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Metal and Melancholy
A Film by Heddy Honigmann
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This documentary is an offbeat "road movie" in which acclaimed documentarian Heddy Honigmann travels with, and thereby discovers the stories of, taxi drivers in Lima. In the early 1990s, in response to Peru's inflationary economy and a government destabilized by corruption and Shining Path terrorism, many middle-class professionals used their own cars to moonlight as taxi drivers in order to weather the financial crisis.

Through the filmmaker's distinctive approach—"I don't do interviews," Honigmann has explained, "I have conversations"—METAL AND MELANCHOLY learns how these part-time cabbies, including a teacher, a Ministry of Justice employee, a film actor, and a policeman, among others, manage to navigate through Lima's congested, pothole-filled streets in dilapidated cars whose survival techniques are as fascinating as those of their owners.

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After describing the intimate relationships they've developed with their vehicles, and the ingenious methods they use to thwart car thieves, the taxi drivers open up emotionally to relate heartfelt accounts of domestic adversity, love, life-threatening illness, romance, economically frustrated ambition, pain and suffering. "Life is hard, but beautiful," one of the drivers sums up philosophically.

METAL AND MELANCHOLY also occasionally steps outside the taxis for a heartrending visit to a Lima cemetery, to visit the homes of their drivers and to meet their families, to contend with the swarms of street vendors, including young children, and to snap personal portraits of cars and drivers.

"Revealing...compelling." —Stephen Holden, The New York Times

*** ½ Stars "A loving portrait... moving... this portrait of life for the city's cab drivers also becomes an insightful statement about Peruvian national identity." —TV Guide

"Offers a candid and kaleidoscopic view of the poverty-stricken metropolis through each driver-philosopher's tale of hardship. Some of the stories are disarmingly amusing, even comical; others are poignant and sobering." —The Chicago Reader

"A panorama of human spirit and ingenuity." —Museum of Modern Art Program Notes

*** ½ Stars "A wrenching, haunting film...[with] ferocious intelligence and shattering compassion." —Travis Mackenzie Hoover, Film Freak Central

"An entertaining and colorful documentary that takes a novel approach on portraying the way a severe economic situation can impact the human condition, but also proves even with pain, life goes on and can be beautiful." —Charmaine Henriques, Educational Media Reviews Online

2007 Hot Docs International Documentary Festival
2004 Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
2001 The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar
1995 Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival
Grand Prix, 1994 Cinéma du Réel
Johnny Jordaan Prize, 1994 Amsterdam Art Fund
Golden Pigeon and the Mercedes-Benz Award, 1994 Leipzig

80 minutes / color
Release: 2007
Copyright: 1993
Sale: $348

Subject areas:
Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Economic Sociology, Economics, Latin America, Latin American Studies, Peru, South America, Urban Studies

Related Links:
The Films of Heddy Honigmann

Related Titles:
Guañape Sur: A barren rock island off the coast of Peru. Every eleven years hundreds of men come here, to dig up guano, the shit the birds leave behind.

Lucanamarca: In the Peruvian Andes, in the town of Lucanamarca, old wounds are re-opened when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission arrives to investigate a massacre from 20 years ago.

Oblivion: Heddy Honigmann's latest film focuses on Peru's capital city of Lima, revealing the contrasts of wealth and poverty, and how its poorest citizens have survived decades of economic crisis and corruption.

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