The Hole in the Fence Review: A disturbing display of the dangers of forced religion

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Rarely do award-winning films make an effort to cast a negative, realistic light on the subject of religion and the constant child indoctrination that occurs in most cultures across the planet. But Joaquín del Paso does just that with his intense Polish-Mexican drama, The hole in the fence. The film was also written by del Paso, along with his frequent collaborator, Lucy Pawlak (Pan American Machinery). The hole in the fence stars Valeria Lamm, Lucciano Kurti, Eric David Walker, Yubah Ortega and Santiago Barajas Hamue, among a vast cast of child actors that make up its solid cast. It has been nominated for more than 15 awards and took home the Best Film award at the Cairo International Film Festival.

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The film follows a group of children known as the “Mexican Elite Children”, who have been sent from their private schools to a religion-based summer camp in the countryside, on the border with a small town. The goals of the on-site camp instructor are to help children increase their physical strength and mental toughness, strengthen their faith in God, and build religious structures in mission-style tasks.

With tensions already high due to several of the children not getting along with each other, a gaping hole is found in the fence separating the camp from the nearby town. The boys are on high alert when it is suggested that a criminal intruder or ferocious beast has entered the vicinity of the camp, and their stressed-out feelings begin to turn dangerous.


A display of religious indoctrination

The hole in the fence
Amondo Films
Cárcava Cinema

The dangers of an unwavering religious indoctrination of the youth (in this case, the Mexican youth), are on full display in The hole in the fence. From the beginning of the children’s arrival, their entire focus is essentially nothing more than using their religion as a guide and rebuttal for whatever they do. They are essentially forced to do slave labor and build structures for the acceptance of the Lord; after the group severely beats another boy for ratting them out, the leaders’ responses are to praise him for “being an honest man.”

In fact, the focus in their faith is so narrow that leaders create dangerous and dishonest situations to make children nervous and more terrified, only so they can look to God for answers and comfort, as only he will provide. them safety from threats. While these threats are very real to children and cause them to lash out even more, they are manipulated by leaders.

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Extremely Intentional Themes and Cinematography

The hole in the fence
Amondo Films
Cárcava Cinema

Joaquín del Paso’s camera work in The hole in the fence it is completely impressive. He intentionally lingers in beautiful shots, letting the audience soak up both the isolation of the environment and the darkness of the film’s most haunting scenes. While this isn’t a horror movie (although it is disturbing drama), several of the shots give off intentional cult vibes similar to popular horror movies like midsummer either the wicker man.

And while the film is never really in horror territory, the exciting and horrifying themes are definitely there, as some of the moments where things get out of hand are aligned with the toxic masculinity themes of films like Lord of the Flies or that of Issa López tigers are not afraid.

Even with the last shot of the film, the audience is very aware of what they are seeing and what happened beforehand. Del Paso chooses this moment to linger and let the audience take time to process what they just saw, imprinting the image in viewers’ minds for days to come. The technical aspects of the film lead to the best filmmaking.

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Focus on racism, classism, and intersectionality

The hole in the fence
Amondo Films
Cárcava Cinema

Along with its religious themes, The hole in the fence it also highlights racism, and specifically the intersectionality of minority children bullying and prejudiced others based on things like the color of their skin or their sexual orientation. Racism and discrimination are often addressed in films and their dialogue, but intersectionality is a major theme that is not brought into close enough focus through art.

In The hole in the fenceMost of the children who speak Spanish are upper class white children of rich people, and they use their privilege to not only look down on the poorer, more brown members of the group, but essentially view the local people as dogs, due to his poor lifestyle. The movie even results in one of the darker-skinned kids becoming just as hateful and discriminatory as the other kids, simply so he doesn’t have to go through it anymore and to gain acceptance among the group; a classic story of how toxicity can spread among minority infighting.

The hole in the fenceIt has some extremely relevant and important themes, incredible cinematography, and a grim story that stays with you long after the credits roll. Joaquín del Paso hit a home run with this haunting but very realistic religious tale.

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