Luis Buñuel’s savage 1950 Mexican masterpiece has long been out of circulation. Now magnificently restored by the UNAM Film Archive in Mexico, this subversive tale of Mexican street life returns at last to the big screen. ‘Los Olvidados’ remains one of the most powerful films ever made, and its influence can still be felt in films as contemporary as Fernando Meirelles’s ‘City of God’ and Neil Jordan’s ‘The Butcher Boy’.

From its riveting Oedipal nightmare—’perhaps the greatest of all movie dream sequences,’ said critic Pauline Kael—to its wrenching final scenes, ‘Los Olvidados’ draws the viewer into a reality of its own and never lets go. Set in the slums of Mexico City, the film details several days in the life of Pedro, a young boy of the streets, and his relations with his fellow gang members, his loveless mother, and especially with the charismatic, self-serving gang leader Jaibo. When Jaibo makes Pedro an unwitting accomplice to murder, the two boys’ fates become intertwined, as Jaibo becomes Pedro’s surrogate father, his rival, and his inescapable tormentor.

‘Los Olvidados’ was Buñuel’s first major Mexican film and his first notable work since ‘Land Without Bread’ twenty years earlier. It established him as a world-class director and helped revolutionise Mexican film-making. Though much decried on its release, it won Best Director at Cannes the following year, and in 2003 was inducted into the UNESCO ‘Memory of the World'(*) programme. Often described as a melodrama about urban poverty, ‘Los Olvidados’ is in fact a much more ambiguous statement about yearning, loss, and the human hunger for love and redemption. Buñuel termed it ‘realistic, but with a subtle current of fierce and sometimes erotic poetry.’—Mark Polizzotti.Mark Polizzotti’s book on ‘Los Olvidados’ (published in 2006 as a BFI Film Classic) is available from the IFI Film Shop.

(*) UNESCO’s ‘Memory of the World’ programme preserves documentary heritage of world significance

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