El Callejón de los Milagros

Midaq Alley

Country: Mexico
Release Date: May 5, 1995
Genre(s): Drama
Director: Jorge Fons
Cast: Ernesto Gómez Cruz, Salma Hayek, Bruno Bichir, Delia Casanova, Margarita Sanz, Claudio Obregón
Awards: Ariel Awards:Best Film; Berlin International Film Festival: Special Mention for the exceptional narrative quality; Goya Award: Best Spanish Language Foreign Film; Mexican Cinema Journalists: Best Film ....

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Midaq Alley

El callejón de los milagros - scene

El callejón de los milagros (English: Midaq Alley) is an award-winning 1994 Mexican film adapted from the novel by Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz, written by Vicente Leñero and directed by Jorge Fons. The film deals with complex issues such as gay and lesbian related topics, the lower-middle class of Mexico City, and the lives of many people.

The story is told from three perspectives: Don Ru (Ernesto Gómez Cruz), the owner of a cantina where most of the men in the story gather to drink and play dominoes, Alma (Salma Hayek), the beautiful girl of the neighborhood who dreams of passion, and Susanita (Margarita Sanz who won an Ariel Award for this role), the owner of the apartment complex where Alma and many of the other characters live.

The film was critically acclaimed by international critics. It earned 11 Ariel Awards, including Best Picture and more than 49 international awards and nominations. Pan’s Labyrinth and El Callejón de los Milagros were named as the best Mexican films by IMDB.com and Entertainment Weekly.


The lives of the inhabitants of El Callejón de los Milagros, in downtown Mexico City, are as closely knitted as the threads of a rug. Fifty-something Don Ru owns a small “cantina” where all the men spend afternoons playing domino. He’s tired of his longtime marriage with Eusebia and has recently discovered new feelings inside his heart. It doesn’t matter if these feelings are not aimed to a young lady but to a young clerk after all, as one of the characters says, “it’s platonic love”. Don Ru’s son Chava doesn’t like what he sees and almost kills his father’s lover. Running away from Don Ru’s anger, Chava escapes to the USA with his friend Abel who’s deeply in love with beautiful Alma, the daughter of Dona Cata, a tarot reader with bad luck in love. Susanita, the ugly landlady looking for love; Guicho, Don Ru’s cynical employee, Maru, Don Fidel, Dona Flor, Zacarias and mean Jose Luis complete the cast of characters of this complex portrait of lives.


Data Sheet

Directed by: Jorge Fons

Produced by: Gerardo Barrera

Written by: Alfredo Ripstein hijo, Vicente Leñero(screenplay) – Naguib Mahfouz (novel)

Cast: Ernesto Gómez Cruz, Salma Hayek, Bruno Bichir, Delia Casanova, Margarita Sanz, Claudio Obregón

Music by: Lucía Álvarez

Cinematography: Carlos Marcovich

Release date: May 5, 1995 (Mexico)

Running time: 140 min

Country: Mexico

Language: Spanish


Very compelling story perfectly set in Mexico City.
I saw “El Callejon de los Milagros” (orginal title of the movie) two years ago in Mexico City. It is extremely well-acted by its cast which includes Salma Hayak who since then of course has become a star in the U.S., though she has never had a vehicle here like “El Callejon de los Milagros” that really showed her acting prowess along with her physical beauty. The movie, though, is really about great ensemble acting that tells four or five separate but somehow inter-related stories set on a street in the working class barrio of Mexico City known there as Tepito. The characters, especially the young guys, have the delicious accent of proletarian Mexico City, and use all the slang and idiomatic expressions. It may be hard to understand for those who haven’t spent time in Mexico City, but the sub-titles probably help a lot. The movie touches on themes like homosexuality, machismo, poverty, the poignant fears and desires of a single lady in her late forties, and features some of Mexico’s best actors, along with Hayak. I guess the movie is not for the faint of heart, since it unflinchingly looks at prostitution and homosexuality in Mexico City, but always shows choices made by characters in all their complexity. We are looking at very human, fallible people confronting their sexuality, their hopes and dreams, and making choices, sometimes disastrous choices, in hopes of escaping the economic and social limitations that constrict the life-choice options for those living in a poor neighborhood like the proletariat barrio where the “Callejon de los Milagros” is set. It is a fascinating look at life in Mexico City, very convincing and engrossing. It really should have been given a big advertising push by Miramax so that it could have had the large audience it deserves. Too bad, because U.S. audiences would surely have enjoyed it, and those of us familiar with the setting in Mexico City doubly love it because it so perfectly captures the language and mores of the people who live in “el Callejon de los Milagros”.

A well told story
Beginning with a game of dominoes in a Mexico City cantina, we are introduced to the people who frequent this neighborhood bar and then to their families, and the extended family of their poor neighborhood, ironically known as Midaq Alley or Callejon de los Milagros. We watch helplessly as a series of events unfold drawing in other characters and changing their lives forever.

As the film progresses, this same game of dominoes begins again and again. Each time, we see how the same basic sequence of events unfold through the eyes of a different set of characters and and how their lives are changed forever.

It’s as though the game of dominoes is a metaphor for life. At some level each life touches another and determines what will happens to the other characters. A decision taken by one character limits and directs the choices of the others.

Not having had the advantage of reading the novel in advance of renting the movie, I did not have a preconceived notion of how the characters should behave, or how they stacked up against the book. Generally the translation of a novel into a movie is sketchy at best. However, taken at face value Midaq Alley works very well on film.

The plot is strong and the characters are well defined. What appears to be a slight nuance in one sequence becomes the obvious catalyst that motivates a character in a later sequence. The whole effect ties the characters together as an extended family, a neighborhood, a nation, and finally as archetypes for the human experience. I recommend Midaq Alley as the best type of “art film” — one that serves as a catalyst for thought and discussion.

An excellent production, wonderful acting!
This movie is based on an arabian novel called “Midaq Alley” which is the title for the movie in English. In Mexico (where it was produced), it was called “El Callejon de los Milagros” (“Miracle Alley”) which is a real alley in Mexico City’s downtown.

It details the lives of several charachters of the movie in a format similar to the one used in GO and somewhat like the one used in Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run). A young Mexico City late teens girl whose mother is a tarot palm reader, an opportunist bartender, a sexually undecided bar owner, and many other charachters that may be seen in any downtown. The story is full of real life situations while adding to it a sufficient dose of laughter, sarcasm and ingenuity.

Though not representative of what all of Mexico is (it mainly represents low income downtown Mexico City charachters), it is a very good option for learning a bit more of the mixed Idiosyncrasies (Spanish, European, Moorish, Sephardic Jew, Nahuatl, Zapotec, Mexica, Maya and Aztec) that conform a lot of the Mexican ethnicity.

Midaq Alley, 7.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings


El callejón de los milagros - DVD
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El callejón de los milagros - 04
El callejón de los milagros - Poster
El_callejón de los milagros - English poster


El Callejón de los Milagros Play
Midaq Alley
El callejón de los milagros (English: Midaq Alley) is an award-winning 1994 Mexican film adapted from the novel by Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz, written by Vicente Leñero and directed by Jorge Fons. The film deals with complex issues such as gay and lesbian related topics, the lower-middle class of...
Posted 21 Jan 2011

Posted by  IberoAmericanMovies
Categories: Berlin Festival, Goya, Images, Mexican movies, Mexico, Synopsis, Trailers


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