Remezcla readers love to take in culture, but don’t always have the cash for tickets. That’s where we come in. A Theater Near You is Remezcla’s guide to awesome Latin movies for the lazy and broke; you can watch these all at home (because sabemos que son flojos).
EJ Bonilla is a New York-born Puerto Rican actor who has been lighting up the indie film scene. From his younger days on Reading Rainbow (“Take a look. It’s in a book. A Reading Rainbooooow”) to his two-year stint on Guiding Light and now his move to the big screen, he continues to demonstrate his tremendous talent. He is the kind of actor that audiences fall in love with; his charm is undeniable. If he was born ten years earlier, he probably would have been my high school crush.
In two recent films Bonilla plays a high school urbanite, one in New York and the other in LA. Both Mamitas and Don’t Let Me Drown focus on teenagers in the crux of a tough adolescence, U.S.-born Latinos struggling to find themselves and find love. Neither are your typical high school movie. They are both urban and gritty but at the same time tender and sweet. They are both funny, heartwarming and honest. And they both kind of make you wish you could go back to high school and experience a first love just one more time.
Director: Nicholas Ozeki
Cast: E.J. Bonilla, Veronica Diaz-Carranza, Jennifer Esposito, Jesse Garcia, Joaquim de Almeida, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., Michael Esparza, Kimberly Burke, Alex Fernandez
Jordin is a Mexi-vato who thinks he’s a ladies man but Felipa is too focused on winning a college scholarship to pay him much mind. But one day, in a twist of fate, she ends up going with Jordin to his abuelo’s house. They find abuelo in pain, having hurt his knee after falling. They quickly form a bond as they work together to help abuelo up off the floor. Felipa runs to grab ice for his knee and abuelo gives a knowing glance to Jordin, signaling that he likes her. Soon after, Felipa strikes up a friendship with Jordin and his abuelo (played by the legendary Mexican actor Pedro Armendáriz Jr.) As Jordin embarks on a journey to learn more about his mother who passed away when he was born, Felipa is at his side. Slowly their friendship turns into much more than Jordin ever expected.
Don’t Let Me Drown (2009)
Director: Cruz Angeles
Cast: E.J. Bonilla, Damián Alcázar, Raúl Castillo, Yareli Arizmendi, Gleendilys Inoa
Lalo and Stefanie are two Brooklyn teenagers who ride their bikes, get in trouble with their parents, and begin to fall for each other. Taking place in the wake of 9/11, both of their lives have been touched by the tragedy. Lalo’s father, a Mexican immigrant, works as part of the cleanup at ground zero and often comes home coughing up blood and soot. Stefanie’s older sister went missing after 9/11 and is presumed to be dead. When they meet, things don’t go as smoothly as Lalo would hope — he ends up making a joke about 9/11 and Stefanie is not impressed. But their attraction grows as they rely on each other to survive their strict Latino parents, the dizzying world of New York after 9/11, and the roller coaster of emotions that high school can be.