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499 directed by Rodrigo Reyes
499 directed by Rodrigo Reyes

499, the fourth feature film by Mexican-American director Rodrigo Reyes explores the brutal legacy of colonialism in contemporary Mexico.

Winner of the Special Jury Prize in the international feature documentary competition at the 2020 Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, and winner of the Best Cinematography Award in the documentary competition at the Tribeca Film Festival, 499 opens on Friday, August 20 at BAM Rose Cinemas in New York City, followed by runs at the Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles, and the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, before continuing on to a national rollout.

Through the eyes of a ghostly conquistador (played by Eduardo San Juan Breña), Reyes recreates Hernán Cortés’ epic journey from the coasts of Veracruz to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, the site of contemporary Mexico City. As the anachronistic fictional character interacts with real victims and subjects of Mexico’s failed drug wars, the filmmaker portrays the country’s current humanitarian crisis as part of a vicious and unfinished colonial project, still in motion, nearly five-hundred years later.

499 mixes non-fictional and performative elements with elements of the road movie to show how past traumas continue to affect contemporary reality.

Marking the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest on August 13, 2021, and preceding the film’s U.S. theatrical release, the filmmaking team has organized a Mexican tour for 499 following Cortés’ original route from Veracruz to present-day Mexico City, taking place from July 31 to August 11. The program will visit towns along the conquistador’s path, hosting special screenings of the film alongside conversations on the history of Mexico and the ongoing social problems that each community has faced in the aftermath of colonization.

Watch the official trailer for 499.

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