Here’s an interesting historical tidbit: “El Plan Sexenal” was a political platform elaborated by Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas back in 1934. Over his six years in office (sexenio), he would carry out a series of progressive reforms intended to empower the Mexican working class and grow the agrarian and industrial sectors of the country. Think of it sort of like a Mexican version of the New Deal.
So what the hell does the Mexican New Deal have to do with a night of partying gone horribly wrong in a warped version of 21st century Mexico City? That seems to be a question first-time director Santiago Cárdenas wants us to ask with his debut feature, Plan Sexenal. The brash thriller kicks off with a young couple holding a housewarming party in Mexico City’s northern borough of Aztapotzalco (say that three times fast). As these things tend to go, cops are promptly called and the party is shut down due to a city-wide curfew, but an unsettling stranger remains outside, seemingly standing watch over the revelers. The mysteries, secrets, and otherwise chaotic series of events that unfold in the wake of these occurrences ultimately weave a tapestry of contemporary Mexico where fear and the steady breakdown of civil society are unfortunate facts of life.
Filmed with a dark, nervous aesthetic and punk rock spirit that calls to mind a politically-charged Mexican After Hours — Plan Sexenal appears to be a full frontal attack on a new regime that entered office with a bold platform and big promises only to oversee a descent into social chaos and egregious corruption. Yes, Peña Nieto, we’re talking about you. The relentlessly dark images we’re confronted with in the trailer seemingly parallel this descent, as a bawdy fiesta rapidly gives way to sex, paranoia, murder, and fire, lots of fire. All of this accompanied by a throwback electro-dance soundtrack reminiscent of Kraftwerk or Giorgio Moroder.
Oozing with attitude, it’s no surprise that Mexican cinema’s enfent-terrible, Gerardo Naranjo (Miss Bala), had a hand in producing the film, which premiered at last year’s Morelia Film Festival and will be playing as part of the official selection of the Cartagena International Film Festival in March.