Forgotten Films

Quinceanera (2006)

Annette writes:

Quinceanera (released as Echo Park, L.A. in the U.K.), is a coming-of-age story set in the predominantly Hispanic Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. I was surprised to find out that this film, directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, won a couple of awards at Sundance last year (Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for dramatic film) since I saw only a few brief mentions of it in the press in the middle of last year. Even compared to independent films in a similar vein such as Real Women Have Curves and Maria Full of Grace, Quinceanera seems to have been shortchanged of publicity, which is too bad because this film deserves to be seen.

For the uninitiated, a quinceanera is a traditional celebration in Mexican culture of a girl's coming of age at her 15th birthday. It's similar to a wedding in scale, with a court, formal dresses, a dinner and a dance. This film is the story of Magdalena, played by Emily Rios, who becomes pregnant in the months before her 15th birthday. Of course, her pregnancy causes problems with her father who is a conservative minister. She goes to live with her elderly great grand-uncle, who seems to be running a safe house for outcast youth. At her uncle's house, Magdalena gets to know her cousin Carlos (Jesse Garcia) who is there for his own moral transgression: he's gay.

What I liked most about this film is its honest portrayal of Mexican-American youth. The characters are not cliches or stereotypes like many Mexican-American characters are in films. The directors do a great job of showing the world of these characters, particularly the juxtaposition of the traditional (the old-fashioned ways of Magdalena's parents and uncle) and the modern (Magdalena wants a stretch Hummer for her quinceanera).

I thought these characters dealt with issues like teen pregnancy and homosexuality in a way that most teenagers would in real life, with confusion and awkwardness and naivety. Just like in real life, the characters make plans that don't work out. In one scene, Magdalena tells Carlos that she's going to continue to go to school and do everything she planned before she became pregnant. It's a poignant moment that shows just how young and naive her character really is.

This is not a perfect movie--the production values could be better and the acting of some of the peripheral actors is a little flat. But overall, Quinceanera deserves to be seen for its authentic performances by Rios and Garcia and for its look at Mexican-American culture that goes beyond stereotypes.

[Thanks Annette. Just to add that the film is available on dvd everywhere and that if anyone else would like guest blog about their own forgotten film,, they should feel free to write in.]

[DVD Times have news of the UK Region Two release.]

1 comment:

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