Archive of films Heli / Heli

Mexico / France / Germany / Netherlands
2013, 105 min

Section: Horizons
Year: 2013

An in-depth probe into a vicious circle of drugs and violence: a poor Mexican family lives in an isolated house in a region known for its conflicts between police and the drug mafia. Young autoworker Heli tries to protect his 12-year-old sister, whose naïve pubertal love unleashes a wave of brutality. This controversial film took Best Director at this year’s Cannes fest.


The long opening shot of two lifeless intertwined bodies in a truck, ending with one of the men being hanged, suggests that we’d better get ready for more images of violence. But the next scenes are drawn from the simple life of a young worker, his wife and child, who live in a solitary house on the distant periphery of town together with Heli’s father and young sister Estela. We are in a region known for its conflicts between police and the drug mafia, and the sister’s pubescent love for a young police officer unleashes the horrifying wave of violence that precedes the opening shots. A film that immerses itself in the vicious cycle of drugs and violence, culminating in an unbearable scene of torture, Heli has evoked much controversy. The director has been accused of nihilism, but the Cannes jury nevertheless decided to give him the Best Director award. Slow shots of the countryside and the character’s environment, and a tendency towards absurd humor contrasting with realistic depictions of bestial cruelty, betray the influence of Carlos Reygadas, for whom Amat Escalante worked as an assistant and who helped produce his first films.

About the director

Amat Escalante (b. 1979, Barcelona), the son of a Mexican father and American mother, spent his childhood in Mexico. He studied sound and editing at the Centre d’Estudis Cinematogràfics de Catalunya and later attended the International School of Film and Television in Havana (EICTV). After returning to Mexico, he shot the short film Amarrados (2002), which received an award at the 2003 Berlinale. His feature debut Blood (Sangre, 2005) was shown in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes and won the FIPRESCI Prize. He has also received numerous awards at other festivals, including Bratislava, where he was named Best Director for The Bastards (Los bastardos, 2008).


Mantarraya NDM
Sultepec 47 Col. H. Condesa C.P., 06170, Mexico City
Tel: +525 552 739 307

About the film

Color, DCP

Section: Horizons
Director: Amat Escalante
Screenplay: Amat Escalante, Gabriel Reyes
Dir. of Photography: Lorenzo Hagerman
Editor: Natalia Lopez
Producer: Jaime Romandía
Production: Mantarraya Productions
Cast: Armando Espitia, Andrea Vergara, Linda González
Contact: Mantarraya NDM

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