“When there's no future / How can there be sin / We're the flowers in the dustbin / We're the poison in your human machine / We're the future, your future”Within the film, Gaviria reappropriates the 1952 Italian neorealist film by Vittorio de Sica. Gaviria applies the same desperation of Umberto D while adding a message different from that of Vittorio de Sica. In the same fashion as Vittorio de Sica, Gaviria used a majority of non-professional actions, but Gaviria really takes it a step further to make a story about the disaffected youth of the Colombian slums, going so far as to use people from those neighborhoods to play the actors within the slum story. The punk mentality concerns itself music with the issue of authenticity. Throughout the film the only sound-scape heard throughout Víctor Gaviria’s Rodrigo D: No Futuro is punk rock music. Gaviria incorporates punk rock into the mix to add another dimension to the Rodrigo D: No Futuro in order to achieve a universality within the message of his story.
―God Save the Queen, Sex Pistols, 1977
Starting with just the title as well as the opening sequence with punk rock playing on top of title cards against a black backdrop. The parallel to de Sica’s film is evident without even beginning the film while the “No Futuro” part must be experienced in the first 30 seconds to understand where Gaviria wants to take the film. By 1990 within the US and the UK, the punk rock movement was already experiencing an acceptance within their places of origin; and by acceptance, it also experienced a blanding. It had gone through many a subtle development to arrive at a place where the mainstream saw it as yet another segmentation of the market to sell to, which meant it was de-fanged. Understanding this temporal context of punk rock, the music played in the opening sequence is definitely seen as not a stylistic choice on part of the director, but a nostalgic reaching back to a purer punk rock (as much as any point of origin can be argued to be the “pure” form). The music’s not pretty. It’s raw. It’s loud. It’s aggressive. It’s expressive and little else. By refraining from the mainstream punk music available to him in the late 1980s, Gaviria must be referencing punk music from its early days.
Once one is given this music history lesson, the combination of “No Future” and raw punk music automatically pays homage to the Sex Pistols, one of the seminal artists in the early days of punk rock. One of their most famous songs (outdated when Rodrigo D was made) God Save the Queen has a chorus that repeats “There’s no future / No future / No future for you” multiple times throughout and finally closes the song. Taking this chorus with the last verse of God Save the Queen quoted at the beginning of this reaction, it’s easy to see parallels between the themes of the film and the nihilism within these quotes. Crime and violence is of no issue to the people within the slums because no one has given them a reason to avoid these destructive habits.
When one thinks of punk, they usually think of anti-establishment rhetoric. The repetition of the lines “Dinero / Problemas / Sistema” at the beginning of the film with Rodrigo D walking through the slum reiterates the structural inequalities experienced by the poor of Colombia. The lyrics sung are all in Spanish, which signifies a Colombia-focused re-appropriation of England’s punk rock to be applicable to Colombian (perhaps, more broadly, even to Latin American) sensibilities. The confrontational aspect of the movie that is anti-establishment is the unglorified/ un-commented upon crime perpetrated by the characters in the film. In trying to break with the past norms, punk music eschewed the perceived excesses of mainstream, and this can be seen in Gaviria’s use of non-professional actors from the streets of Medellín.
To push the punk rock parallels more, in the same in which early punk rock music consisted of basic chords being played by unskilled instrumentalists, Gaviria presents the audience with a pure, stripped down, no bullshit film about what it’s like in the slums of Medellín. The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mentality is taken to an extreme within the punk movement since it manifested itself in pure expression without talent. In the film, the pervasive crime can be seen as a DIY philosophy about economic empowerment. Rodrigo D figures out how to get himself some drumsticks without actually spending the money on them. There is a punk rock band playing wherever they can to be able to express themselves. Further, the message of Rodrigo D is not some subtle, sublime message intended to illuminate some dark corner of the viewer’s intellect, but rather, it is really frank and confrontational. The distance that punk rock sought from the bombast and sentimentality of mainstream is evident in the manner in which Rodrigo D is composed so as to avoid any obfuscation or manipulation by Gaviria.
This is not to say that Gaviria is unskilled instrumentalist, because he still knows how to use the camera to capture this story, nor is he some obtuse observer since he knows how to inject the monotony of the cotidiano into the story to reveal how the slums affects its inhabitants in a deleterious manner as well as force the non-impoverished observer to identify with a more humanized form of their life.