Mariachi High, a new PBS documentary that premiered over the weekend, follows the lives of the members of the Zapata High School mariachi band for a full year.
Mike Hale of the New York Times had high praise for the doc, which captures “one school year of auditions and rehearsals, of heartbreak and joy, building to the state championship tournament” in this border town of 5,000 on the Rio Grande.
“Glee” without the contrivance, the tokenism or the choreographed karaoke: that’s one way of looking at Mariachi High, which leads off the PBS Arts summer documentary series on Friday night. Any suspicion that the film’s creators were hoping we might see it that way doesn’t lessen its charm or relevance. …
What’s eye-opening about “Mariachi High” is the seriousness and sense of purpose the Zapata teenagers exhibit in learning a musical tradition that much of the world sees as kitschy comic relief, and the astonishing skill and professionalism of the performances by them and their South Texas rivals.
Marissa Villa of the San Antonio Express-News spoke to Adrian Padilla, the school’s mariachi director, who stressed the importance of funding the arts: “All that I ask is that legislators look at the fine arts programs and not cut them,” Padilla says. “These programs are the ones that are keeping kids in school and making them excel.”
WATCH Mariachi High below: