By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Three years ago at Austin’s Cine Las Americas International Film Festival, I enjoyed the debut feature film from New York director Adrian Manzano. The film, Sex, Love & Salsa turned out to be one of my favorite entries of the festival and introduced me to the fresh and exciting work of a director with a genuine Latino perspective. Well, Manzano hasn’t been too idle since and has completed his newest film A Bronx Girl. This sophomore feature for Manzano offers a Latina’s perspective of the “real world” following her graduation from college and does so with a sharp wit.
Sofia Rodriguez (Sex, Love & Salsa) stars as Miosotis, the titular Bronx girl who returns home to live with her loving grandmother (Gloria Almanzar) after graduating with a theater degree. Excited about pursuing an acting career, but desperately in need of a job, Miosotis reluctantly accepts an unpaid internship where she gets harassed constantly by her obnoxious, racist boss. Even though her work life is not so great, her social life starts to get interesting and crazy after she meets hipster Travis (Theodore Copeland). A self-proclaimed artist and avant-garde filmmaker, Travis may be charming, goofy, and fun, but his ideas for filmmaking are so off-the-wall that Miosotis finds working with him rather uncomfortable. Such is the life of a Domincan-American aspiring actress who must juggle her passion for acting, dating in a gentrified neighborhood, dealing with an old-fashioned, overbearing grandmother, and fighting off the advances of men at her internship and her auditions. The Bronx is enough to drive a modern woman bonkers.
Written and directed by Manzano and co-directed by Rosie Berrido, A Bronx Girl is smart and often funny, but occasionally goes a tad over-the-top with the portrayals of a couple of supporting characters. Nevertheless, the film works mostly well as a biting satire of racism, gentrification, hipster culture, and male chauvinism in the work place. The movie also lovingly celebrates and has fun with some of the staples of Latino culture. Manzano does an outstanding job of developing his lead character and gives a realistic perspective of what young modern Latina women have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. The movie also shows the difficult road ahead for starving artists pursuing their passions while trying to maintain some kind of gainful employment.
I certainly hope that actress Sofia Rodriguez doesn’t have that dilemma in real life, and if she does, I hope that it won’t be for too long. This vibrant and talented young actress delivers a great performance as lead character Miosotis. She has a wonderful screen presence and a genuine, down-to-earth, likable personality that helps make Miosotis a more compelling character. I also rather enjoyed the charmingly boisterous performance by Gloria Almanzar who portrays the abuelita (grandmother). Her character reminds me of some of my own Spanish-speaking relatives. Theodore Copeland who stars as the strange, but sometimes charming hipster Travis often had me laughing heartily, but he occasionally goes a little too over-the-top with his antics.
Regardless of these gripes I have, Manzano and Berrido have still made a good film overall and one that serves as a much-needed voice for Latinos in cinema. Though I didn’t love this movie as much as Sex, Love & Salsa, I still found much to enjoy in A Bronx Girl and I definitely hope to see more work from both Adrian Manzano and Sofia Rodriguez in the near future. This Saturday (April 1), A Bronx Girl will have its Florida debut at the Palm Beach International Film Festival at 7:00 p.m. (EST).