Let's talk Latin America

Film focus: Pelo Malo

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Film editor Scarlett Sullivan gives the low-down on 2013 release Pelo Malo.

From Venezuelan writer/director Mariana Rondón comes this poignant tale of a young boy who, against the wishes of his distressed mother, Marta (Samantha Castillo), decides to straighten his curly hair in an attempt to mirror the appearance of his celebrity idols for his yearbook photo.

Growing up in a destitute neighbourhood in Caracas, Marta faces the struggles of single parenthood in addition to the anguish created by her son’s apparent homosexuality. Junior, the excellently cast Samuel Lange Zambrano, is often shunned by Marta as she indulges her other child (who, as it happens, has straight hair).

A highly relatable tale of an individual struggling to understand the implications of his desires, Pelo Malo tackles themes of racism, homophobia and prejudice. By using the naive perspective of the nine-year-old and his seemingly trivial obsession with his hair, Rondón acknowledges these issues in a delicate manner which leaves much open to interpretation.

Throughout the course of the plot, Junior’s wild hair unravels into a symbol of much larger matter, as he finds himself torn between wanting to express his personality and longing for his mother’s affection. There is as much emphasis placed on Junior’s distinctiveness as on Marta’s inability to accept it, with Rondón describing how the film presents a “good first step in having a concrete discussion” regarding the taboo of sexual orientation which still exists in many parts of Latin America.

Although the touching end sequence of Pelo Malo evokes a sense of hopefulness, the true fate of Junior is left unknown, making this film evermore thought-provoking.

Check out the trailer here:

Header photo Outsmartmagazine.com