Sangre de Mi Sangre

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Opens 5/23 (IFC Films)

The first Spanish language winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Christopher Zalla's debut feature is a gritty and all too timely feature about illegal immigrants struggling to survive on the mean streets of NYC. Although its narrative contrivances ultimately detract from its overall impact, "Sangre de Mi Sangre (Blood of My Blood)" boasts enough authentic seeming atmosphere to compensate for its predictable elements.

The storyline involves a case of stolen identity suffered by Pedro Jorge Adrian Espindola, a young Mexican who sneaks across the border to find Diego, the father he never knew, who is now living in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, his father's address is stolen by Juan (Armando Hernandez), another of the emigres, who promptly arrives at Diego's home pretending to be his long-lost son.

Although Juan is under the mistaken impression that Diego (Jesus Ochoa) is a successful restaurant owner, he's actually an impoverished dishwasher who has no particular interest in a family reunion. Meanwhile, Pedro, lost and despairing, hooks up with a hard-boiled hustler (Paolo Mendoza) who rips him off as much as she befriends him.

The filmmaker drives his messages home far too forcefully, and the characterizations feel schematic despite fine efforts by the performers, particularly Ochoa as the grizzled Diego and Mendoza as the hooker who definitely doesn't have a heart of gold.

But for all its flaws, the film has a dark undercurrent that ultimately pulls you in, and its themes of assimilation and economic desperation should prove highly resonant in these currently divisive political times.

Cast: Armando Hernandez, Jorege Adrian Espindola, Jesus Ochoa, Paola Mendoza, Eugenio Derbez, Israel Hernandez, Leonardo Anzure; Director/Screenwriter: Christopher Zalla; Executive producers: James McNamara, Daniel Carey, Gloria Reuben, James Shifren; Producers: Benjamin Odell, Per Melita; Director of photography: Igor Martinovic; Production designer: Tommaso Ortino; Music: Brian Cullman; Costume designer: Taphat Tawil;Editor: Aaron Yanes

No Rating, 101 min


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