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The Global Journey In The Sin Dejar Huella Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 2696 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Sin dejar huella (Without Leaving a Trace, 2000) is a film written and directed by María Novaro. It is based on a journey undertaken by two female fugitives – Ana and Aurelia – travelling along the back roads of Mexico from Ciudad Juárez to Cancún.

Sin dejar huella is similar to Novaro’s other film productions: it is structured around a physical, objective journey and Novaro makes clear allusions and references to the melodramatic themes of motherhood, female friendship and invisible male figures in contemporary Mexico. Sin dejar huella belongs to the niche genre of the ‘women’s road movie’ and has triggered comparisons with Ridley Scott’s tragicomic feminist road movie Thelma and Louise (1991).

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Cohan and Hark outline the road movie as representing “a quest…for a better life, a new social order, or fulfilment.” [1] However, the journey across Mexico in Novaro’s feature film transcends the conventional spiritual quest of ‘finding yourself’ and Bildungsroman as associated with this movie genre. It differentiates itself from the melodramatic undertones of her earlier film productions and the lightheartedness of Scott’s 1991 feature specifically through the interplay of “amalgamating elements from the cultures of different regions” [2] – the local and global influences and behaviour in Mexico through which Novaro addresses her socio-political concerns of poverty, social neglect, globalisation and the pace of modernity. In this respect, certain parallels can be drawn between Sin dejar huella and Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider (1969) in which, as one critic points out:

‘The search for America’ undertaken by Captain America and his sidekick Billy is not geographical, it is literally a quest to find out where America’s head is at. The people and places represented in that quest are evocative of different states of consciousness co-existing unpeacefully in this country and all over the world. Each stop on the road is an encounter with a different awareness of what is real and what is of value.

Novaro uses the velocity of the high speed chase in the narrative to ignite the film from within, effectively creating a momentum through which she engages the audience and, similar to Hopper’s 1969 feature, enters an incisive discourse to find out exactly ‘where Mexico’s head is at’. This essay is an attempt to investigate Sin dejar huella within the context of the ‘glocal’ [3] ; focusing on the mise en scène and the characterisation of the protagonists, I will consider how aspects of the local, regional and global – or the micro-meso-macro – are pooled together to generate an image of contemporary Mexico. More specifically, I will analyse the changing roles of Ana and Aurelia and the development of camaraderie between the two initially polarised characters as they progress through their journey: I will attempt to draw a correlation between the local and global influences they confront and are forced to adapt to, in particular from their positions as women living on the margins of Mexican society, and how this leads to a level of co-dependency and a drive for the formation of their relationship, representative of a creation of a new identity in Mexico.

Firstly, it is significant to consider the influences and reasons for Novaro’s interplay with the local and global in Sin dejar huella, and how they enable the film to explore aspects of globalisation in Mexico. Mexico’s entry into NAFTA [4] in 1994 and President Salinas de Gortari’s free-market policies led to a fall in national film production and distribution. Subsequently, agreements and alliances were established between Spanish and Mexican production companies in the late 1990s with the aim to “fortalecer los lazos de coloboración” [5] – to locally produce films and television programmes (where it would have been cheaper) and extend their reach beyond the national, and towards regional and global markets. The preconditions of these agreements were to incorporate Mexicans and Spaniards at the level of both cast and crew, generally in proportion to the percentage of funding offered by each country [6] — essentially an obligatory interplay and exchange between the local and the global. Sin dejar huella was part of this new wave of transnational cinema production: it was co-produced by Mexico’s AltaVista Films and Spain’s Tornasol Films, and Aitana Sánchez-Gijón – a widely recognised Spanish-Italian and Hollywood film actress [7] – was cast as the female co-protagonist in the film.

The representation of distinct upbringings and ways of life in Spain and Mexico are underlined through the mise-en-scène, characterisation, and the cooperation between the two protagonists in Sin dejar huella, which relate to the idea that the interplay between the local and the global stems from the preconditioned film production requirements and transnational influences. From the outset of the narrative, the costume and the “diálogos humorísticos” [8] between Ana and Aurelia draw immediate attention to their differing local and global consumer attitudes: Ana wears luxury ‘Western’ designer accessories, such as high-heeled sandals, a Longines watch and Gucci sunglasses which are emphasised in repeated medium frame talking head shots. Aurelia, conversely, wears cowboy boots relating to the traditional outfit of the Mexican vaquero and has neither heard of these global brands, nor recognises their monetary value: she comically mistakes Gucci for “Fuchi” and exchanges the Longines watch for only enough money to buy a telephone call-card. As the narrative progresses, it is significant to note that the women share and barter their clothes and accessories. The economic and information exchange between Spain and Mexico and the establishment of ‘friendly ties’ between the two countries in the film production, and also represented in the on-screen local-global trade could in fact be a constructive and encouraging image of Mexico’s entry into global economic activity.

However, although the incorporation of Sánchez-Gijón was a mere compliance with the conditions of co-producing, and the economic activity in the narrative representative of a progressive image of the Mexico-Spain film alliance, a close cinematographic analysis of the maturity of Ana and Aurelia’s relationship, and the shifting image of what it means to be a Mexican woman would reveal that the interplay between the local and the global transcends these practical factors.

The doll is a widely recognised and iconic symbol of the ‘feminine ideal’; it is a beautifully constructed, motionless object that is subject to gaze and adoration. In the opening ten minutes of Sin dejar huella both Ana and Aurelia break away from this anachronistic and illusory symbols of Mexican femininity in the physical destruction of doll figurines: for Ana it is a ceramic figure of “dama de Kolpecé, una tejedora, figura de Jaina del periodo clasico maya” [9] she was exporting as a replica Mayan artefact to the Museum of Denver, Colorado; for Aurelia it is the bride figurine from her wedding cake and under which she had stashed cocaine for her narcotraficante boyfriend.

