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Review: ‘K11’

SDLFF Opens The New Digital Gym Cinema

Kate Del Castillo (center) camps it up as a transgender prisoner in

Credit: Breaking Glass Films

Above: Kate Del Castillo (center) camps it up as a transgender prisoner in "K11."

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews "K11" opening at the new Digital Gym Cinema.


The film “K11” was a hit at the San Diego Latino Film Festival earlier this month. Now it returns to San Diego for a week’s run at the Digital Gym Cinema at 29th and El Cajon Boulevard. Both the film and the venue are exciting news for filmgoers.

During this year’s San Diego Latino Film Festival the Media Arts Center San Diego opened the doors to its new Digital Gym Cinema. Executive director Ethan Van Thillo says the 49 seat theater is a great, intimate venue.

"So we offer a space here that every week it will open up new films on a Friday and go for a whole week, independent films, foreign films, from 10 in the morning to 10 at night, and really an alternative to the other cinemas here."

Opening this weekend is “K11,” directed by Jules Stewart (perhaps better known as Kristen Stewart's mom). The film careens from campy prison exploitation flick to gritty drama as it looks to a ward reserved for gay and transgender prisoners. There are very real issues to be addressed here about gender, race, prison conditions, and more but "K11" is only peripherally interested in them. Stewart is more concerned with cartoonish stereotypes that compel us by their sheer force. You get hints of reality and real emotion but not enough to make us take the film seriously. If you were expecting or wanting a hard hitting drama, you ill be disappointed. If you can embrace it as a prison exploitation film, you'll likely find it oddly watchable.

The film also cheats by casting women as the transgender men but there’s no denying the over the top rage fueling Kate Del Castillo’s performance as the returning diva. Del Castillo is the chief draw of the film because she's usually cast as the sweet young thing so the against-type casting and her total dedication to the role are fun to watch. There’s added pleasure in seeing her tear up the screen at the new Digital Gym Cinema, where films can flex their indie muscle.

"K11" plays in rotation with another festival alum, "As Luck Would Have It," starring Salma Hayek. More information is available at the new Digital Gym website. The schedule of films is here.

Companion viewing: "Female Trouble," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Cell 211"

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