TIFF: Comala – a true tale told by Gian Cassini



Renu Mehta


Comala is the true story of Director Gian Cassini who sets out to find the truth of his own family.    Growing up as the only child of a single mother in Monterrey in Mexico, Cassini sets out to uncover the truth of his own father and in the process uncovers a lot of truths about his own broken family.   , As he journeys across the country, he uncovers the tale of his absent father as a failed hitman who was murdered in a Mexican border town.

Cassini was inspired by Mexican writer Juan Rulfo’s famous book – Pedro Paramo – and identified with many of the characters in the book.

“I recognized myself and each of my own relatives as characters of the novel. Inspired by this encounter, I decided to embark on what today is my debut feature: the documentary Comala. I worked from the conviction that by way of my own family history — still reeling from my father’s death— I could portray the root problems that affect many Mexicans as we endure the devastation brought on by our country’s war against drug trafficking,” says Cassini.

One family member at a time, Cassini puts together the puzzle pieces that form an image of his late father — El Jimmy, a small-time hitman and drug trafficker in Tijuana — allowing him, and the rest of his family, to make sense of the man that made them who they are.  As he travels through Mexico, Cuba and San Antonio in Texas in search of clues, the filmmaker uncovers a complex system, where men stuck within deeply-rooted patterns of machismo, are stuck.  The documentary offers unprecedented access into the personal ramifications of Mexico’s War on Drugs. 

The story is a quest for personal truth, says Cassini.  

“Comala is the catharsis I had been looking for in order to find my own identity,” he says.  “Through the unique access to the assembly of fascinating characters that are the men and women of my family, I am able to lift the veil on a micro universe that represents the thousands of Mexican households of different socioeconomic statuses linked by and to criminal activity. I do this without glamor or sensationalism, but with empathy and strong emotional energy.”

Comala is presented at the 46th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) that takes place in Toronto in September every year.

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