Cinematic Considerations: Going Varsity in Mariachi

Plot: “In world high school mariachi, musicians from South Texas reign supreme. Under the guidance of coach Abel Acuña, the captains of Edinburg North High School team must turn shoestring and diverse, inexperienced musicians into state champions.” -IMDB

Review: Documentary films possess a rare ability to reveal worlds and characters you never knew existed. Going Varsity in Mariachi introduces a unique high school competition to a new audience. By doing so, we step into a fresh experience that reveals the magic embedded in this approach to filmmaking.  

Co-Directors Sam Osborn and Alejandra Vasquez focus our attention on the competition and the bandleader. We get background information on a select few students. In my opinion, I would have loved to know these students more deeply. Outside of practice and competitions, I believe this expansion of roles and backstory would have provided a more emotionally rich film.  

What we learn about these students feels like only glimpses into their personal lives. We grow to understand the sense of belonging and responsibility provided by belonging to this band. But even these glimpses center on preparation for competitions. I wanted to care more deeply about these humans who are dedicating themselves to something larger. I believe this level of understanding would have made their wins and losses so much more profound.  

The filmmakers choose to have the competitions serve as the emotional focal point for this film. In these spaces, we see these students unravel the deeper meaning of losing. We see competition provide adult lessons. And we see them grow, wrestle with second chances, and aspire to greatness. The act of competition provides a level of intimacy that helps this film rise above its shortcomings.  

Ultimately, this is a film about the joy of playing music together and working toward a common goal. Along the way, the students learn, and we witness the power music possesses to convey emotion. If that was the primary goal of the filmmakers, I think they achieved their aim. 

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