The Hole in the Fence
by George Wolf
The fence is meant to separate the proud and the privileged from the lawless and desperate. So the opening in it serves as a warning about who might try to come in, and a reminder about how important it is to protect your place on the “good” side.
The Hole in the Fence (El hoyo en la cerca) isn’t exactly subtle, or especially profound, but it does serve up a well constructed lesson in the roots of toxic masculinity, the twisted tenets of religious hypocrisy, and the casual cruelty that often accompanies both.
A group of rich Catholic kids is bused into Mexico’s Los Pinos integration camp for boys. The lessons they receive will continue their grooming as the next wave of the Mexican “elite,” and lesson one is a speech that reinforces how unworthy the “outside” people are.
And right on cue, ringleader Jordi (Valeria Lamm) and the rest of the boys begin singling out any sign of weakness in the ranks. Diego (Eric David Walker) is hampered by casts and a neck brace, Eduardo (Yubah Ortega) is a scholarship kid, and Joaquincito (Lucciano Kurti) might be gay.
This will not do.
We’ve seen these themes and metaphors before, but director and co-writer Joaquin del Paso does score some compelling moments by narrowing the focus to the teachers and students interacting in one confined space. And the pupils learn quickly about how well cruelty can work for them, especially as a means to decrease your own suffering at the expense of someone else’s.
Slowly, the priests and instructors begin moving from the periphery to the center of the narrative. One camper goes missing, hints are dropped about the history of the camp, and del Paso engineers a truly unsettling extended take sequence set by the side of a highway.
Who is more dangerous here, those outside the fence, or those inside? The Hole in the Fence has answers that are not soft-pedalled, but still too hard to be ignored.