A lot of talk has been made about a breakout moment for Puerto Rican cinema, but perhaps no milestone has been more indicative of the island’s booming production than the unprecedented five Puerto Rican films that played in local theaters this past weekend.
It’s a number that would be impressive for almost any Latin American film industry, but it’s especially meaningful in Puerto Rico considering that the fickle local industry has rarely managed to put out five films in an entire year. Granted, not all of the movies in question are from Puerto Rican directors, but even in cases of international co-productions like The Vessel or Fragmentos de amor, the films relied heavily on Puerto Rican talent both in the cast and crew.
Thematically, Puerto Rico’s heated political season provided ample fodder for satirical comedies like Yo Soy Un Político and Pepo Pal Senado – both of which follow a similar formula as they send up the island’s pandering and corrupt political class – while director Arí Maniel Cruz’s independent drama Antes que cante el gallo took the number one spot at box offices around the island after it premiered last week.
Since Yo Soy Político wrapped up its month-long run in theaters this weekend, the total number of local movies playing in movie houses has dropped to four, but it’s still very much boom time for Puerto Rican cinema. Considering the island’s precarious social landscape, it’s clear Puerto Rican filmmakers aren’t going to let political and economic dysfunction stop them from telling their stories.
Here’s a rundown of the films.
Antes que cante el gallo
Director: Arí Maniel Cruz
A young girl on the cusp of adolescence is left to live with her grandmother after her mother leaves for the United States. While the young girl’s rebellious nature and pre-teen curiosity put her at odds with her abuela, things get thrown for a loop when her estranged father returns to town and awakens conflicted feelings of sexual attraction.
Yo Soy Un Político
Director: Javier Colón Ríos
Carlos is an unemployed film director who has just been released from prison. After finding it hard to land a job, he consults with an old cellmate who helps him get involved in local politics. Along the way, Carlos hops shamelessly from one party to another in a cynical play to land the best deal for his own political future.
Pepo Pal Senado
Director: Raúl García
An unemployed Joe Schmoe named Pepo González is thrown into a local senatorial race after a disgraced political consultant adopts him as a pet project to prove she’s still the best in the game. When the incumbents start to feel threatened by his outsider campaign, they attack poor Pepo with everything they’ve got.
Director: Julio Quintana
Directed by Cuban-American Julio Quintana, this US-Puerto Rico coproduction tells the story of a Latin American seaside community stricken by tragedy when a tsunami takes the lives of the town’s schoolchildren. Years later, as members of the community continue to process the events, one survivor uses the wreckage of the fallen schoolhouse to build a mysterious structure that captivates the townspeople.
Fragmentos de amor
Director: Fernando Vallejo
Based on a novel by Colombian writer Hector Abad Faciolince, Fragmentos de amor is a Colombia-Puerto Rico coproduction directed by Uruguayan-Spanish helmer Fernando Vallejo. The erotic drama follows the budding romance between a sexually liberated woman and a disgruntled composer making his money as a piano tuner. When the woman begins to reveal her adventurous sexual history, jealousies and insecurities emerge that will destroy their relationship.