Herod's Law (La Ley de Herodes)

Director: Luis Estrada

Institute History

  • 2000 Sundance Film Festival


A delicious, political satire with its tongue lodged only loosely in cheek, Herod’s Law is hilarious entertainment and a brazenly pointed expose on Mexico’s long-lived legacy of corruption. Recalling (at least initially) the classic morality tale, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Luis Estrada hatches a mischievous period parody of the triumph of the earnest Everyman, arguing instead that power, perhaps by its very nature, is corrupting. At the film’s outset, it becomes quickly apparent that our innocent bumpkin protagonist (in this case, the head janitor of the city’s dumpsters) ain’t no Jefferson Smith. A card-carrying member of the PRI party, Juan Vargas is an unassuming government subordinate whose political aspirations are out of step with his range of influence or abilities. But although the rubbish route may seem an unorthodox entree into politics, Vargas’s dream becomes a reality when he is inexplicably elected mayor of a sleepy little pueblo.

Brandishing lofty ideas for a new Mexican modernity, Vargas sets about reprogramming the town’s antiquated infrastructure and questionable morality. But with a corrupt clergy, a non-Spanish-speaking constituency, a zero-peso operating budget, and a marked lack of imagination, Vargas’s idealistic intentions only last so long.
Instead, the well-intentioned functionary becomes a psychopathic despot in what becomes a nightmare of national proportions. With its terrific performances, slick production values and crisp dialogue, Herod’s Law reveals Luis Estrada at the peak of his craft. Bound to stir controversy in its native Mexico, Herod? Law quivers with energy, gusto, and gleefully irreverent irony.

— Rebecca Yeldham

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards


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