Tuesday, January 27, 2009
False identities, true feelings
By Edward Copeland
The Independent Spirit Award nominees have proved two for three as I search for films on DVD to write about. In Search of a Midnight Kiss turned out to be a delightful low-budget feature, even if Blockbuster had an exclusive rental deal that showed the b&w film in color. On the other hand, Towelhead was so repugnant, I couldn't finish it. Sangre de Mi Sangre, which received Spirit nominations for best first feature and best screenplay, is another lesser-known gem.
Sangre de Mi Sangre follows 17-year-old Diego (Jesus Ochoa) as he smuggles himself from Puebla, Mexico, to New York following his mother's death to try to find the man he's been told is his father, his only evidence being a long letter written by his mother, an old photo and a locket.
While on the road, he's befriended by another Mexican being sneaked into the U.S., only Juan (Armando Hernandez) is a hustler of the highest order and not only robs Diego of most of his possessions, but assumes his identity in New York, hoping to take the fortune he believes Diego's presumed father Pedro (Jorge Adrian Espindola) holds.
Much to Juan's dismay, he learns that Pedro isn't the rich restaurant owner the letter implied but merely a dishwasher at an eatery and he isn't much interested in becoming a father now, if he believed the teen's story anyway. Meanwhile, the destitute Diego finds himself involved with a cynical streetwalker named Magda (Paola Mendoza), who rips him off at first but later decides to help him.
Written and directed by first-time helmer Christopher Zalla, the Spanish-language Sangre de Mi Sangre essentially revolves around this quartet, though there are other characters. It's by turns funny, sad and touching and all the performers are excellent, especially Espindola who perfectly embodies a bitter, tired man who slowly takes this young man into his heart, so much so that even the viewer forgets that he is an impostor.
It's also a very human tale of the plight of the illegal immigrant seeking a better life.