June 11, 2021

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‘Tragic jungle’: We are finite in the face of the immensity of nature

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Tragic jungle by Yulene Olaizola is available in the Netflix catalog as part of its originals.

In September 2020, the Venice International Film Festival was held, which stood out, among many other things, for the participation of Michel Franco in the Official Selection with New order (HERE can see the interview and HERE read the review), and by the presence of the Mexican director Yulene Olaizola with Tragic jungle.

This second title was so prominent, that moved from Venice to participate in other international and national festivals such as San Sebastián, New York, Guadalajara, it was launched in other countries such as Argentina. In all of them, their production, Olaizola’s directing work and history stood out.

Finally, after months of uncertainty to see when and how it would come to [email protected], is that its premiere was announced. First, hit theaters on June 4 and is now available on Netflix as part of its originals, as it acquired the distribution rights to enrich its catalog beyond that algorithm.

Poster of 'Tragic Jungle' for the Venice 2020 Exhibition.

Poster of ‘Tragic Jungle’ for the Venice 2020 Exhibition. / Photo: Courtesy

Tragic jungle

Tragic jungle It is set in the 1920s, and the setting is the huge jungle that in turn serves as the border between Mexico and Belize. Here are two protagonists. The first is the jungle and its vastness, and the second is Agnes, a young Belizean woman who only speaks English who goes into the jungle to escape an arranged marriage with an Englishman. Agnes flees with her white wedding dress, and she does so with the help of a friend and a man who runs them.

There are two other characters or group of characters who get involved with the jungle and with Agnes. A group of Mexican chicle workers and a group of Belizeans commanded by the jilted Englishman who is desperate to search and find Agnes to kill her.

Safety pin! Yulene Olaizola's 'Tragic Jungle' Coming to Netflix in June

Image of ‘Tragic jungle’. / Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Tragic jungle begins to take the form of a fantasy thriller when the Mexicans find Agnes. They decide to “stay” with her to prevent the English from finding her and tell them where they are, because chewing gum is dangerous and the most profitable business in the region. However, They decide to stay with Agnes because she is beautiful and they want her… Big mistake.

Agnes awakens Xtabay, an ancient Mayan legend of the jungle that talks about a female demon who in white, seduces men, confuses them, and kills them. Agnes, as they go through the jungle that seems to be getting thicker and deeper, it ends with each of the men who look at her, who intends to touch her, to hurt her, to appropriate her body. Agnes seduces them, enchants them, leads them into the jungle, and ends up with them.

Metaphor of the collapse of civilizations and man

Olaizola, with a script co-written by Rubén Imaz, make Agnes in a representation of the attempt to dominate humans by nature, so it seems immense to us, but we do not understand. The voice of a Mayan narrator is constantly heard saying:

Poor you if you can’t understand the mysteries of the jungle. Learn to listen to what you cannot see and always keep your feet on the ground … The jungle gives you a lot, but it also takes away from you”. And the only thing it can take away from you is your life.

Tragic junglea is a story that at first glance appears to be about a woman mastering the animal drives and instincts of men. But actually, it is the metaphor of the presence of human beings in nature, and how without realizing it, we let ourselves be absorbed.

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Indira Andrewin as Agnes in ‘Tragic Jungle’. / Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

The fact that men are gum workers is important to understand the complexity of a film like this. There are reports that By the 1930s, 25 percent of the chicozapote trees in Mexico had been finished, which bring the natural resin that forms the basis of chicle. The men went into the jungle for long periods of time, about eight months, to extract the resin and work the gum.

Much has been said about how the felling of the chicozapote tree for the construction of temples, and the use of this resin, could have been the culprit that the famous lost cities were born in the jungle to the south of Mexico and Central America like the temples of Tikal in Guatemala. Why did they let nature absorb them? Did they have a choice? Did they stop understanding the jungle?

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Indira Rubie Adrewin, protagonist of ‘Tragic jungle’. / Photo: Courtesy

There is talk of a collapse of the Mayan civilization centuries ago. We are talking about one that was about to happen 100 years ago. And now we talk about a new collapse that could not only be attributed to the Mayans (who face a struggle to conserve their heritage and regions), but to the whole world: the crisis caused by climate change.

We are about to let nature eat us because we do not fully understand it, and therefore we do not respect it. Human beings are on their way to their end because we don’t understand that we are finite in front of the immensity of a jungle that we want to possess.

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Image of ‘Tragic Forest’ by Olaizola. / Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

An almost documentary work

There is something dreamy about Tragic jungle. Nature, by itself, gives us an experience surreal for its spaces, sounds, those who cohabit it and the fear that prevails in getting lost. The dream, the chimera, is more of a nightmare from the surface, and the production and management work respects that.

So it is important to highlight what he did Sofía Oggioni with photography; what Imaz and Olaizola did together with Israel Cárdenas and Pablo Chea in editing; and of course, the music of Alejandro Otaola that keeps us one step away from the colpaso with the gum workers.

From time to time Tragic jungle It seems like a documentary film that exposes the reality of the jungle and how majestic it is. It tells us that despite the apparent calm, there are never silences because the only moment it exists is because it has absorbed us. The film is slow, but enough to involve us in a delusion that we must analyze to understand that we are here passing through, contrary to the jungle.

“Nature always wins”: Interview with Yulene Olaizola for ‘Tragic jungle’