A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is an animated biopic of renowned surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel. It examines the personal growth Buñuel experienced while making his first documentary, Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan. The dialogue is in French and Spanish (subtitled in English) and is adapted from a graphic novel by the same title -- which refers to a maze of roofs that looks like tortoise shells. The film is definitely on the edgier side, and to really understand what's going on, viewers need to have an understanding of Buñuel's work, the avant-garde French political art movement he was involved with, and the influence that Salvador Dali and Sigmund Freud had in pop culture in the 1920s and '30s. To that end, there's quite a bit of mature imagery connected to that era and to surrealism, such as a dream that connects sexual imagery of religious icons with a child. Brief clips of actual footage from Las Hurdes are also intercut into the animation, including several upsetting examples of animal cruelty that would be illegal and immoral today (all of them involve animals dying). Characters smoke incessantly (accurate for the era) and drink wine frequently.
What's the story?
In BUÑUEL IN THE LABYRINTH OF THE TURTLES, while experiencing a career crisis in the early 1930s, surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel (voiced by Jorge Usón) decides to make a documentary to expose the extreme conditions of life in a village in Extremadura, one of Spain's poorest states. While he films in hopes of positively transforming the lives of the peasants, it's Buñuel who is truly changed.
Is it any good?
The behind-the-scenes story of a controversial documentary made by a legendary filmmaker known for his shocking imagery could be a great pick for film and art students, but it's not meant for kids. That said, Buñuel intentionally made provocative films to spur debate, and -- for parents who choose to share this film with their children -- that's precisely how Buñuel and the Labyrinth of the Turtles should be used, too. Like the filmmaker, teens have a reputation for provoking authority as a form of communication, and this film can serve as an excellent springboard into the purpose of art, success, friendship, and personal responsibility.
Buñuel's controversial methodologies don't hold up today. Although the film's animation serves to soften the horrific blow of how he cruelly obtained some of his shots, cutting to the actual Las Habres footage hammers home that it's all true -- and truly revolting. The other filmmakers on the shoot serve as stand-ins for a contemporary perspective on his choices, saying that what he's doing isn't humane or right. This movie doesn't fully do justice to a snippet in the life of one of the most original directors of all time, but as it suggests that the making of Las Habres was a metamorphosis for him, seeing his story might just transform you, too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about art as both communication and revolution. How did the surrealists try to affect change? Did they succeed? How does film have the potential to influence people?
Buñuel commits acts of animal cruelty in the name of art. Las Hadres: Tierra Sin Pan is considered a masterpiece; do the means justify the ends? How has popular opinion about the treatment of animals changed since the film was made?
Buñuel's filmmaking methods hit upon a couple of controversial issues in the documentarian community. Do you think a documentarian should "dramatize" or "fake" real-life events if a scene can't be captured organically? Is it right for filmmakers to get involved with their subjects and, therefore, alter their lives?
What audience do you think Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is intended for? How can you tell?
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