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Film / Los Olvidados

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Released in 1950, Los Olvidados (The Forgotten Ones, aka The Young and the Damned) is a film by Spanish-Mexican director Luis Buñuel. It tells the story of a group of extremely poor children, and their struggles to survive in the slums of Mexico City.

Unlike other films of the same period, it makes no attempts to idealize its characters as "poor but with a good heart" and instead shows how the misery surrounding said characters actually contributes to the development of corruption and evil in the young minds.

The story begins when "El Jaibo" escapes from the juvenile jail and reunites with his gang, which consists almost entirely of children. He leads them in criminal activities in order to earn money, but he's also seeking revenge from the person he thinks is responsible for sending him to jail, a young man named Julián. After luring him out of his job, El Jaibo confronts Julián directly but then attacks him from behind and beats him savagely. Pedro, a young boy in El Jaibo's gang, witnesses the incident and is forced to keep the secret after El Jaibo gives him part of Julián's money, making him an accomplice in the eyes of the law. Later, it's revealed that Julián died as result of his injuries, and this sets the start of Pedro's spiralling down into fear and tragedy.

The film was not well received by the government and nationalist critics and had to be taken out of the theaters after only four days. Later, when Buñuel had won the best director award at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival, the film was re-released in Mexican teathers, lasting over two months this time.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Pedro was born when his mother was fourteen, and she has never shown him any maternal affection, refusing to let him sleep in the family home because of his association with street criminals (which simply fuels said association further). When she willingly surrenders him to the farm school, the government officials in charge of the paperwork tell her in so many words that Pedro's delinquency is partly her fault for neglecting him.
  • Based on a True Story: The movie claims to be based on "real life facts".
  • Dirty Old Man: The blind Don Carmelo makes advances toward the underage Meche, who brings him a daily bottle of donkey's milk.
  • Kids Are Cruel: The "Trunk Man" scene, where a legless man is robbed deprived of his cart, apparently just for fun.
  • Mind Screw: It wouldn't be a Buñuel film without it.
    • After Julián's death, Pedro has a bizarre nightmare in which he finds the beaten and bloodied Julián lying under a bed in the farmhouse where he is sleeping.
    • El Jaibo's death is preceded by an internal monologue in which he waxes rhapsodic about how he's reached the end of the line and hears a voice that may or may not be his long dead mother.
  • Mrs. Robinson: It's strongly implied that El Jaibo seduces Pedro's mom after telling her that he barely knew his own mother before she died.
  • No Name Given: "Ojitos" ("The Eyes") is only ever referred to by his nickname, conferred partly because he serves as the blind Don Carmelo's eyes while living with him.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Ojitos is found abandoned on a street corner, having been told by his father to wait there for him. His father never shows up, even after several weeks. When Don Carmelo throws Ojitos out for hiding the fugitive Pedro (whom Carmelo mistakes for El Jaibo), he tells Meche that he'll probably go back and wait for his father.
    • Pedro's mother dumps him in the farm school mostly so she doesn't have to be responsible for him anymore.