Film

‘La Leyenda Negra’ Explores Latinx Teen’s Struggle With Immigration Status & First Love

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The independent, coming-of-age film La Leyenda Negra has completed its 2020 festival circuit run and has now been released on HBO Latino and HBO Max. The drama tells the story of Aleteia (Monica Betancourt), an El Salvadoran immigrant and teenage activist, whose life is thrown into uncertainty when her temporary protection status is compromised.

“La Leyenda Negra,” or the “Black Legend,” is a term that was said to have been used as propaganda to demonize the Spanish people and their culture starting in the 16th century.

During an interview with Remezcla at Sundance, Betancourt, a first-time actor, explained how she wasn’t a stranger to immigration issues. Her parents are immigrants. Like her character Aleteia, she also attended a high school in Compton, and was able to talk to people in her neighborhood about their personal immigration stories.

“Some friends who are undocumented came to me to speak about what they’d been experiencing,” she said. “But others didn’t like to talk about it, so I would respect that.”

In the trailer of Delgado’s black-and-white film, Aleteia is introduced as an outspoken young woman challenging her history teacher. “They don’t want us to know that Hernán Cortés was a rapist,” she says.

When a female schoolmate befriends her, Aleteia wonders if she might be forming her first crush. Other girls at the school start making comments about Aletea’s sexuality. “You seriously haven’t noticed the way she looks at you?”

Early this year at the Sundance Film Festival, La Lleyenda Negra director Patricia Vidal Delgado was nominated for the NEXT Innovator Award. The film also screened at various festivals around the world including England, Italy and Portugal.