Review: ‘Back to Life’

Pic proves that truth, even in the form of tall tales, is often more entertaining than fiction.

Mexican helmer Carlos Hagerman’s “Back to Life” again proves that truth, even in the form of tall tales, is often more entertaining than fiction. Lively docu retraces the story of Hilario Martinez, a Mexican scuba instructor who once taught Johnny Weissmuller and, in 1970s Acapulco, became known for scoring two of the era’s biggest catches: a gigantic shark and a U.S. fashion model with whom he started a family. Intentionally gaudy “Life,” complete with candy-colored opening titles, kitschy score and elaborate ceviche recipe in the end credits, will entertain fest and broadcast auds alike.

Though its subject died in 2002, pic indeed brings him back to life as Hagerman stitches together fascinating interviews with members of Martinez’s extended Mexican and American family and entourage. They recount the famous shark hunt of the “King of the Sea” and Martinez’s unexpected marriage to the “Giraffe,” aka Robyn Sidney, his redheaded gringo wife (she’s also an interviewee and has lost none of her sex appeal). Some scenes from Martinez’s life are recreated, striking discordant notes. Tech package, led by atmospheric 16mm lensing, is modest but controlled.

Back to Life



A La Sombra del Guayabo, Imcine/Foprocine production. Produced by Carlos Hagerman. Co-producers, Juan Carlos Rulfo, Nicolas Vale. Directed by Carlos Hagerman. Written by Hagerman, John Grillo.


Camera (color, 16mm-to-HD), Grillo; editor, Valentino Leduc; music, Conjunto Acapulco Tropical, Rigo Dominguez, Mariano Merceron. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (Extra), Nov. 2, 2010. Running time: 72 MIN.


Robyn Sidney, Bob Grillo, Elsa Martinez, John Grillo, Alejandro Martinez, Rafaela Martinez. (Spanish, English dialogue)
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