‘Song Without A Name’ Inspired By Real Child Trafficking In Peru
Now available through DCG@Home virtual ticketing
Friday, August 7, 2020
"Even the Rain" (2010)
"Embrace of the Serpent" (2015)
Melinda León’s debut feature "Song Without a Name" is inspired by a child trafficking case uncovered by her journalist father, Ismael, to whom she dedicates the film. The film is now available through DGC@Home virtual ticketing.
"Song Without a Name" is about stark contrasts between the haves and the have nots, those with power and those without a voice, and national issues versus personal tragedies.
Fittingly filmmaker Melinda León shoots her film in black and white to emphasize the dichotomies. She opens with newsreel images of political unrest and economic chaos in Peru in 1988. Then she cuts to a wide shot of a village at night where the street lights seem to form a constellation. The beauty and serenity of that shot feels soothing after the montage of turmoil that preceded it.
We then meet Georgina (Pamela Mendoza), an indigenous Andean woman expecting her first child. Being poor, she’s lured by a radio ad promising free prenatal care at a clinic. But when she goes there to deliver, her infant is stolen.
The authorities refuse to help but Georgina finds Pedro Campas (Tommy Párraga), a journalist who takes up her cause. Although the two seem to come from sharply divergent worlds, León reveals that ultimately they are both seen as outsiders because Pedro's closeted homosexuality is as much a cause for prejudice as race and class.
I have seen the film compared to Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma" but I think that has less to do with the films' vague similarities (indigenous women, black and white photography, pregnancies) and more to do with the fact that there are so few representations of people like Georgina that critics turn to the only popular film they can think of for comparison. Thankfully, here in San Diego we tend to see more films like this through our San Diego Latino Film Festival, which is being rescheduling for a virtual event in September after having to cancel on its opening night in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Though rooted in a very real and harsh world the film is also luminously beautiful. I don’t know if watching it from quarantine as I follow current protests colored my perception but the compassionate close ups of Georgina’s anguish set against the wide shots of skies and mountains made me feel the enormity of the struggle people like Georgina face as they try to effect change against systemic racism and classicism.
León’s film has a deep sadness at its core yet it does not abandon all hope for change. It’s a haunting first feature that engages more as a visual poem than conventional narrative but it proves deeply affecting.
On a sad note, Digital Gym Cinema, where I have been co-hosting annual film series for the past six years through Film Geeks SD, will be forced to close at the end of the month because a new lease on the space could not be negotiated. I will miss its cozy, intimate space but am looking forward with great hope to it's new downtown location. Details are not yet confirmed and the move will not be complete till late next year but more news to come! In the meantime, it will continue with DGC@Home virtual programming.
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