Tesoros, the wonderful new film by Director María Novaro, of Danzón fame, already stands as one of the best films this writer has seen this year. The narrative centers around children but is also told through children. Unlike many films that focus on children, this one actually feels like it comes from their perspective. From fanciful ideas about finding treasure to social anxiety, this film is a charming window into the heart of the children’s world.
The action kicks off when a family moves to a small town on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. The family stands out, as they are different from the rest of the community. White and with an American father, they are not excited about the new place or the new school. Siblings Dylan and Andrea join the local school and find a welcoming bunch, but it takes them awhile to acclimate. Dylan, the youngest of the two, has been dreaming and thinking about finding a treasure left behind by Francis Drake.
Soon after arriving to the new location, Dylan finds that his new city has an uncanny resemblance to a treasure map he has seen before. He gets the entire class convinced of this, and they all participate in trying to find both an accurate map and the treasure. The slow days of living by the coast, loving families and burgeoning friendships between the children are the real story here. While searching for a treasure drives the narrative, this film is about so much more. For instance, along with the treasure hunting adventure, there are many vignettes of children with their kin, all different, showcasing the many configurations of loving families. There are also many vignettes of children in the classroom, with different teachers, showing that Mexico offers an actually very peaceful lifestyle, even reading the news says the contrary.
Novaro is able to get a very relaxed and naturalistic acting style from the children. Some of the older protagonists are in their teens, yet they make you feel like you are right alongside them, as if you knew them. And that is another accomplishment of the film: the overall tone is reminiscent of one’s own childhood, with some dull moments idly passing you by, including those grueling days at school, but then there are the very exciting times with friends, running around and chasing after … something. Specifics don’t matter when you are in the moment.
Finally, during the chase for the treasure, the children learn something really valuable: it is almost impossible to embark on any quest without the backing of the community. As they all rally behind Dylan and his idea to find the treasure, they all reach within their families to gather resources for the adventure; from an iPad to a boat ride and even the specialized knowledge of marine biologists, even parents come together for the common cause. Where would communities be found without common goals?
This film is a true gem in the Miami International Film Festival, part of the MIFFecito children’s film category, but also featured in the 2017 Film Festival’s Knight Competition and HBO Ibero American Competition Film Categories. It is a thoroughly enjoyable movie for all ages. I recommend not to miss it, since it is unlikely it will be widely distributed outside of festivals anytime soon. No matter your age, there’s something to appreciate here. After all, weren’t we all once children?
Tesoros runs 95 minutes, is in Spanish with English subtitles and is not rated but appropriate for children. It is part of Miami Film Festival’s children’s program MIFFecito (see details here, including a discount on family-sized purchase of 4 tickets). It will have its North American Premiere on Sunday, March, at 1 p.m. at the Coral Gable Art Cinema. A screener link was provided by the festival for the purposes of this review.