In I’m not here anymore (Ya no estoy aquí), filmmaker Fernando Frias sheds light on the Kolombian counter-culture in the region of northern Mexico. Following the story of 17-year-old Ulises (played by escapee Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño), the film, Mexico’s Submission in the International Feature Film Oscar race, uses its journey to present a different kind of narrative of ‘immigrants.
Based in Monterrey, Mexico, Ulises is the leader of “Los Terkos”, a street gang that has an affection and passion for slowing down cumbia the music. But it’s not just a genre of music; for them, it’s a culture that manifests itself through dance parties, their oversized wardrobes, unique hairstyles and gang alliances. After a confusion with a local cartel, Ulises is forced to migrate to Jackson Heights, Queens, where he quickly finds himself wanting to return home.
For Frias, music inspired Ulises’ journey. Traditionally, cumbia the songs are about five minutes long and are festive, but Frias points out that when slowed down they darken. “I find a kind of equivalence between that and the desire not to grow or to have the song finished because there is no future,” Frias told Deadline during the film’s panel at Contenders. International. He adds that where the film is shot, socio-economic issues such as inequalities, borders and drug trafficking contribute to a lack of upward social mobility.
“The lack of opportunity has been systemic,” he says.
Frias says he’s found a way to connect music and these issues, with music defining the character at this age and accompanying him as he’s forced to migrate and be relocated.