The Family (2018)


Directed by Gustavo Rondon Cordova
Country: Venezuela

Embracing a gritty social realism, The Family is the most interesting drama coming from Venezuela since Bad Hair (2014). First-time director Gustavo Rondon Cordova takes an attentive look at a shattered South American country, currently facing political turmoil, criminality, hunger, and despair. Centered on father and son, this is a story of guilt, repent, and sacrifice. Their dilapidated lives need a radical change so they can find a path to a more hopeful future.

12-year-old Pedro (newcomer Reggie Reyes) belongs to that group of people who don't take insults lying down. He lives in a tough neighborhood of Caracas and spends most of the day in the company of his neighbor and best friend Jonny, barely seeing his single father, Andres (Giovanni García), a hardworking man who returns home only to sleep a few hours. Even though money is around, food is not abundant. An adversity they have to pull through on a daily basis.

One day, Pedro and Jonny got in a fight with a kid from the slums who had approached them with a gun to steal their cellphones. In an impulse of self-defense, Pedro slashes the kid’s neck with a piece of glass. Regardless if the boy lived or died, now their lives are in great danger. Aware of this fact, Andres, even running from job to job, tries the best he can to protect his only son. In turn, Pedro sees his progenitor as a weak man and keeps acting wild and disrespectful. The solution is to leave the block and then try to obtain more information from a safe place while letting things calm down.

Educational insufficiency and the milieu where you grow up represent crucial factors in the story, but also the social unevenness and corruption that hamper the country’s development. Andres might have felt embarrassed in front of his son after getting caught stealing liquor bottles from a fancy party where he was working as a waiter. However, it was from that moment on that Pedro gains some more respect, realizing how equally painful was his father’s reality.

The young Reyes stands out and the production values are strong, with a well-deserved special mention for the cinematography of Luis Armando Arteaga (Ixcanul; The Heiresses).


Bad Hair (2014)

Bad Hair (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Mariana Rondón
Country: Venezuela / others

Movie Review: Set in a decadent neighborhood in Venezuela, “Bad Hair” tells the story of Junior (Samuel Lange Zambrano), a sensitive nine-year-old mulatto who struggles with his ‘bad hair’, doing everything to stretch it and to dress up as a singer, just to have his school photo taken. This obsession with his hair, together with other no less important factors – carrying a hairpin, dancing in a different manner, or staring at a young man who often gives him matches – leave his widow mother, Marta (Samantha Castillo), in such a pile of nerves. She takes him to the doctor in order to understand what’s happening with her eldest son, the one she avoids to caress and share a tender moment. There’s an obvious detachment from Marta and a consequent rebellion of the kid who demands to be accepted as he is. The only one who seems to understand the boy is his paternal grandmother, Carmen (Nelly Ramos), who suggests that Marta’s baby child is not her son’s son, and keeps offering large sums of money to have Junior living with her, accepting the fact that he might be gay. However, the kid only wants to be with his mother and will do whatever it takes to get the love that Marta seems incapable of giving. The film takes considerable time shaping the resentful mother who tries to retrieve her job as security, after screwing up somehow, even if for that she has to have sex with her employer in front of Junior, who was supposedly asleep. The way the kid reproves his mother’s behavior is by casting her a look that makes her feel uncomfortable. The helmer, Mariana Rondon, not only uses efficacious establishing shots - of a neighborhood that fills the entire frame with degraded buildings, small balconies, clothes hung to dry, and neighboring activity - but also was very assertive in the way she structured and set up every strong scene. First-time actors, Castillo and Zambrano, give irreproachable performances, in a sad tale that doesn't feel disproportionate in regard to several real lives.