Wednesday, March 30, 2016

AFF ’16: Boniato (short)

If ever there was a cliché that annoyed both sides of a political debate, it would have to be the old one about “jobs Americans just won’t do.” One of those illegal-undocumented-here-in-contravention-of-current-immigration-laws migrant workers is about to find out some of those notorious jobs involve being fodder of some kind for a nefarious something in Andres Meza-Valdes, Diego Meza-Valdes & Eric Mainade’s short film Boniato (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Atlanta Film Festival.

Elisia is not just here to work. She is trying to find family that went north ahead of her. Therefore, she will necessarily keep moving, even when there is still work to be had. William, her current friendly exploitative employer does not understand this restlessness. He took a bit of a shine to her so he will be sorry to see her go. Unfortunately, since she is leaving anyway, he leads her into a very nasty trap. Evidently, he regularly leaves migrant aliens such as her for the nastiness lurking in the caverns below the fields they used to work. However, on this night, the mysterious Boniato will follow them down—and he means business.

Obviously, Boniato is the sort of genre film that also wants to make a statement, but it really makes undocumented work without legal protection look like a really bad idea. Regardless, you have to give Mainade and the Meza-Valdes Brothers credit for squeezing so much gore into a twenty-three minute short. They maintain a creepy vibe, but also seriously payoff our relatively brief investment.

As Elisia, Carmela Zumbado is refreshingly tough and earthy, in the Ellen Ripley tradition, while Felix Tuhon Cortes’ Boniato is all kinds of steely. You would think she would be the title character, given her greater screen time, yet one can easily envision a Boniato franchise that follows the flinty action figure as he intervenes in various episodes of border town supernatural goings-on.

Boniato works great as a genre film, but maybe not so well as advocacy cinema. Frankly, it makes you want to see more ICE intervention in off-the-books agriculture rather than less. Of course, its success as the former is far more important for potential viewers. Slickly produced and darkly sinister, Boniato is definitely worth checking out when it screens this Saturday (4/2) as part of the “Wool” short programming block at this year’s Atlanta Film Festival.