Emilio Fernández’s Musical Noir, VICTIMS OF SIN, Unseen Gem of Golden Age Mexican Cinema Opens Oct. 6 

Emilio Fernández’s Musical Noir, VICTIMS OF SIN, Unseen Gem of Golden Age Mexican Cinema Opens Oct. 6 

VICTIMS OF SIN (“VÍCTIMAS DEL PECADO”), the widely unseen 1951 musical noir by legendary Mexican filmmaker Emilio Fernández (Enamorada, Maria Candelaria, La Perla), starring Cuban-born superstar Ninón Sevilla, and shot by Gabriel Figueroa, will run at Film Forum, in a new 4K restoration from Friday, October 6 to Thursday, October 12. 

Sevilla plays Violeta, a dancer headlining the divey “Cabaret Changoo,” who rescues, then mothers, an abandoned baby from a garbage can to the ire of zoot-suited, low-life father Rodolfo Acosta. Motherhood forces Violeta to give up her career, but kindhearted club owner, Santiago, saves her from a life of poverty and prostitution—until Rodolfo, freed from prison, seeks to reclaim his son. 

Magnificently staged musical numbers with impassioned songs and performances by Sevilla, an icon of Mexican cinema and a purveyor of African, Caribbean, and Cuban dance styles, feature an appearance by legendary mambo king Pérez Prado. 

VICTIMS OF SIN is one of twenty collaborations between director Fernández and Gabriel Figueroa, considered Mexico’s greatest cinematographer. Influenced by Eisenstein’s ¡Que Viva México!, and taught by cinematographer Gregg Toland (Citizen Kane), Figueroa worked with every luminary—at home and internationally—shooting 235 films in over 50 years, including Luis Buñuel’s Los Olvidados, John Ford’s The Fugitive, and John Huston’s The Night of the Iguana, for which he was nominated for an Oscar® for Best Cinematography in 1964. Film Forum presented a 19-film retrospective of his work in 2015.

Emilio Fernández(1904 – 1986), nicknamed “El Indio” because of his Kickapoo ancestry, is regarded as the greatest director of Mexican cinema’s Golden Age and was for many decades considered a national symbol. As a young man he was active in the revolutionary struggle and after his faction was defeated in the late 1920s, sought exile in the United States where he became immersed in moviemaking, working as an extra and bit player in silent films in Hollywood. In 1933, Fernández was able to return to Mexico and quickly began work as a screenwriter and actor. His first lead role as an Indigenous fisherman in the 1934 drama Janitzio, the first all-Mexican sound film, catapulted his decades-long acting career, but his physique (and later, a reputation of violence) resulted in him being typecast for roles of bandits, vaqueros, and villains. 

He was given the opportunity to direct in 1941 with La isla de la pasión. Just two years later, he made his Cannes Grand Prix prize-winning María Candelaria (the first Mexican film to be screened at the festival). La Perla (1947), based on the John Steinbeck novel, won the Golden Lion at Venice and cemented Fernández’s stature as Mexico’s leading filmmaker. He would go on to direct 42 features, and returned to Hollywood sporadically as an actor and director, working with Sam Peckinpah (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) and John Huston (The Night of the Iguana, Under the Volcano). Fernández developed a beautiful, poetic visual style that glorified the beauty of the Mexican landscape through meticulously composed, stationary long shots highlighting traditional Mexican motifs, forging and nurturing the expression of a national identity in post-Revolutionary Mexico.

“A newborn baby dumped into a garbage can; a preening, sadistic pimp who can smoke, chew gum, and dance frantically at the same time; a nightclub dancer who tries to live righteously but winds up in prison for her pains; and several splashy music numbers–who could resist this?” — Observations on Film Art

Tickets for VICTIMS OF SIN are $17 General Admission, or $11 for Film Forum members. Click here to purchase now.