Director/Writer: Mariana Rondon
Cast: Samuel Lange Zambrano, Samantha Castillo, Beto Benites, Nelly Ramos, Maria Emilia Sulbaran
93min Venezuela Drama
Joining the recent crop of gay interest films from South American comes Pelo Malo (Bad Hair). Themes of identity and nascent sexuality are sensitively but rigorously explored in this appealing Venezuelan arthouse gem which runs along similar lines as the award-winning Brazilian indie The Way He Looks. The star turn here is newcomer Samuel Lange (as Junior) whose fraught but loving single mother, Marta (Samantha Castillo), is anxious to suppress confusing sexual signals as she struggles to run home and family in the overpopulated city of Caracas. Meanwhile, Junior channels his childhood angst and burgeoning adolescence into taming his crop of afro curls. As the title suggests, he’s definitely having a ‘bad hair’ day, and it continues throughout the drama.
The barnet in question is the legacy of his black father, but Junior has more of a pop idol role model in mind as he desperately tries to straighten his unruly locks. As Marta, Samantha Castillo puts her foot down in a subtle performance of well-concealed irritation. She really needs a masculine man about the house to help her raise his baby brother, not a budding gay star with a eye for the boys, and particularly the local newspaper boy (Julio Mendez) who seems to be the object of Junior’s affections. As is often the case, Junior gets more leniency from his paternal grandma, Carmen (Nelly Ramos) but she has her own reasons for wanting to bring him up. Mariana Rondon crafts her narrative sparingly allowing us space to fill in the gaps and form our own conclusions in this nifty neorealist social drama that tackles the age old subject of oedipal love in a traditional matriarchal and Catholic environment, without resorting to sentimentalism. Micaela Cajahuaringa’s mobile camera evokes this nightmare of Caracas’s psychogeography with a vivid backdrop of traffic-choked streets and chaotic social housing that suffocate childhood dreams in a marasma of sombre daily reality. On a positive note, Camilo Froideval’s upbeat score suggests that Junior’s imagination may just win out in the end. MT
ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 30 January 2015 | 30 March on DVD VOD with interviews with Mariana Rondon, featurettes, and trailers.