Directed by Emilio Gómez Muriel, Fred Zinnemann
Music by Silvestre Revueltas
Cinematography by Paul Strand
Produced under trying circumstances and for very little money, Redes nevertheless became a classic Mexican film, launched several cinematic careers, and spearheaded a new transnational film movement in the process.
When shooting ended in November 1934, both Strand and Zinnemann returned to the States, leaving Gomez Muriel and Gunther von Fritsch, a boyhood friend of Zinnemann’s who had done some editing in Hollywood, to edit Redes. They faced problems at this stage too. Because Strand’s Akeley was a silent, hand-cranking camera, all the sound had to be added in postproduction, complicating the syncing and delaying the editing. Finally, Redes was released theatrically in 1936, accompanied by an impressive score by Silvestre Revueltas. Though David Alfaro Siqueiros would later call it “a work of dynamic realism, emotional intensity, and social outlook . . . a masterpiece,” it was a box-office disappointment in Mexico.
Its collectivist, pro-union story about the consciousness- raising of exploited fishermen resonated with the left-leaning politics in international artistic circles in the 1930s. As such, it is a fascinating document from an era when artists championed the rights of workers everywhere. For Strand, in particular, it was the realization of the kind of socially aware art he was searching for. (He would go on to be one of the cinematographers on Pare Lorentz’s 1936 Dust Bowl documentary The Plow That Broke the Plains and was director of photography on Native Land, a valiant, semidocumentary defense of unionism that he codirected, cowrote, and coedited in 1942.)
But Redes is cinematically noteworthy as well. As I’ve said, both Strand’s and Zinnemann’s styles were compellingly employed. Strand’s primary goal was to honor the fishermen and villagers, and his careful compositions centering them in the frame convey that. The funeral of Miro’s daughter, near the beginning of the film, is a good example of his deferential style perfectly capturing downbeat emotional content. That scene’s matching bookend— the fishermen’s impromptu procession carrying Miro’s body to the boat—is another. It culminates in one of Strand’s most memorable compositions: an impressive deep-focus shot that stretches from a cactus plant in the foreground to the dramatically placed low horizon line in the far distance.