Friday, October 8, 2010


Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland, 2006 (8.0*)

Grand Jury Prize, Sundance
This small indie film (in Spanish w subtitles), shot in the Hispanic district around Echo Park, Los Angeles, revolves around the Mexican title ceremony for a young girl turning 15, when she "becomes a woman". The film begins with one such ceremony, for a member of the middle class, who can afford the expensive dresses and limousines to the dance. I suppose this is similar to the debutante balls usually given for upper class white girls to present them publicly as marriageable young ladies to a group of eligible bachelors.

However, in Magdalena's case, played by Emily Rios, she has discovered she is pregnant at 14, thus dishonoring her father and family (and before her own quinceañera), who is a rather strict part-time preacher who runs a local grocery store. She goes to live nearby with her great-uncle Thomas, wonderfully played by Chalo González, who emigrated to the U.S. decades earlier. Also there is her troubled gay cousin Carlos (Jesse Garcia, whom you've likely seen before), both of whom find acceptance without judgment by the elder family patriarch, while being disowned by their own parents.

The film was shot by directors Glatzer and Westmoreland in the same neighborhood where they live, and locals loaned them their houses and acted in the film, which lends much veracity to this simple yet heartfelt story. Those unfamiliar with the Hispanic sub-culture in L.A. will learn a lot from this film, which won several awards at film festivals, including the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival. Both Rios and Garcia were nominated for acting awards, but for me the film's best is Gonzalez as uncle Thomas.

Awards page at IMDB.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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