SIFF 2014: Bad Hair **1/2

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Hullabaloo on May 17, 2014)

This naturalistic drama from Venezuelan writer-director Mariana Rondon concerns a 9 year-old named Junior (Samuel Lange Zambrano) who lives in the rough-and-tumble tower blocks of Caracas with his mother Marta (Samantha Castillo) and baby brother. Impoverished and recently widowed, Marta scrapes out a meager living cleaning rich people’s homes. She desperately wants her old job back as a security guard, but her sleazebag ex-supervisor will help her get reinstated only if she agrees to sleep with him. Adding to her stress, Junior is becoming obsessed with his hair; he wants it straightened, to emulate his favorite pop singer. Most worrisome to Marta, he’s showing an “unmanly” interest in singing and dancing. The increasing tension between mother and son is about to boil over. Using equal parts character study and kitchen sink drama, Rondon metes out subtle social commentary about slum life, class struggle and machismo in Latin culture.

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