Another great review of our film POCHA. Click on the black labeled button to go directly to the review or just read it directly below. THANKS.
America has long been viewed as a refuge, replete with a melting pot of cultural identities and origins; but despite how things may seem, such a concept is still an unattainable luxury for some. Director Michael Dwyer and writer Kaitlin McLaughlin explore the harsh reality of this ideal and what happens when both sides of your heritage don’t want you in Pocha (Manifest Destiny). A powerful script, exceptional performances and haunting score are only some of the elements that make the film an unbelievable experience.
The film follows Claudia (Veronica Sixtos), a 22-year-old Mexican woman raised in the US. She is arrested for credit card fraud and deported to her “homeland” of Mexico. Speaking no Spanish and not knowing anyone who can help her, she goes to her father Andres’ (Julio César Cedillo) cattle ranch where he lives with her grandmother, Lita (María del Carmen Farías). Working with her father’s ranch hands, she meets Ricky (Roberto Urbina), a smuggler who offers her a chance to return home and make some money helping him out on a few of his runs.
Sixtos as Claudia delivers a chillingly brilliant performance. A true fish out of water, she plays much of the film with only her body language and facial expressions. Her costars do most of the talking, wonderfully enhancing her alienation and solitude. This is an amazing foil for co-star Cedillo – playing Sixtos’ father Andres, he perfectly exudes the rugged, chiseled facade of a man who’s had to work hard for everything he’s received in life. A lesson he tries to teach to Claudia throughout the film is that nothing comes easily, which she frequently, at times unwillingly, rejects. On the opposite spectrum of Cedillo, is Urbina’s Ricky, who is every bit as slimy as his eerily perfect smile.
Dwyer and McLaughlin’s work on the picture is a smart cohesion of influences which make up a visually stunning, singular whole. The cold electronic score a la John Carpenter collides with the claustrophobic, but rich look of Roger Deakins’ photography on No Country For Old Men. Sweeping landscapes are beautifully used, and they contrast against the lay of the land, as rough and unforgiving as life itself is something wonderfully portrayed in the film. The nighttime sequences are dark while daytime settings are sometimes overexposed. A wonderful moment catches Claudia and her father riding on horse back with a landscape behind them that is washed out on one side and vibrant on the other.
When all is said and done, the unforgiving ending is something you just can’t walk away from and simply brush off. Claudia’s attempts to manipulate those around her or to sway the occurrence of things offer a refreshingly exciting take on a moral tale. As an audience, we get a sense of where the story will go, but how we arrive there is grueling and intense. Pocha (Manifest Destiny) is an amazing film that explores the collision of cultural identities and what happens when the American Dream collapses or turns out to be a cruel pipe dream. Pocha, a slang term for a Mexican person who speaks little to no Spanish, originates from “pocho,” a term for rotten fruit. Is Claudia a bad apple for thinking of herself first? Are her means to an end justified? These questions rage on long after the film has ended. What the film does best is continue a necessary and frequent debate, particularly for those who feel disconnected from their family’s culture.