March 12, 2004

Grotesque On More Than One Level, El Nominado puts a mirror in front of American reality television

By Raymond R. Beltrán

Television show ratings are dilapidated due to the watered down entertainment industry’s hunger for the next gimmick, but when the first gunshot is fired, you’ll be stunned, the year will be 2006 and reality television shows will have taken over the airwaves. Far from being all fiction, Gabriel Lopez and Nacho Argiró’s movie, El Nominado, takes viewers into the future of a corporate world that’s gone mad over low television show ratings and a society infatuated with the influx of a bandwagon sham of reality television entertainment. Who agrees the future is now?

In this soon-to-be released suspense/thriller, twelve young adults have signed up for a reality show called “Bajo Tierra,” which will require them to spend 90 days in an underground bunker, cut off from society and forty meters deep inside the belly of a mountain lying in the middle of the Andes. Like so many reality shows today (American Idol, Survivor, and Apprentice), people are eliminated from the cast of the show by viewer’s votes and corporate avarice. Each cast member has their own personal reasons for signing up, but it isn’t until the ousting of a young man named Miguel, played by Sebastián Layseca, that we see the fatal conflict in the meshing of reality and entertainment in a forlorn world run by unethical corporate cogs.

When Miguel is voted off of Bajo Tierra, he becomes insanely enraged and begins a predatory-style murdering spree aimed at the other eleven cast members. As they flee for their lives, he becomes a mass-murdering psychopath, who later found to be suffering from “Malignant Narcissus.” Although, it is the insanity that resurrects the numbers in television ratings that the station strives to attain, leaving the question, who is really insane, the murderer, his fans or the television station president, Mañungo played by Tomás Vidiella, who fails to put an end to the mayhem?

Sebastian Layseca, performing in “El Nominado.”

Compared to the other eleven cast members, Miguel sees himself as the only member worthy of living. People have signed up under the intent of becoming successful pawns in an entertainment industry dependent on sexuality and the shape of the human body, once again, not unlike what we see on television today. Cata, played by Julieta Cardinali, wants to find a boyfriend; Ana, played by Daniella Tobar, is an anorexic model suffering from bolemia; and Javier, played by Álvaro Escobar, is a jock hired by the television station to spice up the show.

While the eleven-person cast/prey is being voted off of the show, by Miguel’s murderous rage, and vigorously trying to hide within the niches of the underground capsule to avoid death, the greed of the television station that produces the show is bathing in their new top ratings. Do they pop the hatch on top of the Andes and release the survivors of this reality show-turned-reality-turned-show? Not until Mañungo is done with his golf game and sexuality and death have brought television back to the forefront of America’s favorite past time.

What viewers may begin to notice is the ambiguity in defining criminal behavior. The lines become blurred with the victim’s lack of support from the outside world, begging to see who will get slaughtered next. Corporate television won’t pull the plug, but because they aren’t actually committing the murders in first person, does that absolve them from the blood on their hands? To me, the movie raises questions that, in content and action, it answers itself. Corporate entertainment cries for capital over human compassion, and television is the tool by which it is and has been functioning.

El Nominado (The Nominee) is more than a movie; it’s a mirror in front of the American entertainment stratagem, along with its loyal enthusiasts hungry for reality. And even though this movie is rated for “mature audiences,” the only thing that strays from the actual reality television of today is that the lines are rehearsed and corporate CEO’s are thrown into the mix as well, which, aside from the gore, is the most grotesque part of it all. Two thumbs up for this San Diego Latino Film Festival flick!

El Nominado is a 100-minute Chilean film in Spanish with English subtitles. It will be at Madstone Theaters (7510 Hazard Center Dr., San Diego, CA. 92108) on Thursday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 20 at 9:45 p.m.

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