Junior (Samuel Lange) is nine-year-old Venezuelan boy living in poverty, who is on a mission to have his curly hair straightened for his upcoming school photo in Mariana Rondón’s film “Pelo Malo”. His widowed unemployed single mother Martha (Samantha Castillo), hates this idea as she fears that actions like these are indicators that her son is gay; at one point in the film she even takes Junior to the doctor, so that he can check him and see what’s “wrong” with him.
The more Junior tries to look good and impress his mother, the more she resents him. He seeks out her comfort and looks at her deeply at times and you just want Martha to act like his mom and not just a custodian, but instead she responds coldly to Junior by saying things like “Don’t look at me like that, I told you I don’t like it, when you look at me like that”; which is hard to stomach as she is constantly showing Junior’s younger brother love and affection.
Junior’s paternal grandmother Carmen (Nelly Ramos) turns out to be an unlikely ally to Junior. When she babysits Junior, she tries to help him achieve his dreams by blow drying some of his hair straight and promising to make him a rock star’s outfit for his school photo. His grandmother even teaches him to sing like a rock star to the tune of 1960’s Venezuelan pop singer Henry Stephen’s hit song “Mi Limon Mi Limonero”
The constant battle between Junior and his mother and Junior and his own self is something that is shown throughout the film as you see him always finding his way to a mirror and his mother always analyzing everything that he does from the way that eats his food to the way he dances.
The acting in this film is raw, with all main cast members leaving you a piece of themselves on the screen. Samuel Lange gives a strong performance throughout the film and does an excellent job in his portrayal of Junior as he would go from this quiet, yet inquisitive little thing to this loud and passionate boy in the blink of an eye.
This film has plenty of dark elements and moments thrown into the mix, from when the grandmother offers to buy Junior from Martha and Martha contemplates it; to when Martha takes advice from the doctor to show Junior a “normal” family example too far, by forcing him to watch her having sex with her boss.
Relentless, Martha continues with her “mothering” of Junior, as she later on gives him a dire ultimatum during their last confrontation in the film. “I don’t love you” Junior tells his mom defiantly, yet heartbroken. “Me either” is her blank response and my heart just broke into pieces along with Junior’s.
This film gives an interesting perspective at the poverty, sexuality issues and stereotypes that hispanic people living in countries like that of Venezuela have to deal with. Mariana Rondón does a great job of showing the rawness of the Caracas community that Junior grows up in, which after viewing, I feel make the projects of New York City look like condominiums.
I orignally went to see “Pelo Malo” thanks to Lincoln Motor Company, while it showed during the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014. With this year’s festival around the corner, I thought I would highlight this post as I still continue to get hits on it daily. Below is a trailer you will find a trailer for the film and the song that Junior’s grandmother taught him in the film, as I fell in love with it as well.
BAD HAIR TRAILER
HARRY STEPHEN’S – MI LIMON MI LIMONERA VIDEO
For more information on “Pelo Malo”, check their website out: http://www.pelomalofilm.com/