Most movie viewers are hedonistic in their approach to film. Unless the film satisfies some base connection most people only watch what looks like them. Often this leads to a skewed perception of what a great film is and can be. I find that to truly watch and care for film is to seek out cinema that can entertain, inspire, educate and generate discussion. Shameless Netflix plug…. now, Netflix is the perfect launching pad for young aspiring screenwriters and directors. Netflix has so many titles available immediately that a lover of films can spend an entire weekend watching films from almost every culture in the world. Recently I’ve caught a couple of films that I highly recommend. One in particular resonates with my longing to see well developed characters with depth and complexities that can’t be simply defined.
The film Don’t Let Me Drown, directed by Cruz Angeles and co written by Maria Topete (2009), stars E.J. Bonilla and Gleendilys Inoa. These young actors form an unlikely couple in post September 11th New York. I guess the statement shouldn’t be unlikely because they are both Latino. However, what many people fail to realize is that intraracism, or racism within the same groups, has a more harmful effect than basic racism. While race is only slightly shown in the film, which is set in New York in Brooklyn and Manhattan, for an African-American writer to witness the verbal attack from a Mexican mother on her son’s Dominican girlfriend raises some interesting questions.
The main character Lalo (Bonilla) is the son of a janitor who has to clean up the debris at Gorund Zero. Lalo’s mother is working hard to pay bills and is frustrated because her husband, a migrant, is not being paid on time. He is also progressively growing ill throughout the film from what he is inhaling on the job. However this subtle storyline is not developed in detail, but it does create texture and pathos for those watching. Lalo’s love interest Stefanie (Inoa) is a young Dominican Girl beng raised in a household with an opressive father, who is genuinely the most attractive abusive character I’ve seen in film, which is an oxymoron obviously. His complexities derive from his oldest daughter dying in the collapse of the WTC. In him you find an opportunity to analyze abuse and control from a man attempting to understand how, and why his first daughter is gone. His emotional fragility in lieu of his wife’s strength is compelling and makes for a character who in his attempt to control something becomes a destructive force. Tyler Perry should take note and learn to develop such complex characters.
Coming of age stories seem to be prevelant in the NYC film culture. Don’t Let Me Drown follows suit with a perfectly paced narrative of the City and one of the many stories that are sure to be told for years. If you have a little time watch this film.