Archive of films Lecumberri (The Black Palace) / Lecumberri (El palacio negro)
1976, 105 min
Section: Tribute to Arturo Ripstein
The Black Palace is the popular name for Mexico’s largest and, during its time, most modern penitentiary, Lecumberri, inaugurated in 1900. Ripstein’s work succeeds in capturing the everyday lives of the inmates, shortly before the prison was demolished. The film is a key Latin-American documentary uniquely reflecting the country’s social changes.
This portrayal of life in Mexico’s largest and, during its time, most modern prison Lecumberri is divided into four parts, labelled prologue, second period, third period and epilogue. Through photographs and archive footage, viewers are acquainted with the history of the “Black Palace” as they are gradually led down into the maze of corridors, enclosures and cells. With scientific austerity the narrator explains the functions of the individual pavilions and introduces their inhabitants. Apart from the opening sequence, we are guided largely only by the testimonies of the condemned. We enter the vast labyrinth populated by both rich and poor, weak and powerful, and it seems as if this place were created as a model of the outside world behind bars. The film reflects the atmosphere of the time, as described by petty thieves, criminals and political prisoners – an atmosphere of social contradictions which become apparent from the considerable discrepancies between the statements of the prison staff and their charges. Ripstein made this documentary at the end of Luis Echeverría’s term as president, during which he tried to reform the prison system. Several films aimed to illustrate the success of this endeavour, among them Lecumberri (The Black Palace). However, the utilitarian motive in this case went far beyond the line: the result is a work which establishes certain approaches of direct cinema in Mexican film. The original short developed into a feature-length film which enabled director Arturo Ripstein to create two films at the same time – one visual and the other sound.
About the film
Color, 35 mm
|Section:||Tribute to Arturo Ripstein|
|Screenplay:||Arturo Ripstein, Margarita Suzan, Miguel Necoechea|
|Dir. of Photography:||Tomomi Kamata|
|Music:||Guillermo Zúñiga, Arturo Casas, Enrique Marín|
|Producer:||Hernán Litti, Carlos Velo|
|Production:||Centro de Producción de Cortometraje|
|Contact:||IMCINE - Mexican Film Institute|
Film Director, Film Director
Alejandro Díaz San Vicente
Film Institution Rep.