The Venezuelan drama “Bad Hair” (Pelo Malo), which has won several awards along its international film festival tour, will premiere stateside starting November 19 at NYC’s Film Forum theater. The film, written and directed by Mariana Rondon (read our interview), made its festival debut the Toronto International Film Festival last September (read our review).
Before it makes its way to NYC, “Bad Hair” will first screen at the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago on Sunday, August 17th and Monday, August 18th.
The provocative and touching film follows Junior, played convincingly by Samuel Lange, a young boy who dances to his own tune. Junior is obsessed with straightening his curly hair to the horror of his wearied mother, who, aside from fretting over the mere thought that her son is gay, has to worry about keeping food on the table for him and his baby sister.
Also starring Samantha Castillo and Nelly Ramos – as Junior’s mother and his encouraging black grandmother, respectively – Bad Hair is currently in theaters across Spain, France, Switzerland and several Latin American countries. It will continue to expand theatrically in the coming months.
Here’s the full synopsis:
Junior (Samuel Lange) is a beautiful nine year- old boy, with big brown eyes, a delicate frame, and a head of luxurious dark curls. But Junior aches to straighten those curls, to acquire a whole new look befitting his emerging fantasy image of himself as a long-haired singer. As the opportunity approaches to have his photo taken for the new school year, that ache turns into a fiery longing.
Junior’s mother, Marta (Samantha Castillo), is barely hanging on. The father of her children has died, she recently lost her job as a security guard, and she now struggles to put a few arepas on the table for Junior and his baby brother. She loves her kids, would endure almost anything for them, but she cannot abide Junior’s preening and fussing over his appearance. The boy’s grandmother (Nelly Ramos), however, encourages and nurtures his behaviour; even though she knows why he visits the same newsstand every morning — the one tended by a handsome, slick young man. Junior doesn’t even know yet what it means to be gay, but the very notion prompts Marta to set out to “correct” Junior’s condition before it fully takes hold.
The slippery nature of identity — how it forms in us, the ways it tells us how we might want to look or who we desire — is at the heart of this third feature from Venezuelan writer-director Marina Rondón. At times harsh but often tender, Bad Hair exudes compassion for all involved, even Marta, whose concerns may be grounded in homophobic panic but whose desperation is almost palpable. This is a story of people doing what they feel they have to, partly out of fear, but also out of love.
It’s a highly recommended film that you should look out for. Watch the new trailer: