MERCANO EL MARCIANO
(MERCANO, THE MARTIAN)
dir. Juan Antin, 2002
73 mins. Argentina.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2 – 7:30 PM
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11 – 7:30 PM
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13 – 7:30 PM
MONDAY, OCTOBER 28 – 10 PM
Do you like Martians? Tex Avery-paced animation? Political satire? Rude humor? Subtitles? Then have we got a movie for you!
From Argentina, and a combination of traditional and computer animation, the Spanish-language MERCANO EL MARCIANO is the epitome of a cult movie: not too many people have seen this, but those that do, love it. When animation comes out of a region 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 sales of soon-to-be-forgotten toys.
In this film, after a space probe from Earth squashes his “dog,” angry alien Mercano flies his saucer to Earth to register a complaint—only to find that the Earth is so fucked up and evil that even a Martian armed with a death ray can’t catch a break.
The film is a twist on 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 Charlie Brown and a pickle) wanders through a city that has been devastated by poverty, corporate greed, violence, and uncertainty, all the while chased by trigger-happy cops (dub the flick into English and you could say he landed in NYC). In an attempt to “phone home,” the extraterrestrial steals a laptop, but instead winds up befriending a teen sci-fi geek. But 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 humans don’t know what tricks those “men from Mars” have…
Originally released in 2002, this was the first independent Argentine full-length animated film in 30 years. MERCANO EL MARCIANO was originally produced as a series of shorts for Argentina’s MTV, and the flick is certainly a kissing cousin to South Park and Beavis & Butthead—and not just because of the outrageous gross-out humor, deliberately crude animation, and a propensity for musical numbers, but as a barbed and absurdist take on contemporary capitalist society.
Created while Argentina’s economy was melting down, the film has even greater resonance today with a global recession, thuggish world leaders in the pockets of corporations, and nightmarish austerity measures forced down people’s throats ruining social services. “Now… the whole world [has] started to collapse and I am not surprised at all,” said director Juan Antin in 2013. Antin has gone on to make the family-friendly Netflix hit PACHAMAMA (2019), which, among the plucky adolescent protagonist’s misadventures and antics with various cute animals, actually has a strong, subversive anti-authoritarian streak running through it.
Featured in multiple international film festivals, MERCANO 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.