rise up, people attracted by the work or the better life the work can bring them, and what they don't have they scavenge or invent or find a way to do without. Some of the edifices they create will be made of better materials than others, some will look finished and some will have the re-bar still poking up through the roof. And you won't be able to tell what's inside till you walk through the door.


©2004 Landmark Theatres