(director/writer: Rodrigo Bellott; screenwriter: Lenelle N. Moise; cinematographer: Daryn DeLuco; editor: Adriana Pacheco; music: Jeremiah van Cans/John Dobry; cast: Alexandra Aponte (Jessica), Roberto Urbina (Sebastian), Jorge Antonio Saavedra (Choco), Ronica V. Reddick (Adinah), Liv Fruyano (Love), Matthew Guida (Gay Football Player); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ara Katz; Wellspring; 2003-Bolivia/USA-in English and Spanish, with English subtitles)


“Still came up with the same conventional responses to teenage sexual behavior despite its novel way of filming.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This DV is an odd collaboration between 24-year-old male Bolivian-American director-coscreenwriter Rodrigo Bellott (his directorial debut) and Lenelle N. Moise, a female Haitian-American screenwriter. The film is a wannabe documentary that takes a non-judgmental hard look at the vulgar machismo sex attitudes of teenagers and the deleterious effects of peer pressure across two continents–South and North America. Though stuck without anyone compelling to care about and too much like a term paper to make a full impact, the ambitious film surprises with a few powerful scenes that are freshly arrived at and because of the filmmaker’s curious roving eye it sometimes effectively hits on some things few other teen films ever do.

An annoying novelty split-screen effect (ala Figgis’ Timecode) is used to no noticeable advantage throughout to interconnect in a loose way five related stories. It starts out with the chapter entitled “My Baby Is a Woman Now.” It’s about a poor teenage girl named Jessica in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, who is treated like dirt by her ignorant abusive working-class father. He tells her “I’ll kill you if you get pregnant.” Soon afterwards, Jessica attends a party for her girlfriend and goes to bed with a boy at the party who had a crush on her for a long time. The tale picks up with “You Damn Whore.” The story takes place in the same town, as the bashful 15-year-old Sebastian from Colombia visits his brazen cousin and she introduces him to her animalistic male party animal friends. They take him out for a night of partying and then force him to see a brothel prostitute at their expense in order to deflower him. In another thread to this ongoing tale, “The Bluest Eyes,” spoiled rich student Choco leaves his vain fashion model blonde girlfriend at home and travels to upstate New York to attend college to study to be a civil engineer. His roommates are white frat boy jocks, who drunkenly display homoerotic displays of affection but become homophobic when a gay student approaches them in the gym locker. The next story “Mirrors” is about an African-American college student Adinah, who relates the importance of a heirloom mirror passed down to her from the women in the family. The articulate Adinah goes into a long monologue about what it means to be black, a woman and raped by drunken white boys. The film’s last story “Angels and Billboards” involves the gang rape of a gay football player.

The five teens covered, all non-professional actors who improvised, are shown under the strobe lights of a nightclub, the runway of a fashion show, in their underwear in a locker room, looking at themselves in the mirror in appreciation of their bods or with shame after a rape, and they always are trying to find their identify or having an auto-erotic experience with their bods and appearances. It’s a film about observing a certain group of teens who need to function in a group to express themselves. The filmmaker cleverly through a series of fictional underwear advertisements points out how sex is sold to the youngsters by the business world. The teens’ lives intersect through this underwear campaign. Though gripping in spots, the promising filmmaker’s overall result still came up with the same conventional responses to teenage sexual behavior despite its novel way of filming.

REVIEWED ON 11/26/2004 GRADE: C +