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A Critical Analysis of la Zola Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Apr 18th, 2019


Contemporary residential premises are characterized by enclosed structures. Housing architecture is replete with security features differentiating it from other forms of urban architecture. In addition, contemporary architecture pays attention to entrances, which are used to control outsiders’ access to the premises (Harvey 2005, 14).

The gated community and other issues in contemporary society elicit different reactions from different individuals. One such individual is director Rodrigo Pla. The director expresses his views regarding these developments through the film La Zona. The movie is a reflection of the gated community and other contemporary phenomena in Mexican cities.

The rate of crime in Mexican cities is high and a gated community is perceived to be the only solution to the problem (Mullings 2012, 421). The gated community phenomenon emerged in early 1970s. According to Caldeira (2007), a gated community is “a residential premise that has its entrance strictly controlled to protect the insiders from the outside violence” (p.17).

The author of this paper will provide a critical analysis of the movie La Zona with regard to the contemporary issues described above. The author will first provide a synopsis of the movie to give the reader an idea of what the movie is about. The illustration of the gated community and other contemporary issues in the movie will be critically analyzed.

A Critical Analysis of the Movie


La Zona is a depiction of events that took place in La Zona, a residential community. The movie illustrates the security measures taken by members of this residential community. In addition to the concrete wall surrounding the residential premises, barbed wires were used to increase security.

The residential premises are fitted with security cameras, which monitor the area for any suspicious activities (Judd 2009, 18). However, these extreme security measures were compromised one windy day. On this particular day, a billboard fell on the walls and demolished them.

The demolished walls exposed the gated community to the surrounding poverty-stricken community (Berman 2007, 29).

Three robbers from the slums took advantage of the security breach to rob residents of the La Zona community. Individuals from the surrounding community felt that the fortified homes contained valuable items, which they could steal. Members of the la Zona community felt that their properties are protected from members of the surrounding poor community (Susser 2009, 14).

Many anthropologists contend that gated communities negatively affect the whole community (Stack 2004, 24). Such scholars as Susser (2009) use the term ‘enclave’ (p.14) to describe this phenomenon. The poor are separated from the ‘others’ by fortified homes owned by the rich people. The segregation is based on the perception that the poor are a threat to the property and life of the rich people (Vincentia 2003, 41).

Under the direction of Rodrigo Pla, la Zona addressed various issues characterizing the social aspect of urban life across the world. Mexico is one of the countries in the world where gated communities are used to separate the rich people from the poor (Holston 2009, 51).

The segregation in the city is one of the reasons why Rodrigo used Mexico City to depict these contemporary phenomena in his movie. The various issues characterizing urban life are critically analyzed in subsequent sections of this paper.

A Critical Analysis of the Urban Issues Addressed in the Movie

Neo-Liberalism and Privatization

The surrounding slums are occupied by poor people struggling to make ends meet. The existence of the poor brings to fore an important aspect of contemporary urban life, which is neo-liberalism and privatization. The movement started in USA in the early 90s.

It later spread to other parts of the world (Wilsons 2007, 37). Most urban problems are brought about by neo-liberalism and privatization (Neckerman 2007, 49). Neo-liberalism holds that “anything that is not privatized is unpromising” (Caldeira 2007, p.91).

Such public utilities as education, healthcare, and security are privatized. In la Zona, neo-liberalism and privatization are vividly captured when the three robbers access the private premises. Two of them are killed and dumped into the city garbage truck. What this implies is that the poor are not protected by the law. On the contrary, the law appears to protect only the rich people (Caldeira 2006, 72).

In the 1980s, neo-liberalism policy in the US favored the rich people at the expense of the poor. 90% of the citizens lost a considerable amount of their income. At the same time, the income of the remaining 10% increased by more than 50%.

Inequality, which is closely related to neo-liberalism, has encroached into contemporary society. Inequality is clearly evident in the movie. Slum dwellers languish in poverty as the rich people continue to accumulate wealth (Marcuse 2011, 702).

The rich people are not aware of the problems faced by the poor. For instance, when the two thieves are killed, the police are bribed to drop the charges against the killers.

The rich people are only interested in their property and safety. The poor are left to take care of themselves. Inequality leads to job scarcity, which pushes the poor into crime (Dobriner 2008, 19).

The Rise of Homeowners’ Associations

As a result of insecurity, home owners’ associations have established communities favoring individuals from a particular socio-economic class in the society. In the movie, gates protect the rich people from the outside world. There is no interaction between the rich people and the poor.

The residents have to abide by the rules and regulations set by the associations. The segregation is illustrated in the film by a golf park from where the residents view the slums surrounding the secured premises (Caldeira 2007, p.95).

Rodrigo Pla uses characters to express grievances of the poor in the community. For instance, Alejandro’s family does not understand what made the three robbers to steal. They kill two of the thieves, leading to a heated argument between the family members. Alejandro’s father killed the two thieves with the help of a guard. The family does not agree with the action the father has taken (Caldeira 2007, p.99).

In the film, everyone needs to control the security of their home. For instance, panic buttons, cameras, as well as barbed wires are used for control. The homes reflect the situation in the third world countries where the rich people live in houses that are besieged by the slum dwellers (Saskia 2011, 21).

