The story follows a young Hispanic high school senior in California dealing with common issues of deliquency, female drama and all types of issues behind closed doors at home. While it sounds like a story you've heard before, its unlike anything I've ever seen on screen, on stage or anywhere else. The writing is amazing and its all so real, without missing a beat in terms of flow.The acting is another amazing element of the film, led by the young and talented EJ Bonilla. Meeting him in person after the film he deserves double the kudos because while he is hispanic, that appears to be the only connection to the character he plays. He even informed us that he had to go undercover in a high school in Cali just to get the accent and attitude down.In Nicholas Ozeki's Mamitas, themes of coming of age, fitting in and teenage alienation could have easily turned this venture into an ABC Afterschool Special (remember those?). We watch a cacophony of hurt souls drifting through the celluloid and manipulating every last tear they can drain from our eyes. This heart-tugger is quite episodic, but the episodes are from subject matter that doesn't get much screen-time. There are also so many fresh faces, that this doesn't even come close to being tainted enough to deride ... too much.
Both Bonilla and Diaz-Carranza carry the film by capturing troubled adolescence while negotiating the developing friendship between their characters. They're supported by a strong supporting cast. The script is touching and showcases Hispanic-American characters which are largely missing from the big screen. And Los Angeles gets another fair shake in a reawakened interest to present the character of the very town mostly responsible for movies. So often, L.A. is used as a stand-in for another city or, worse, a generic location. Also in the cast is as "the concerned teacher who gets involved." I'd wager I first saw Esposito in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam in 1999, but she feels like she has been around much longer, yet absent for almost the same length. She scored a higher profile role in Paul Haggis' Oscar-winning Crash seven years ago, and, oddly, it didn't lead to anything more than a regular part on the now canceled Samantha Who? She's easily one of the most striking people working in the industry today and has such a stalwart presence. It's a shame that a woman with such an ethnic beauty can't find a break as easily as her Wonder Bread peers. Unfortunately and ultimately necessarily, she bookends the film, going AWOL through a huge span of the movie.
Perhaps I've seen one too many above-average independent films at the L.A. Film Festival since Friday, but they are, in all seriousness, beginning to blend together. I've only viewed seven so far in less than a week (reviews pending), but two of them have had both a joke involving a character lifting a trash bag into a dumpster/can, as well as another separate gag spotlighting a unique coffee mug for a few seconds. This begged the question: are these writer-directors all attending the same screenplay labs and learning identical tricks to flesh out scenes? And, not to complain because I love seeing filmmakers capture different shades of L.A. (and I just spoke approvingly of its use in this film), but there have already been three films featuring Echo Park as a leading locale. I'm sure there are at least a few other--perhaps less trendy--areas of L.A. which currently remain "undiscovered." At risk of sounding too cynical and bitchy, perhaps I should just move on and chalk these up to quaint little coincidences. But, if I see any more red flags, believe me, you will be hearing about it from yours truly.
Two Latino youths from different backgrounds form a life-changing friendship in the heartfelt coming-of-age film Mamitas. Director/writer Nicholas Ozeki expanded the storyline of his well-received 2007 short film into a feature film. The full-length Mamitas debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 22nd.We’re not sure what to make of Jordin Juarez (E.J. Bonilla), a high school “playa” in Los Angeles. He's constantly in trouble in the classroom and on the playground when we first meet him. Jordin is handsome and charismatic, but has no positive outlet for his energy. When strict but well-meaning teacher Miss Ruiz (Jennifer Esposito) gets him suspended, his week off turns into a journey of self-discovery. His new friend, Felipa Talia (Veronica Diaz-Carranza), an honor student, joins him in his quest. Movie In HD
The film deals with several intertwining family dramas. Felipa and Jordin forge a relationship in spite of, or perhaps because of, these intrigues. Jordin accidentally discovers some long-hidden secrets about his Mom, who died in childbirth. Felipa has her own issues: her mother has mysteriously vanished from her life. Originally from New York, she lives with her aunt, uncle and boy-crazy cousin Kika (Kimberly Burke) in Echo Park. The bookish Felipa seems nerdy, but she turns out to be quite feisty and confronts Jordin after what she perceives as a diss. Mamitas concentrates on Jordin and Felipa’s budding friendship and subtle flirtations at the beginning of the film, but there’s much more to the storyline than young love.Felipa endures heartbreak caused by her M.I.A. Mom and deals with life as an educated misfit in a world of hip-hop music, thug wannabes and short-skirted party girls. A fight with Kika is at once funny and all too true as Felipa is driven to her breaking point by her cousin’s ongoing cattiness.
In his own mind, Jordin is the BMOC at his highschool. A hotshot, arrogant Latino, Jordin views himself as the man of all men, the man all woman want to worship, the man who can score with any woman he chooses. That is until he meets Felipa. A hard nosed New Yorker come to stay with her aunt and uncle in Los Angeles until her mother’s economic situation improves, Felipa isn’t buying Jordin’s macho routine. She believes he’s hiding from himself and others with this weak facade, especially when she follows him home and sees picture after picture of Jordin and his family. Becoming the most unlikely of friends, Jordin and Felipa are almost inseparable as each begins to open up to the other, especially Jordin who reveals the loss of his mother during his birth and his strained lifelong relationship with his father. Following an injury to his beloved grandfather, Felipa and Jordin stumble upon boxes and boxes of writings, clippings, photos and letters, all that belonged to his mother. In reading the letters, Jordin faces what may be an ugly truth - his father may not be his father at all.
While Jordin embarks on a search for his true identity, Felipa must also come to grips with her own facade and the truth about her mother, a secret she didn’t disclose to Jordin, straining their delicate relationship.Buttressed by outstanding performances from Jennifer Esposito as a concerned counseler, Joaquim de Almeida as a surprise link to Jordin’s past, and Pedro Armendariz, Jr.as Jordin’s beloved grandfather, Bonilla and Diaz-Carranza dazzle as Jordin and Felipa, leaving all their emotion on the floor. The emotional arcs of their characters are well written and fully realized in their respective performances. And don’t be surprised if Diaz-Carranza has you thinking of another strong Latina actress - America Ferrera. Their physical resemblance and acting style is quite similar and a joy to watch. Some great lighting and lensing adds to the story and particularly the budding romance of Jordin and Felipa.