Los Olvidados Critical Analysis Essay

For other uses, see Los Olvidados (disambiguation).

Los Olvidados (pronounced [los olbiˈðaðos], Spanish for "The Forgotten Ones"), known in the U.S. as The Young and the Damned, is a 1950 Mexican film directed by Luis Buñuel.[1]

Óscar Dancigers, the producer, asked Buñuel to direct this film after the success of the 1949 film El Gran Calavera. Buñuel already had a script ready titled ¡Mi huerfanito jefe! about a boy who sells lottery tickets. However, Dancigers had in mind a more realistic and serious depiction of children in poverty in Mexico City.

After conducting some research, Jesús Camacho and Buñuel came up with a script that Dancigers was pleased with. The film can be seen in the tradition of social realism, although it also contains elements of surrealism present in much of Buñuel's work.

Los Olvidados was widely criticized upon its initial release, but earned the Best Director award at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival.[2] It is now considered a masterpiece of Latin American cinema.


  • Stella Inda as Pedro's Mother
  • Miguel Inclán as Don Carmelo, the blind man
  • Alfonso Mejía as Pedro
  • Roberto Cobo as "El Jaibo"
  • Alma Delia Fuentes as Meche
  • Francisco Jambrina as the principal of the rural school
  • Jesús Navarro as Julián's father
  • Efraín Arauz as "Cacarizo"
  • Jorge Pérez as "Pelón"
  • Javier Amézcua as Julián
  • Mário Ramírez as "Ojitos" ("Little Eyes"), the lost boy
  • Ernesto Alonso as Narrator (uncredited)


The film is about a group of destitute children and their misfortunes in a Mexico City slum. El Jaibo escapes juvenile jail and reunites with the street gang that he leads. El Jaibo's gang attempts to rob a blindstreet musician. They fail at first, but later track him down, beat him, and destroy his instruments.

With the help of Pedro, El Jaibo tracks down Julián, the youngster who supposedly sent him to jail. El Jaibo puts his arm in a fake sling and hides a rock in it. El Jaibo confronts Julián, who denies that he reported him to the police. Julián refuses to fight El Jaibo because it wouldn't be a fair fight with El Jaibo's arm broken. As Julián starts to walk away, El Jaibo hits him in the head with the rock. He then beats Julián to death and takes his money. El Jaibo warns Pedro not to report the crime, and since he shares Julián's money with Pedro, Pedro is an accomplice to the murder.

Pedro's mother resents her son's behavior, and shows signs that she doesn't even love him or care for him as a son. Pedro is extremely saddened by this and vows to start behaving better. He finds work as apprentice to a blacksmith. One day, El Jaibo comes to talk with him about their secret and, unbeknownst to Pedro, steals an expensive knife from the blacksmith's table. Pedro is accused of the crime and sent to a juvenile rehabilitation program, the "farm school," where he misbehaves and kills two chickens. The principal gives Pedro a test. He hands Pedro a 50 pesos bill to run errands with as a test of trust. If Pedro returns from the errands, he can be trusted. If he doesn't, the principal is out 50 pesos. Pedro accepts the offer and leaves with the intention to complete the errands. As soon as he leaves, he encounters El Jaibo, who steals the money. Upset that his attempt to be good was foiled again, Pedro tracks down El Jaibo and fights him. The fight ends in a stalemate, but Pedro announces to the crowd that it was El Jaibo who killed Julián. El Jaibo flees, but the blind man has heard the accusation and tells the police.

Pedro tracks El Jaibo down once again to murder him. El Jaibo kills Pedro. While fleeing, El Jaibo runs into the police. As El Jaibo tries to run away, the police shoot and kill him. Meche and her grandfather find Pedro's body in their shed. Not wanting to attract the police, they dump his body down a garbage-covered cliff. On their way, they pass Pedro's mother, who, though once unconcerned with her disobedient child, is now searching for him.

Alternate ending[edit]

In 2002, it was announced that an alternate ending for Los Olvidados (labeled "the happy ending") was discovered at the Film Warehouse of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and it would be restored digitally in order to show it to the public. On July 8, 2005, it was re-screened with the alternate ending on a few selected venues and included in subsequent DVD releases.[3][4]

At the International Cinematographic Festival in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, on February 3, 2011, the last surviving member of the cast, Alfonso Mejia (Pedro), introduced the alternative ending to the film.[5]

According to Mejia, Buñuel was "pressured by the censorship in México, and urged to film an alternative ending, a conventional ending, to maintain the image of a progressive Mexico, where no one was poor or illiterate" (you can view the interview here on YouTube).

