I was lucky enough to virtually attend my first major Film Festival last week and let me just tell you, Sundance 2021 was absolutely invigorating.
There’s nothing like watching someone else’s finished work. It instantly makes me want to work on my own creative projects. I watched so many great films and you can read all about them at GoodNerdBadNerd.com (just scroll down on the main page and you’ll find my Sundance coverage). There’s one particular film that I wanted to discuss here though.
I seek Latinx content in any and all mediums. So of course when the Sundance line-up was announced I immediately found the Latinx creators and added their films to my schedule immediately, which is exactly how I found Son of Monarchs. Written and Directed by Alexis Gambis, Son of Monarchs tells the story of grief and reconnecting with your roots in a visually-stunning way.
When his grandmother passes away, Mendel (Tenoch Huerta Mejía) travels back to Michoacán to attend her funeral. After years in New York being a biologist, his trip back forces him to deal with family tension that he has avoided for years. The way Gambis intertwined Monarchs into the storyline was breathtaking. This film felt monumental. Sad to say, I can’t remember another film I’ve recently seen where we had a Mexican biologist as a lead. That is the kind of representation that I have been craving and it proudly showcases the talent in our people.
Though the film struggled to keep the momentum that it started with, it truly was an enjoyable experience. However, I do have one gripe and I can feel a rant coming.
There was one character in particular that ruined the experience for me. WHY DID MENDEL NEED A WHITE GIRLFRIEND?!?! Her scenes didn’t move the story along. Her character forces zero revelations out of the main character. If anything, the scenes with her felt like a filler to make the movie longer. More than that, her presence felt like an attempt to make the film more palpable to a wider audience. “Look studios, we have a white girl in this Mexican-ass story. Please love us!” The thing is, we can beg and beg Hollywood to make their films more palpable to us and we will continue to get an all-white cast in movies/tv shows.
We don’t need to make our movies more relatable to white people. White people should be able to enjoy our content without seeing themselves on screen. When we, as a Latinx community, continue to cater to the needs of white people then we give a little bit of our power away each time. We deserve mainstream films that represent our culture and our lives without feeling like we need to alter the delivery for everyone to get it.
Even though I had that gripe with the film, I still think you should watch it when it becomes available. Just because we demand representation, it does not mean that the content will go without criticism and I think we all need to come to terms with that.