Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles (2019) (mini-review++)

bunel(If you’re curious, my review process. It’s also pasted at the end of this post. I don’t believe in Rotten Tomatoes. I just believe in me.)

(***all-purpose SPOILER ALERT*** there may be some in this review)

acting 8

directing 9

effects 10

editing 8

writing 9


4.5 out of 5 🐙


This is a movie adaptation of a graphic novel that is about the filming of a movie. I’m not joking. Specifically, it’s the true story of how Luis Buñuel made his third movie, Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan. Las Hurdes was a very poor region of Spain. And Tierra Sin Pan means, for my non-Latinx and non-fluent friends, “Land without bread”.  Buñuel made the film, in part, to show that extreme poverty and suffering existed in the director’s own native country. It’s an interesting and infuriating and complicated story and that’s just the story of how the film was made.

It’s interesting because every country has places that are abandoned by places and people in the same country who have more influence and energy. They are out of sight and largely out of mind unless you happen to be one of the unfortunate residents who have lost the geographic lottery. Las Hurdas is Appalachia and it is the Uighur region and it is the Favelas. It’s about a very specific place and time that exists in almost every country and time.

It’s infuriating because Buñuel killed at least 2 animals just to recreate typical (or potentially typical) experiences in Las Hurdes. As an animal rights advocate (and I’m not passionate about many things), it makes me see red that he allowed a mule to suffer horrendously to make a point about human suffering. I get that it was 1930 when this film was made and it’s not like Spain has the best record culturally with animals (see Bullfighting). To be fair, most countries probably treated animals horrifically in the first half of the 20th century. Sadly, a lot of places across the globe treat animals horribly. I wanted to really slam this movie because it showed this scene but Fermín Solís, the writer of the graphic novel upon which this movie was based, would have made a mistake leaving it out.

And it’s complicated because Buñuel made a movie that gave focus to people who everyone in Spain was successfully ignoring. That is an unassailably noble goal. Did he compromise this revelatory film with unethical choices and did he go a little Kurtz pursuing his artistic vision in an isolated and troubled space? Yes. Does that make this adaptation any less stunning and rich and fraught? No. Besides the rich themes, the animation is gorgeous (interspaced with actual footage of Buñuel’s seminal work), the voice work is solid, and Salvador Simó directs this story about the making of a heartbreaking place with a steady, well-paced hand.







(1) Shark Wrighter (SW) Score: Based on a sum of 5 sub-scores (acting, directing, writing/story, effects: cinematography &/or animation &/or effects, editing) with 1 being terrible and 10 being terrific.

(2) Octopuses (0-5 🐙, with 5 being fantastic and 0 being feces)

(3) Octopuses are my unquantifiable feeling…not that SW score is scientific…but this one is even less so

(4) ++ This optional section includes any incredibly *brilliant observations that don’t fit into simple quantitative slices like the scores and octopuses *(they are likely NOT brilliant)


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