The alternative ending begins with El Jaibo and Pedro fighting on an abandoned warehouse. Pedro pushes El Jaibo from the roof, where he falls to his death. Pedro frisks the body for the money El Jaibo stole from him (in contrast to the original ending, where Pedro is murdered by El Jaibo). Pedro returns to the farm school with the money that the principal entrusted to him.


Thematically, Los Olvidados is similar to Buñuel's earlier Spanish film, Las Hurdes. Both films deal with the never-ending cycle of poverty and despair. Los Olvidados, is especially interesting because although “Buñuel employed … elements of Italian neorealism,” a concurrent movement across the Atlantic Ocean marked by “outdoor locations, nonprofessional actors, low budget productions, and a focus on the working classes,” Los Olvidados is not a neorealist film (Fernandez, 42). “Neorealist reality is incomplete, conventional, and above all rational,” Buñuel wrote in a 1953 essay titled "Poetry and Cinema." “The poetry, the mystery, all that completes and enlarges tangible reality is utterly lacking.” (Sklar, 324) Los Olvidados contains such surrealistic shots as when “a boy throws an egg at the camera lens, where it shatters and drips” or a scene in which a boy has a dream in slow-motion (Sklar, 324). The surrealist dream sequence was actually shot in reverse and switched in post-production. Bunuel does not romanticize the characters, and even the abused blind man is revealed to have cruel habits of preying on children and selling fake elixirs.



Los Olvidados was largely disparaged by the Mexican press upon its release.[6] Juan Carlos Ibáñez and Manuel Palacio write, "The film was so harsh and innovative, so critical and daring in its statements that during its first screenings, spectators openly aired their indignation towards the features of Mexican identity presented by Buñuel."[7] The work was also criticized as overly bleak.[8]


Many critics have since proclaimed Los Olvidados a masterpiece. It currently holds a 94% score on the website Rotten Tomatoes based on 29 reviews.[9] It was inscribed on UNESCO's "Memory of the World" Register in 2003 in recognition of its historical significance.[citation needed]

The work placed 110th in the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll of the greatest films ever made.[10]


Los Olvidados has been cited as an influence on films such as Amores perros (2000) and City of God (2002).[11]


  • Fernandez, Walter, Jr. “A Directory of Dynamic Directors: Luis Buñuel.” Cinema Editor Fourth Quarter 2005: 42-43.
  • Sklar, Robert. Film: An International History of the Medium. [London]: Thames and Hudson, [c. 1990].

External links[edit]

  1. ^"The Young and the Damned". IMDb. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  2. ^"Festival de Cannes: Reckless". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-01-14. 
  3. ^La Jornada (8 July 2005). "Restrenan en pantalla grande Los olvidados, con final inédito". Archived from the original on 12 June 2010. Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  4. ^ABC.es (12 January 2004). "Los Olvidados vuelve a la vida en DVD, con final alternativo". Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  5. ^Vanguardia (3 February 2011). "Un 'olvidado' en Saltillo". Retrieved 3 October 2011. 
  6. ^Steffen, James. "Los Olvidados". Turner Classic Movies, Inc. Retrieved April 16, 2017. 
  7. ^Elena, Alberto; López, Marina Díaz, eds. (2012). The Cinema of Latin America. Columbia University Press. p. 53. ISBN 0231501943. 
  8. ^Parkinson, David (June 14, 2006). "Los Olvidados Review". Empire. Retrieved April 16, 2017.  
  9. ^"Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 5 February 2018. 
  10. ^"Votes for Los Olvidados (1950)". British Film Institute. Retrieved April 16, 2017. 
  11. ^Bradshaw, Peter (February 15, 2007). "Los Olvidados". The Guardian. Retrieved April 16, 2017. 

Los Olvidados/The Forgotten Ones(1950 Mexico 88mins)

Source: ACMI/NLA Prod Co: Ultramar Films Prod: Oscar Dancigers, Sergio Kogan, Jaime A. Menasce Dir: Luis Buñuel Scr: Luis Buñuel, Luis Acoriza Phot: Gabriel Figueroa Ed: Calos Savage Art Dir: William W. Claridge Mus: Rodolfo Halffter, Gustavo Pittaluga

Cast: Alfonso Mejía, Estela Inda, Roberto Cobo, Migual Inclán, Efraín Arauz, Alma Delia Fuentes

Los Olvidados is the odd bird of Luis Buñuel’s long, many-complexioned filmography, the film where Buñuel’s favored protective defenses, surrealism and satire, come crashing down, exposing a heart sharply attuned to the injustice of poverty. One of the reasons Buñuel is so difficult to categorize is that over the course of his career as a filmmaker, he went through three easily differentiated major phases – the surrealist, the low-budget Mexican filmmaker, and the elegantly satirical, continental European sage. Buñuel’s films are all characterized by a horror at the world’s cruelty, but for the greater part of his career, he submerged it under a veneer of sophisticated distanciation.

