The Poetics of the Reel

  • Whitechapel Gallery, The Poetics of the Reel, Sun 25 Jun, 7pm

Past Event

This event was on Sun 25 Jun 2017, 2pm-6pm

Award-winning Mexican documentarist Eugenio Polgovsky presents the London premieres of his lyrical, engaged essay films Tropic of Cancer [2004] and The Inheritors [2009] in conversation with special guests drawn from across disciplines.

Following the screening, Polgovsky is joined in conversation by Erica Segre, director and lecturer in Latin American Studies and Senior Fellow at Trinity College, University of Cambridge.

In association with Trinity College, University of Cambridge.


14.00 Welcome and Introduction
14.10 Tropico de Cancer [2004]
15.05 Q&A with Director
15.30 Break
15.50 The Inheritors [2009]
17.25 Discussion with the Director and Erica Segre, Lecturer in Latin American Studies and Senior Fellow at Trinity College, University of Cambridge
18.00 Ends

About the Films

Tropico de Cancer (2004, 52 mins)
The land of Charco cercado is located in the semi-desert area of the state of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, at the latitude of the Tropic of Cancer. The people that live there subsist under conditions of misery and abandonment. This forces them to go hunting and gathering in an arid and delicate environment. Children and male adults design slingshots and cages, to go around hunting under the intense sun, among huge thorny cacti, poisonous serpents, and many other dangers.
Hunger is, in fact, their main worry. So, aside from eating some of what they hunt, they take it to the side of the highway that crosses the area. There women and little children wait from dawn to dusk under a hot sun for some curious traveller to stop and buy the flora and fauna of this exotic zoo.


The Inheritors (2009, 90 mins)
“A tough, rewarding glimpse into northern Mexico’s hard-scrabble realities… This is awareness-raising documentary cinema at its most urgent and necessary.”The Hollywood Reporter

“Remarkable… a sometimes harrowing but also poetic and thoughtful film.”Screen

“The harsh, relentlessly arduous conditions experienced by children toiling in the Mexican countryside are observed with striking vision and cinematic poetry.” —Variety

“An impressive depiction of the bleak lives of Mexico’s rural population… reminiscent of the early socio-critical works of directors such as Jean Rouch and Fernando Birri.”Berlin International Film Festival

The most highly praised and awarded Mexican documentary in many years, The Inheritors immerses us in the daily lives of children who, with their families, survive only by their unrelenting labour.
The film takes us into the agricultural fields, where children work long hours, in often hazardous conditions, picking tomatoes, peppers, or beans, for which they are paid by weight. Infants in baskets are left alone in the hot sun, or are breast-fed by mothers while they pick crops.
The Inheritors also observes other labour routines, including the production of earthen bricks, cutting cane, gathering firewood, ox-plowing fields and planting by hand, and even more artistic endeavours such as carving wooden figures and weaving baskets to sell.
The indelible impression conveyed, in which everyone-from the frailest elders to the smallest of toddlers-must work reveals how the cycle of poverty is passed on, from one generation to another.


About Eugenio Polgovsky

Eugenio Polgovsky (Mexico City, 1977) is a filmmaker and visual artist. He works as director, cinematographer, editor, sound designer and producer of his films. Polgovsky is known for the Mexican documentaries Tropic of Cancer (Semaine de la Critique 2005) and The Inheritors (Los Herederos)  (Mostra of Venice, Orrizontti 2008 & Berlinale Generation 2009).

He has become a visionary, innovative and independent documentarist, and he brings an experimental spirit and a poetic eye to the medium of cinematography Polgovsky has worked closely and in a prolonged way with the communities whose stories and conditions he has sought to explore. His personal cinematography enchained with a meticulous and original editing explore the backgrounds of the Mexican reality.

The MoMa of New York presented his film Tropic of Cancer as part of a selection of the region’s most innovative contemporary films.