TIFF Review: ‘Comala’ Is A Doc About A Family’s Secrets, And Its Strengths
Families are universally complicated. But few are as complicated as the family of Gian Cassini. In Comala, the filmmaker delves into the darkness of his family’s past, investigating his father’s life as a low-level hitman in Tijuana.
The doc’s inciting force occurred in 2010, when Mexican newspapers reported the murder of El Jimmy, the father who was largely absent from Cassini’s life. El Jimmy was another casualty of Mexico’s tragic and complicated drug wars, which have killed thousands. It wasn’t a huge news story at the time – after all, most people didn’t consider El Jimmy an important person. The assassin was, however, important to his son. This inspired him to research the questions he’d never get a chance to ask his dad in person.
Over the course of the film, Cassini interviews family members. This includes an estranged uncle, his father’s daughter from another relationship, and his own mother. While Cassini unearths a great deal about who his father was. His motivations, his mistakes, spending habits – the relationship with the filmmaker’s mother is the story’s real heart. These simple scenes play out in a variety of mundane settings, from the kitchen table to the family car. But they provide the doc’s most subtle and emotional moments. A significant theme in Comala is Cassini’s queer identity, which the film lovingly explores through the director’s relationship with his mom.
Ultimately, Comala is a film about searching for the father you didn’t know, while growing closer to the mother you did.