Do you like Martians? Animation? Political satire? Rude humor? Subtitles?
Then have we got a movie for you!
From Argentina, the animated Spanish-language Mercano el Marciano (Mercano the Martian) is the epitome of cult movie: not too many people have seen this, but those that do, love it.
And during the month of June, there will be only one place in the entire U.S. of A. that you could see this rare flick: Brooklyn’s own Spectacle Theater!
This will be the film’s first theatrical (non-festival) screening in the U.S., and like a UFO, who knows when it will return!
Mercano el Marciano
will have three screening during June—so mark your calendars!
Friday, June 7, 7:30 pm
Sunday, June 9, 7:30 pm
Thursday, June 20, 10 pm
The Spectacle Theater is located at 124 South 3rd Street, Brooklyn, New York, between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street.
Tickets always $5! (CHEAP!!!)
And I’ve also got a fascinating rotating program of animated shorts to feature before each showing. Gosh, if you like weirdness, you really should try and make it to each screening.
Mercano el Marciano (a.k.a. Mercano the Martian)
Dir. Juan Antin, 2002
Written by Juan Antin and Lautaro Núñez de Arco
Produced by Diego Flores and Mario Santos
Argentina, 73 min.
In Spanish, with English subtitles
And this is a director-approved screening! In fact Juan Antin has been incredibly helpful in putting this all together—the film has never been available in the U.S., and problems with an initial distributor had the film “lost” for a while—but the director managed send me a copy from Argentina: Muchisimas gracias, Senor Antin!
When animation comes out of one of the regions where it is not an “industry,” like the US, Japan or France, it tends to use the medium for more than just brainwashing children and increasing consumerism.
In an email conversation I had with Antin, he said, “With Mercano, I realized that I was ahead [of] time, because the Argentinean economical crisis exploded right after finishing the film. In fact, we were in post-production of the last animated sequences while watching the same events on real TV! It was a really amazing vision.”
In this often rude, adult-oriented, breathlessly-paced animated film, after a space-probe from Earth squashes his “dog,” angry alien Mercano flies his saucer to Earth—only to find a place so dysfunctional and illogical that it would give Mr. Spock a nervous breakdown!
Mercano el Marciano is a twist on both the “fish out of water” and “Martian Invasion” tropes, and uses the spaceman’s naiveté of our greedy and malevolent ways to drive the humor. Stranded in Buenos Aires, the sad and lonely Martian (who looks like a cross between a skinny Charlie Brown and a pickle) wanders through a city that has been devastated by poverty, violence and uncertainty, all the while chased by trigger-happy cops.
In an attempt to “phone home,” the extraterrestrial steals a laptop computer, but instead winds up befriending a Star Trek-obsessed teenager he meets on-line. Meanwhile, the kid’s yuppie-executive father is plotting total global consumer enslavement—and he intends to use Mercano’s outer space technology to get it, eventually entrapping the unfortunate alien in a giant test tube.
But those foolish, foolish humans don’t know what tricks those “men from Mars” have…
The first independent Argentine full-length animated film in 30 years, Mercano el Marciano was originally created as a series of shorts for Argentina’s MTV. The film is certainly in a similar vein as South Park and Beavis & Butthead—but not just because of the outrageous gross-out humor, deliberately crude animation and propensity for musical numbers, but as a barbed and absurdist take on contemporary society. (The movie is unrated, but would probably be a “PG-13”—but some of the short films being shown before Mercano are “R;” so forewarned is forearmed!)
Created while Argentina’s economy was melting down, the film has even greater resonance today with a global recession and nightmarish austerity measures forced down people’s throats. “Now after ten years, the whole world started to collapsed and I am not surprised at all,” said director Antin recently. “European people are really feeling the crisis, which I think it’s necessary; changes come always along with suffering, but it’s good to see that things started this process: rich countries will come down to their real true value, [showing that] all the financial system [are] absolutely virtual.”
Featured in multiple international film festivals, Mercano el Marciano was the winner of the Audience Award at Spain’s Catalonian International Film Festival in 2002, as well as the Special Jury Mention at the Festival du Film d'Animation Annecy 2002 in France.
Mercano el Marciano has also been shown at the Melbourne Latin American Film Festival, San Sebastian Film Festival, the Latin American Film Festival of Washington D.C., the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and many others. (I caught it at the American Museum of the Moving Image in 2006.)
And if you don’t believe me about how great Mercano el Marciano is, then listen to these folks:
"A slyly political, frequently antic take on the classic paranoid scenario of a Martian invasion of Earth, is a ray of light from an under-acknowledged subculture of Latin American cinema."
"The funniest movie Argentina has produced in a while; it has every ingredient to become a cult movie."
"Funny, corrosive, exhilarating."
"An immediate and effective humor, unpredictable and politically incorrect."
"Barbed and subversive…. From the crude animation to the pervasive violence and absurdist humor, the movie's debt to South Park is obvious, though the laughs here are more sardonic, presenting a gallows take on Argentina's economic morass and social ennui. "
Mercano el Marciano is the second film I’ve programmed/curated for the Spectacle (the first was the one-night only Mr. No Legs), and I’m even more proud of getting this great piece of Latin American subversion/animation to a broader audience. I hope you’ll be joining us at the Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn—THANKS!!!