Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer.
20th Century, Mexico.
- Mexico became independent in 1821. The successful rebels established the First Mexican Republic. In 1824, a constitution of a federated republic was promulgated and former insurgent general Guadalupe Victoria became the first president of the newly born republic. Texas was lost as a result of the war with America in 1845-1848. The country was on the side of the anti-Hitler coalition in World War II. The name of the country comes from Mexica, one of the tribes of the Aztecs.
- In the early 20th century, the Mexican Revolution ended the 35-year dictatorship of General Díaz, leading to political instability in Mexico. In 1920, President Alvaro Obregón, took the country to a new level. Like the Soviet Union, Mexican political leaders used art to express the interests of the country and its people. For a new political course, abstract and surrealist art proved unacceptable. That is why Mexican artists often painted the facades and interiors of public buildings with works created in a language “understandable” to people.
- Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist. Her works combine realism, symbolism and surrealism. Frida’s biographical passages are also reflected in many works. She had a German father and a Mexican mother. In one of her works “The Two Fridas” (1939) the Spanish artist emphasizes her origins. In 1929, she married Mexican artist Diego Rivera. The injury got in an accident at the age of 17 has tortured her for a lifetime. Feelings, pain, emotions and feelings are reflected in her paintings.
- Diego Rivera is one of the most important figures in Mexican art, his artistic style includes Cubism and Murealism. He is one of the most important representatives of the Mexican monumental style. From the age of ten, Rivera studied art at the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City. Diego lived in Paris from 1911-1919, where he met Pablo Picasso. In 1920-21 Diego Rivera traveled to Italy. He has created monumental paintings in both Mexico and America. In 1933, he created fresco for the Rockefeller Center.
- Day of the Dead is a secular holiday when the villagers honor and remember their ancestors, this is when “miracle” happens and Miguel enters the world of the dead. What is his journey like?
- It is important that the day of the dead is not a day of mourning, everyone is cheerful, happy and joyful. In what artistic ways is all this reflected in the film?
- What does Miguel do wrong at the beginning of the film, how important is it to take into account the wishes and advice of our family?
- What does the world of the dead look like and how is it different from the our world?
- What beneficial changes does Miguel’s journey bring to his family?
- Every family has its own history, a secret that is sometimes hidden from the younger generation. Do you think this is correct? How fair was Miguel’s family when he was banned from singing?
- This animation is also about the meaning of death and life: the eternal connection of these two worlds. Remember, in which other animated films is this theme reflected?
- Do we need traditions that prevent a person from fulfilling his/her dreams?
Write about this film
“Coco” is a heartwarming animated film about life, death, love and family. The film focuses on traditions that are somewhat synonymous with family and ancestry. Respect them is everyone’s duty! They believe so in Mexico because their ancestors believed so. In many cases, tradition and religious rituals are intertwined. When writing about this film, focus on the artistic means of reflecting the meaning and role of traditions, specific rituals, and human life. Think about why do we need traditions, what role they play in preserving the modern world. What is the main character Miguel like? Describe his personality. At the beginning of the movie, a taboo about in a family about singing (which is more of a stereotype) prevents Miguel from fulfilling his dream! Everything changes after he shows the tabooed topic to the family and the community from a different perspective. When writing about the film, try to go beyond just the description of the story and focus on the visual side of the film as well.
In the animation, while traveling in the world of the dead, Miguel also meets Frida Kahlo. In the words of Frida Kahlo: “I never paint dreams, I always create my own reality.” Find information about a Mexican artist while working individually. What was the main inspiration of her art. Which are her most famous paintings and which paintings are particularly interesting to you personally. Select any period of her life or a specific artwork and analyze it.
Group work/additional activities
Curriculum links: Fine Arts, History
In group work, focus on Mexican art of the early 20th century. Using epoch-making contexts, discuss and compare Mexican art of the 1920s with European modernist art. How are Specific Art Movements (Surrealism, Cubism) represented by European and Mexican artists (you can see: the work of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, René Magritte).
After discussion and group work, students can visualize the narrative material. Create a wall newspaper or presentation individually or in groups about Mexican culture. Try to present the material in all directions: politics, economics, social background, culture, education.
As a result of watching the film, discussing and reviewing it, in which it is necessary to use epoch-making contexts and the above-mentioned recommendations, students will learn more about Mexican art of the 1920s.