Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que tu lo Sepas!

"Good"

Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que tu lo Sepas! Review


Puerto Rico is a special case in American history, neither fish nor fowl, and so off the radar of the average citizen as to almost not exist. Taken as a prize in the 1898 Spanish-American War, the island was swiftly made into a colony of sorts, the land pressed into service for sugar companies, while a large segment of the population - who to this day don't have the right to vote for president - was put into uniform or brought to the U.S. mainland in a little-known or -understood farm worker relocation program in the postwar period. In 1952, the island was made into a commonwealth, a status it still holds today, which makes it something less than a state and yet more than a colony; though plenty of Puerto Ricans would argue that it much more strongly resembles the latter.

The first major Latin American group to emigrate to the American mainland, Puerto Ricans in the States number about three million today, though ignorance of where they're from and what they're about is endemic. To illustrate this ignorance in her documentary Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que tu lo Sepas!, Rosie Perez tells a story about being asked while she was in college where Puerto Rico was. Thus the reason for her film - which she co-directed with Oscar-winner Liz Garbus - which mixes Perez family history with that of the island and its people in general. It's sort of an elaborate home movie mixed with social studies, but an impressive effort, nonetheless.

Perez was raised in Brooklyn and so not surprisingly brackets the film with footage of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the extravaganza that transforms the city for one day into a red-white-and-blue street party; the last of the great immigrant community celebrations. She structures the film as an exploration into her roots, traveling with her sister and cousin to the parade, visiting relatives back on the island and in Miami to meet some far-flung relatives ("that's very Puerto Rican," she says, "You're meeting cousins you never knew all through your life"). Along the way, she drops in history lessons, starting with Puerto Rico's original Taino inhabitants (who called the island "Boricua") leading up through the American neo-colonization, the Black Panther-like Young Lords agitators of the 1960s, and to the current debate over whether or not the island should push for full statehood.

Perez is not the subtlest of documentarians, her script - narrated at times by Jimmy Smits - makes its points about the oppression of Puerto Ricans (both on the island and in the U.S.) with little art. There are times, especially in one segment listing famous Puerto Ricans, where it threatens to devolve into a feature-length shout-out. Of course, when one is talking about a people who number in the millions in the U.S. and yet are essentially invisible in the wider culture but for their parade (which likely accounts for its surprisingly resilient vehemence) and were subjected to injustices like the little-known program of sterilization to control the island's population (this continued into the 1970s), a lack of subtlety is perhaps understandable.

The biggest weapon in Perez's arsenal is not the snippets of historical fact but instead herself and her family, an engaging batch of relatives who follow Rosie from place to place, providing entertaining commentary along the way. They help enliven the cruder elements of the film, which occasionally frustrates by only hinting at subjects that could have been gone into with more depth. Although Yo Soy Boricua is likely destined more for the classroom and cable TV (it has backing from IFC TV) than the theatrical circuit, and could have used a bit of polish, it deserves a viewing not just for its lively storytelling but for its attempt to make visible the previously hidden, to bring a people out of the margins into which they have been forced.

Aka I'm Boricua, Just So You Know. Reviewed at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.

Yo soy a bongo player.



Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'que tu lo Sepas!

Facts and Figures

Run time: 86 mins

In Theaters: Tuesday 7th March 2006

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

An unusually realistic teen movie, this drama gets deep under the skin of its characters,...

Bleed for This Movie Review

Bleed for This Movie Review

This is such a ripping true story that it can't help but grab hold of...

Moana Movie Review

Moana Movie Review

In a clear echo of Frozen, this Disney animated adventure centres on a fiercely independent...

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

Bad Santa 2 Movie Review

The 2003 comedy Bad Santa is a holiday classic that skilfully mixes gross-out humour with...

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

A United Kingdom Movie Review

A United Kingdom Movie Review

Based on a powerful true story from the late 1940s, this drama is packed with...

Indignation Movie Review

Indignation Movie Review

Philip Roth's layered novels are a challenge for filmmakers (see also 2003's The Human Stain...

Advertisement
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Review

It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been...

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Dog Eat Dog Movie Review

Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul...

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall Movie Review

"Iggy Pop - Post Pop Depression: Live At The Royal Albert Hall" is a DVD...

Arrival Movie Review

Arrival Movie Review

This sci-fi drama has an enjoyably brain-bending plot that leaves the audience almost stunned with...

Elle Movie Review

Elle Movie Review

There's a boldly comical tone to this outrageous thriller that can't help but unnerve audiences...

100 Streets Movie Review

100 Streets Movie Review

A multi-strand drama set in London, this film is very nicely shot and acted, but...

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

Nocturnal Animals Movie Review

It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.