A Gritty, Superb Rendering of Poverty in Argentina
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 04/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Juan Carlos Desanzo wrote (with Lito Espinosa) and directed this fine film that relates a true story about a 13-year-old kid called El Polaquito (Abel Ayala) who was murdered by the underground in the tawdry, crime-infested backstreets of Buenos Aires. The miracle of this tough film is in the extraordinary acting by the young lad Abel Ayala who had no previous acting experience, was simply a homeless youth from the streets, but who gives one of the most galvanizing portraits on film.
It is Buenos Aires in the late 1990s and El Polaquito makes his living singing tangos in the style of El Polanco on the commuter trains. His hand to mouth existence is fostered by 'Limp', the pimp/agent/boss of the Mafia in control of his neighborhood. El Polaquito, only 13, watches beautiful girls, longing to end his virginity but terrified because of his inexperience and his lack of family to inform him. He falls in love with La Pelu (Marina Glezer), a 16-year-old prostitute, also working for the Mafia controlling child exploitation in one of Argentina's busiest train stations.
It is this transformation that occurs when El Polaquito and La Pelu become lovers that encourages El Polaquito to defy Limp and the rest of the Mafioso in an attempt to escape to what he thinks is La Pelu's safe haven - Brazil, the land of her loving father. Danger floods the streets and at the point when El Polaquito has enough money to escape to Brazil, La Pelu tells him there is no such haven. El Polaquito meets his end in a manner that is still to this day called a suicide by the police of Argentina. We are allowed to see the truth and the truth is not an aspect of a review to share.
The camera work and the sound and music are as gritty as the story. The supporting cast (Fabián Arenillas, Fernando Roa, Rolly Serrano, and Osvaldo Sanders, especially) is consistently strong. What saves this little film from being just another sad tale of the homeless kids of big cities is the enormously important character created by Abel Ayala, whether optimistically singing tangos on the trains for coins, or for his tender relationship with Marina Glezer, or fighting on the streets - all are done with utter honesty and conviction that the viewer is unable to avoid connecting in the strongest way with his El Polaquito. Highly recommended. In Spanish with English subtitles. Grady Harp, April 05"