SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Writer-director Josh Polon’s The Legend of MexMan is an incredible behind-the-scenes documentary, particularly for emerging filmmakers. It’s an essay, of sorts, about the war-like tension between art and the business of art. It also serves as a not-so-typical discussion on mental health.
The Legend of MexMan is the story of the wildly creative filmmaker Germán Alonso. Right off the bat, you see that Alonso’s brain is an explosion of creativity. He’s most known for a series of short stop-animation films and their elaborate and highly detailed puppets and the worlds.
Alonso has set himself up with a group of friends that believe in his artistic vision and are always keen to be his crew for his next film. The man is now moving slightly away from animation and ready to tell live-action science fiction tales that blend his past work. In his personal life, Alonso has a young woman he’s been pining for some time and wants to pull together an incredible art portfolio to express his love.
The film follows Alonso as he is presented with an opportunity of a lifetime. Veteran film producer Moctasuma Esparza is giving Alonso a chance to make his first feature film based on a story brewing in his head called The Legend of Mexman. To make the film, Alonso, along with writing partners Tyler and Ben Soper, need to film a scene from it and present a script before funding is approved. Now that Alonso is being thrust into the moviemaking, he begins to feel the reality of the business and on-set politics constrain his creativity. A conflict occurs between Alonso and the Sopers, and, quite frankly, there is no clear winner.
“…producer Moctasuma Esparza is giving Alonso a chance to make his first feature film…”
As a Film Threat critic, watching The Legend of MexMan was fascinating and heartbreaking. I have nothing but love and goodwill for any filmmaker with a story and the resourcefulness to tell it. However, as the countdown to filming began, the cracks started to show in Alonso’s ability to lead a cast and crew and shoot a required scene on schedule. In the days leading up to the shoot, the relationship and friendship between Alonso and the Sopers quickly deteriorate. They lose trust in the man as a director.
At this point, they had already lost trust in his screenwriting abilities. A major blowup occurs when the Sopers take the writing credit for The Legend of Mexman, giving Alonso story credit while remaining director. The move was a massive blow to Alonso’s creative ego.
The Legend of MexMan also looks at mental health as we see Alonso struggling to stay focused on the task at hand. He goes off on conspiratorial rabbit trails and time-wasting tangents during script meetings. This means the filmmaker had to be reined in constantly. As a result, Alonso’s highly protective over his creative vision (understandable) and casts aside the idea of collaboration.
The core problem is that Alonso’s mind is always going, so he loses touch with the immediate world around him, including the needs of those around him. In addition, anytime one of Alonso’s friends became frustrated with his lack of focus and eccentric behavior, they would be immediately cast out of his circle. Lastly, his long-distance girlfriend does not seem to respond to his gifts of affection.
The Legend of MexMan is all about its subject, Germán Alonso. If you’re an emerging filmmaker and storyteller, you’ll see much of yourself in Alonso. As a guy, who spent way too much time in project management meetings that go nowhere fast, you will feel that same frustration. Alonso is a hero you can root for, while at the same time, you’re going to cringe at some of his choices and reactions to the challenges he faces.
The Legend of MexMan screened at the 2023 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. For more information, visit director Josh Polon’s official website.
"…a hero you can root for..."