Mosquita & Mari
This is not a happy film. But I have to admit, I was terribly happy to see Chicano characters front and center and equally excited to find out that a Chicano woman, Aurora Guerrero, was both the writer and the director.
To say Chicano women are underrepresented in film, let alone in the arts in general, would be the understatement of the year. Equally interesting to note is that this represents the first time a movie by a Chicano woman had a film in Sundance.
This is a film about so many things. It’s about race and class. It’s about gender. It’s about sexuality. But "Mosquita y Mari" is also about privilege. When you are simply trying to stay alive, it’s next to impossible to examine who you are and whom you love.
"Mosquita y Mari" is about two unlikely friends who find themselves wanting more. But these girls aren’t from the suburbs. Their biggest worry is not what’s for dinner but instead, whether there will there even be dinner. That’s the case for Mari any way.
Mosquita’s family is far from being well off. But Mari’s single mother is barely able to keep a roof over her and her sister’s heads. Mosquita, whose name is actually is Yolana, has a different weight on her shoulders. She bears the heavy burden of two parents doing nothing but working for a better life for her.
Her mother gave up her dream of being a cosmetologist and her father, well, the audience learns next to nothing about him. Even Mosquita herself likely has no idea and never will, of what her father’s dreams actually are. Life is simply not about them any longer they have decided. It’s an exceptionally generous and selfless thing to do. But it means that success is Mosquita’s only option.
It is difficult enough to be a teenage girl. But layer onto that being a minority and being poor and you have to marvel at the strength of any young woman who wades through these perils and comes out whole on the other side. This is the story of two girls navigating just that with mixed results.
Mosquita is a star student and becomes a tutor for Mari, who is struggling at best. For Mari, education is something for which she has had little time and mental space. She has come to think of herself as incapable and the school is all too happy to accept that assessment.
But Mosquita does not agree. Whether it is because of her new found romantic interest in Mari or simply because she likes the underdog, Mosquita is committed to helping Mari succeed academically. As it turns out, Mari is quite smart. It was motivation that was lacking.
The film does feel a bit slow. But in a sense, the timing in this film is like the long tortuous feel of pining for someone and wondering if those feelings will ever even be acknowledged.
Mosquita does realize that she has feelings for Mari. But Mari finds herself becoming more and more desperate to help her mother support the family and so is distracted from any thoughts of a starting a relationship. In fact, Mari becomes so desperate that she ultimately prostitutes herself in order to make a few dollars.
There is no question about the film’s reality. It feels as real and as gritty as one could hope for. It’s also as painful as it is realistic largely due to the talented actresses in the lead roles as Mosquita and Mari, Fenessa Pineda and Venecia Troncoso respectively. The expressive power of their faces alone speaks volumes as the film unfolds.
I was also excited to see Joaquin Garrido as Mosquita’s father, who impressed me in his role in "The Kids are Alright." Laura Patalano also impresses as Mosquita’s mother. The two are every bit the immigrant parents laser-focused on a better life for their daughter regardless of the price they themselves must play.
Movies about self-discovery and sexuality are a well-worn genre. But, to my mind, there’s always room for more if they are compelling and true. And "Mosquita y Mari" certainly is that. For those who have been down that road it will spark familiar memories. For those who have not, it’s a tender portrayal of a human experience worth understanding.
Seeing "Mosquita and Mari" is a reminder of the privilege it is to have the space to even ponder coming out. The closet may not be a comfortable place to be, but it’s hard to imagine leaving it when so much else is at stake.
This article is part of our "17th Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival" series. Want to read more?
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