La Leyenda Negra @ Sundance

It is become beyond me as to why those living south of the United States want to flee to that country anymore. They have to know that they are not welcomed. Will be subject to inhuman treatment if caught. And yet, they still come. Which demonstrates how desperate they are. How they believe that anything is better than the place they find themselves in.

All this leads to my review of the Sundance film La Leyenda Negra, directed by Patricia Vidal Delgado (first feature film). Beautifully shot and staged despite its small budget, this black and white film wears its intentions on its sleeve. This is an advocacy film. On two fronts – one is for LGBTQ teens and the other for migrants in the United States. It goes right to the heart of both matters. Does not delicately step around the issues. It is here. It is queer and migrant friendly and makes no apologies.

The current (joke of a) government in the United States is not immigrant friendly. In any way. It seems like the U.S. has reverted back to its isolationist past. Basically only if you are white are you welcome. It might sound judgmental or harsh of me to write that but it is basically true. This puts in jeopardy the safety and future of a whole slew of people living in the United States right now. Even if it has been for most of their lives. Doubly true if they are Latino or Latina.

Living in the Compton area of Los Angeles, El Salvadoran ex-pat Aleteia (Monica Betancourt – first film) is knocked for a loop when she is made aware that her TPS or Temporary Protected Status might be revoked. This puts in jeopardy her scholarship to UCLA. Her whole future is up in the air. She, as her mother died a while ago, lives with her stepfather (Juan Reynoso – Shazaam, Volcano). All this kicks her anger up ten notches and pushes her even more towards a group of political agitators.

This alongside some of the usual teen angst or strive along with the fact that for her last year of high school the incredibly bright young girl has transferred to Compton High School, so she has to deal with a bunch of new people. Some of them are not nice to her with special notice to the popular Monica (Irlanda Moreno – first film). Still Aleteia finds herself attracted to a girl in Monica’s gang, Rosarito (Kailei Lopez – first film). A complex time gets even worse.

Despite the fact that most, if not all, of the cast is made up of first time or non professional actors the acting here is strong. Each bringing their characters to life in a very realistic way/style.

First time director shows the skill and touch of a veteran here. Successfully melding a coming of age story into one also featuring social issues and sexual identity. Using black and white film also was wise as it matches the raw nature of the story. The result is a film that kinda sneaks up on you with all its emotions grabbing hold then not letting go.

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