Los Olvidados, released in 1951, is the only film in which Buñuel takes off his mask of sophisticated removal to reveal the true grimace underneath. Over an opening montage of the delights of the global metropolis – the Manhattan skyline, Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower – the narrator sets the stage for the narrative to come, solemnly providing the film’s motto: “behind every beautiful city are poor children.” In one of the film’s early scenes, setting the plot in motion, Jaibo, the sly, intelligent gang leader, beats his rival Julian to death in the shadow of a half-built high-rise building. The city may be in the process of progressing toward some unimaginable future, but one constant is that the downtrodden will be left behind by any such progress.

The plot concerns Jaibo and his associate, Pedro, and their efforts to evade punishment for Julian’s death. Pedro seems overwhelmed by his older, larger, and more brutal friend, unable to escape from his grasp anywhere. The film has the nightmarish clarity of a waking dream, with Pedro, as audience surrogate, unable to avoid the cycle of poverty, desperation, and crime. He is abandoned by his mother and by society, left to fend for himself at an absurdly young age. In Pedro’s dream, the most famous scene in the film, the disturbing sight of Julian’s bloody dead body under the bed is offset by the pacifying visage of his mother, soothing him, “Listen, you’re not that bad. I’d like to be with you all the time.” Pedro offers to work in support of his mother, but wonders why she refused him any of the meat she had served to her other children. She smiles, and walks in his direction in slow motion, a rotting slab of diseased-looking meat in her hand. As she walks, a long, distended hand emerges from beneath the bed, looking supernaturally extended as it grasps at the meat. This hand is revealed to be Jaibo’s, at which point the dream ends.

The dream exposes the rot that lies even at the core of Pedro’s fantasies. His mother’s love is itself rotted away, and Jaibo’s need to possess what is rightfully the property of others results in Pedro’s downfall, and his own. Jaibo instinctively knows Pedro’s desires, and fears, and preys on his vulnerability, having been an unwilling accomplice in Julian’s murder. He is the Id run amuck, acting out where Pedro instinctively recoils. The two protagonists can be seen as halves of the same whole, with Jaibo the destroyer, and Pedro (at least attempting to be) the constructor. Jaibo’s seduction of Pedro’s young, lissome mother is a form of Oedipal seduction, acting on the half-buried wish of his accomplice’s dream. Pedro can never successively avoid Jaibo because he is a manifestation of his own ugliest desires. In the film’s most harrowing scene, Pedro, in a juvenile work farm, is given 50 pesos by the headmaster to walk to the corner store and buy cigarettes. His initial hostility melts into disbelieving joy that he has found a place where others trust and respect him, and Buñuel cues our reaction with a swelling burst of triumphant horns. As Pedro struts down the street in the direction of redemption, the horns suddenly turn dark, intimating the tragedy always lurking in this film, and as if on cue, manifesting from nothingness, Jaibo emerges, demanding the 50 pesos.

In Los Olvidados, sexuality consistently gives way to violence as a driving force of society. The closing sequence proceeds with the inexorable logic of the preordained. Pedro, unable to return to the farm, seeks a hiding place, but ultimately finds none. The poor of his neighborhood, equally downtrodden, cannot see beyond the length of their own miseries toward those of others, and treat Pedro with the same hostility and malice the better-off have already demonstrated. Poverty, it seems, is no guarantee of humanity in Buñuel’s world. Pedro is ultimately tracked down by Jaibo, and killed. Soon after, the same fate greets Jaibo. In the film’s final, Buñuelian, irony, Pedro’s mother roams the streets, calling out his name, not noticing the passing cart ushering his body to the final resting place of a nearby ditch.

Los Olvidados marks a unique moment in Buñuel’s work. Following this film, the focus of his work shifted toward the lives of the bourgeois, and his coolly jaundiced eye roamed the estates and mansions of the frivolously wealthy. Buñuel developed an ironic, detached viewpoint, from which he could safely watch these outrages. Buñuel’s anger at the world’s horrors never dissipated; it simply moved below the surface. But Los Olvidados is the one Buñuel film where he unabashedly gives a hoot, and its bitter power is unforgettable.

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