Directed by Rodrigo Reyes • 2020 • Mexico
To reflect on the five-hundred-year anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, director Rodrigo Reyes offers a bold hybrid-cinema experience exploring the brutal legacy of colonialism in contemporary Mexico. Through the eyes of a ghostly conquistador, 499 recreates Hernán Cortés’s journey from the coasts of Veracruz to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, the site of contemporary Mexico City. As the anachronistic fictional character interacts with real-life victims of Mexico’s failed drug wars and Indigenous communities in resistance, the filmmaker portrays the country’s current humanitarian crisis as part of a vicious and unfinished colonial project, still in motion nearly five hundred years later. Provocative, unique, and strikingly cinematic, 499 mixes nonfictional and performative elements with conventions of the road movie to show how past traumas continue to shape contemporary reality.