Despite the physical exterior of the figurines – a bride and a weaver – it is the interior of the figurines are the sources of their corruption that have led them to embark on this quest – the drugs and the forgery – what the women have to resort to/ the realities of life as a woman in Mexico – despite the education and (what appears to be) a stable marriage life on the margins is

and are the factors that have driven them to embark on this quest to find out that what is actually contained within the dolls (for Ana it is a Mexican peso and in Aurelia´s case, drugs),

Destruction of what the doll represents and evocative of their search to find a new alternative definition of femininity in contemporary Mexico, albeit perhaps a broken and less defined image.

This journey away from the expectations of womanhood that they have essentially been forced to conform to by default is exemplified in the road sign “No hay retorno” since there is effectively no ‘turning back’; Ana and Aurelia had to break this image, showing almost a progressive image and a development.

Before the women have even met each other in the narrative they are united

The physical destruction of the dolls as the towards achieving their liberation is representative of the journey these women will undertake as they continue through the journey across Mexico

This dichotomy the two women face between subserving the image and breaking away to achieving exactly what they want, serves as a vehicle towards the formation of their friendship and an establishment of their co-dependency. In every scene in which their friendship is developed the fundamental human needs are brought to the forefront, despite the local-global differences that surround them:

When Aurelia witnesses Ana drinking water from a public fountain, Aurelia is shocked and offers to buy her bottled water. It is ironic in their reversal of attitudes and financial situations: Ana is the more globalised traveller, yet is faced with a situation in which she cannot pay for a basic human requirement, Aurelia, a woman who has grown up working in the sweat-shops of Northern Mexico ironically is aware of the problems of drinking tap-water. It is at this moment that a level of dependency arises from Ana onto Aurelia.

This dependency that emerges is particularly significant in reference to Aurelia´s mocking comment in the car “Loz ezpañolez hablan azí”, emphasising the lisp common in Spanish speech, which draws attention to their global differences.

This dependency is transformed into a friendship between the two women as witnessed at the “Playa Paraíso” where a sign embedded in the sand which reads “Sólo se encuentran amigos aquí” is focussed on and the women subsequently bathe in the sea water. Their physical immersion into the water perhaps could be inferred as a religious imagery of soul cleansing or baptism or the two women united by the water, a vital ingredient for life, and an element that is necessary for all regardless of their race or nationality. This visual imagery is significant in Novaro´s interplay between the local and the global because the sea is the factor that connects the local and the global, national and international altogether – not solely in a conceptual manner but also geographically.

This concept of the connection between nations through water (*) is represented in the scene that motivates Aurelia to embark on the journey itself in which she watches a man (like Ana and Aurelia) take of his clothes and cross a river to El Paso, Texas.

The notion of water as an immersing factor in representing the ability to cross / traverse across onto a new, better world is also what differentiates the women when confronted by borders each women reacts differently as a result of their upbringing and where they essentially originate from. Ana, as a ´globe-trotter, having lived, worked and loved in many countries confronts borders as a means of surviving financially – she trades false Mayan artefacts to the Museum of Denver, America. Aurelia, conversely, views borders as a liberating factor: a chance to improve her lifestyle and provide her children with the opportunity for a better life.

The relationships with men are significant factors that differentiate the women

Ana´s characterisation as a femme fatale as emphasised by the mise-en-scene in her dress is chased by a lecherous cop, Mendizabal : he smells her hair and almost fetishises his search for her, and in fact his hunt for her is like him wanting a foreign woman as a trophy to hang up. Ana is somewhat feared by men as a result of her education and her dress.

Their relationship with men

Ana and Mendizabel – goes beyond the femme fatale as her costume would suggest – she does not want to use her beauty, charm or sexual allure to ensnare Mendizabel

She does however torture her ‘lover’ denying confirmation of her affection and driving him to the point of obsession and exhaustion so that he is incapable of making rational decisions – it ultimately leads to his death – he is killed by the wrong person

She is in fact feared by Mendizabal

Aurelia and BILLY AND JUANITO – even her sexual relationship is with a 19year old boy

Her relationship with men is reflected on to youth of mexico – perhaps a progressive image of Mexico? Education of Juanito

Sex scene – he goes for her breasts – nurturing mother

Aurelia is the madre coraje – will risk anything for her children – using the traditional methods of education, good-schooling – ensuring change, Juanito holds strong morals

Heralclio Chuc progressive image of Mexico heading towards globalisation and a romanticised image of the past vs. the irony of the indigenous culture still existing within the forces of global..

Margins of society – left out and the irony that they have tore-create their roots/ portray themselves as existing in the past – attempt to regenerate their history (illegally)

In an interview with Fernando Brenner, Novaro stated that:

Quería mostrar un México muy contrastante: el sur y el norte. Y dos mujeres muy diferentes. Además una de ellas tenía que tener más capacidad para ver a México, precisamente por no ser mexicana. Ése fue mi punto de partida, y una sensación que tengo no me siento mexicana en la zona Yucatán, como le pasa a muchos mexicanos, pues estamos en la región maya. Y sea que esa vivencia, la de ser una extranjera en mi patria, convive con mi encanto por estar en mi país.

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Foreign influence in Mexico

Road movie genre ‘inexorably transcultural’

The movement in the movie itself parallels this shifting image of Mexico

Last paragraph – the image of a changing mexico isn’t negative – a progressive image of the change and that the foreign influence isn’t always going to be negative

However, despite the fast-pace change of modernity/ global influence, there is still a level of humanity – this doesn’t change – Ana steals the money but brings it back, mariachi band at the end – she remembers

Survival – basic human needs – they converge in this respect because they both rely on each other/ are dependent on each other – food, drinking, sleep


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