BFI London Film Festival presents The Hole in the Fence; book festival tickets here.
Why do we build walls and fences? Often the purpose is to keep people out, a physical warning to stay clear through brick and wire. However, we also pen ourselves in by keeping people out – the safety of our human enclosure, a slowly forming social prison. In our bubble, distrust of the outside world grows as we fear possible invasion. This allows Politicians and religious leaders to play with the anxiety these walls and fences generate as they praise the isolation of nationhood and stoke fear of what lies beyond. After all, anyone outside the wall or fence must be a savage, a delinquent or criminal just waiting to subvert and destroy our new prison paradise. However, no child is born believing in these walls and fences; these ideas and fears are taught, and it is here that Joaquin del Paso’s The Hole in the Fence (El Hoyo en la Cerca) finds a powerful voice.
Deep in the Mexican countryside, a religious camp awaits a group of eager boys and teachers from an elite private school. The camp is a training ground for a life of prestige, religion and purpose that every boy attends when they reach the age where they must enter their power. As the boys excitedly disembark their coach, full of energy and anticipation, the teachers corral them into their dorm room, ignoring the toxic atmosphere of bullying. The only warning the staff deliver is to stay within the campgrounds and never cross the fence. But is that instruction for the boy’s safety or the safety of those outside of the camp?
Throughout the weekend, the boys are continually reminded that ‘God is Here’ ‘Dios está aquí’. However, far from being a comfort, this is a warning that their every action is being watched, every word judged, and every weakness unpicked in a camp where caring is a flaw, disability is a deficiency, and individuality a sin. In this prison of privilege, the adults thrive on the power they wield as they subject each boy to the treatment they received many years before.
Joaquin del Paso’s film focuses on the isolation, manipulation and horror of elitist socialisation bathed in religious dogma; his camera glides between each of the boys and the adults surrounding them as he builds a sense of impending doom. However, special attention is given to three boys, two of whom succumb to the violent lessons surrounding them, while the third fall’s victim. Here the final act is devastating in its toxicity as our young men are hand-crafted into future leaders.
HERE ARE THE YOUNG MEN
THE POWER OF THE DOG