Gated Communities in Mexico

The rate of crime has increased in many Mexican cities. There is fear that the situation is getting out of control. Several options are proposed to address the situation. Gated communities appear to be the most preferred option compared to other proposed solutions. Members of the rich community are afraid of the outside world. They opt to fortify their premises to protect them from the increasing rate of crime (Marshalls 2005, 29).

Addressing the insecurity problem is difficult for the rich people. They believe that the only way out is to establish fortified residential premises (Saskia 2011, 31). The ‘jail-like’ homes are equipped with sophisticated security features, such as panic buttons, uniformed guards, and surveillance cameras (Holston 2009, 42).

The phenomenon is vividly captured in La Zona. For instance, the collapsed walls made it possible for the three thieves to access la Zona. The gated community phenomenon poses several challenges to urban life in general (Sennett 2004, 59). The challenges are clearly captured in the movie.

Problems Arising from Gated Communities

  • Fragmentation

Fragmentation occurs when low earning individuals come together to reside in such cheap places as slums where social amenities are inadequate. New home owners opt to acquire a home within a gated community. Home owners’ associations have come up with such homes, which are targeted at individuals with a considerable amount of income.

The associations have nothing to offer the low income earners, which leads to fragmentation of public resources (Saskia 2011, 42). Such fragmentation is evident in la Zona. The rich people are separated from the poor.

  • Social Interaction

Social interaction is considerably low within the gated communities compared to the slums. In the film, one of the residents in La Zona accidently shoots a guard. The shooting indicates that members of the gated community are less concerned with the welfare of their neighbors compared to slum dwellers.

The guard was patrolling the premises to keep the intruders at bay (Marshalls 2005, 72). However, the situation in both the gated community and the slums is similar. Residents from both localities have violated the law.

The thieves trespassed on private property while the members of the gated community killed them. Members of the gated community behaved like the slum dwellers, indicating that both parties are the same. Their similarities are separated by a thick wall, as well as wealth and poverty.

Studies conducted in this field found that residents in gated communities would rather ask a guard to ask children to stop playing in the lawn than initiate the act themselves (Stack 2004, 81). Such findings show that members of the gated communities are afraid of other people within their own community (Marcuse 2011, 22).

The situation poses a challenge to the community given that whenever an issue arises, the members are unable to tackle it together. In the film, residents killed the thieves and bribed the police officers (Stack 2004, 81).

  • Policing the Gated Communities

Police officers patrolling the gated communities are meant to protect the interests of the residents. For instance, they have guns to intimidate robbers. Additionally, they have their own laws, which give them the freedom to do whatever they want. However, the safety of the perceived ‘safe community’ was compromised when the perimeter wall collapsed in la Zona.

What this means is that the issue of insecurity can only be tackled effectively by bringing together all members of the community (Clark 2006, 28). The poor and the rich people should come together to address the issue (Certeau 2004, 24).


The author of the paper critically analyzed the film la Zona in relation to the gated community and other issues in contemporary urban society. The gated community is a threat to urban life with regard to safety and development.

Measures put in place to boost security cannot be fully relied on. As a result, urbanization should be accompanied by equality to prevent crime, which in most cases results from segregation.

Reference List

Berman, Marshall. All that is Solid Melts into Air. New York: Penguin Books, 2007.

Caldeira, Teresa. “Building up Walls: The New Pattern of Spatial Segregation.” International Social Science Journal 10, no 147 (2006): 55-59.

Caldeira, Teresa. City of Walls: Crime Segregation and Citizenship. Berkley: University of California Press, 2007.

Certeau, Michael. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

Clark, Titus. The Painting of the Modern Man. Princeton. N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2006.

Dobriner, William. The Suburban Community. New York: Putman’s Sons, 2008.

Harvey, David. Consciousness and the Urban Experience: Studies in History and Theory of Capitalist Urbanization. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2005.

Holston, James. The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasilia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Judd, Dennis. The Rise of the New Walled Cities. London: Sage Publications, 2009.

Marcuse, Paul. “Dial City: A Muddy Metaphor for Quartered City.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 1, no. 13 (2011): 697-708.

Marshalls, Hulk. Citizenship and Social Class: In Class, Citizenship, and Social Development. New York: Doubleday, 2005.

Mullings, Benard. “Investing in Public Housing and Racial Discrimination: Implications in the 1990s.” Journal of the Urban Studies 3, no. 18 (2012): 415-25.

Neckerman, Kelvin. Poverty and Family Structure: The Widening Gap between Evidence and Public Policy Issues. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Saskia, Sassen. The Global City. London: Princeton University Press, 2011.

Sennett, Richard. The Fall of Public Man: On the Social Psychology of Capitalism. New York: Vintage Books, 2004.

Stack, Caleb. All Our Kin. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 2004.

Susser, Irene. Norman Street: Poverty and Politics in the Urban Neighborhood. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Vincentia, Joan. “Framing the Underclass: A Critique of Anthropology.” American Journal of Urban Studies 13, no. 3 (2003): 215-231.

Wilsons, Wycliffe. The Truly Disadvantaged. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

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