Returning to her doc roots after an interesting tyro feature ("The Favor"), "Children of the Streets" helmer Eva Aridjis visits another corner of Mexico City's vivid and unpredictable metropolis with "Saint Death."

Returning to her doc roots after an interesting tyro feature (“The Favor”), “Children of the Streets” helmer Eva Aridjis visits another corner of Mexico City’s vivid and unpredictable metropolis with “Saint Death.” Centered on a street corner in the city’s Tepito district, pic considers the growing cult of Santa Muerte, drawing poor, alienated Catholics to a modest shrine featuring death figures believed to be guardian angels. Fascinating theme is superficially explored in a film that seems to have been made by an outsider trying to fathom the phenomenon. Doc fests are likely resting spots, with possible Euro cablers as buyers.

Enriqueta Romero Romero, a Santa Muerte acolyte for decades, manages altar and is joined by mobs of followers who swear about the icon’s protective powers in the crime-riddled neighborhood. Shoemaker Jesse Ortiz Pina conducts Santa Muerte services, lending the impression that the movement — based in Aztec rituals — reps an alternative to traditional Catholicism. Pic visits local prisons, where mostly female inmates have been allowed to paint and draw iconic pictures on cell walls. Gael Garcia Bernal’s narration tends to overwhelm the images.

Saint Death

U.S.-Mexico

Production

A Dark Night Pictures presentation. Produced, directed, written by Eva Aridjis.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Brian Hubbard, Tito Reynoso; editor, Sonia Arrubia; music, Los Panchos, Antonio Bribiesca. Reviewed at Wilshire screening room, Beverly Hills, June 5, 2007. (In Los Angeles Film Festival -- competing.) Spanish dialogue. Running time: 84 MIN.

Cast

With: Enriqueta Romero Romero, Jesse Ortiz Pina, Jesus Padilla Alonso, Ernestina Ramirez Soto.
Narrator: Gael Garcia Bernal.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more