"Pelo Malo" Director Explains Why Her Movie Hit a Raw Nerve

photo: elclarin.net.ve

For Latinos born with Afro-textured, curly hair or kinky hair – referred to as pelo malo or “bad hair” in Latin America and the Caribbean – their experiences can be quite intense and in many cases negative, as an Afro-Honduran recently told NBC News Latino contributor Raul A. Reyes.

Precisely because Afro-textured hair holds such a complex, racial history in our home countries, it can be tricky to explore as a topic. But in the skillful hands of Venezuelan director/writer Mariana Rondón, black hair is a window into Latin America’s soul.


The Venezuelan movie Pelo Malo, which opens Wednesday in selected theaters across the country, has generated controversy in Venezuela and grabbed audiences and juries alike. It has already won several awards, including top prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

The plot of the film seems simple enough: a nine-year old boy wants to straighten his afro-like hair to look like his favorite pop singer—a Justin Bieber type – for his school picture. His unemployed single mom, who is light skinned, will have none of it; she also worries he might be gay. As the battle between mother and son unfolds, with the backdrop of chaotic modern day Caracas and the child’s paternal black abuela, this brilliant film exposes every layer of modern day Venezuelan society—its negated racism, its beauty queen culture, its urban violence, poverty, its polarized politics, and its deeply rooted homophobia.

NBC News spoke to the Ms. Rondón who is visiting New York for today’s film’s premiere.

Where does the idea of this film begin?

I wanted to make a film about respecting our differences, how it’s important to respect the right to be different and think differently. I also wanted to explore what happens when there is no respect for our differences– the violence that surges and wounds that occur when these differences are not honored.

During the first part of my research I walked the streets of Caracas. Caracas is a violent city. But it wasn’t about gun violence. It was about tiny offenses that occur everyday and how these seemingly insignificant assaults—a look, a gesture, and a word—can wound. Then I started to build a story around these incomprehensible moments between people. I tried not to judge my characters I let them be who they were. I gave the audience the freedom to put themselves in the their shoes and identify with anyone of the characters based on what their own story.

To read the full story:  http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/pelo-malo-director-mariana-rondon-why-her-movie-hits-nerve-n251621

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