‘Mariachi Gringo’ excites audiences at 28th Chicago Latino Film Festival

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Ed Hogan is a young man who lives in a small Midwestern town. Disillusioned with small town life, he befriends Pablo, the elderly owner of the local Mexican restaurant who introduces him to mariachi music.

Pablo (played by Fernando Becerril) was a mariachi in Guadalajara when he was young.

The amiable restaurant owner soon tells Ed, played by actor Shawn Ashmore, colorful tales of the mariachi lifestyle. Pablo instructs Ed in the work ethic and duty of a mariachi, which is to bring people together.

Besides sharing songs, the nostalgic Pablo tells Ed stories about La Plaza de los Mariachis in Guadalajara and the lives of popular composers, such as Jose Alfredo Jimenez.

After Pablo has a stroke, Ed abandons his rural life and heads south to Guadalajara, Mexico, where he hopes to become a real mariachi.

In Guadalajara, Ed finds help from Lilia, played by actress Martha Higareda, and Sophia, played by singer Lila Downs. Both fill him in on what it takes to become a mariachi.

This is a refreshing story filmed in Guadalajara and in Chicago. Director Tom Gustafson has Illinois roots. He was born in a small town about 50 miles west of Chicago.

The story is intelligently told amid the vast corn fields in the Midwest and later the crowded and beautiful colonial plazas and mercados of the beautiful city of Guadalajara.

Ashmore is very good at playing the subtle American who wants to learn the mariachi trade.

The film will no doubt introduce new audiences to this type of music.

The birthplace of the mariachi, many Mexicans will tell you, is the town of Cocula, in Jalisco, Mexico.

“De Cocula es el mariachi, de Tecalitlan los sones,” says an often repeated Mexican refrain from a popular song. The mariachi was born in Cocula, and mariachi songs came from Tecalitan, also in Jalisco.

The film had its special showing on April 16 at the 28th Chicago Latino Film Festival. It had already won over audiences during the Guadalajara Film Festival, where it won as Best Picture.

Gustafson said “Mariachi,” along with films such as “La Casa de Mi Padre,” starring Will Farrell, Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, marks the beginning of a new type of cross-border cinema that goes beyond cultures to entertain and inspire audiences on both sides of the border.

'Mariachi Gringo,' starring Shawn Ashmore, right.

‘Mariachi Gringo’ has screened at several film festivals, including the Chicago Latino Film Festival earlier this month.

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