Venue: Locarno International Film Festival In Competition

LOCARNO, Switzerland -- Peruvian director Josue Mendez offers a pungent essay on the spoiled rich of his native land in "Dioses" ("Gods"), which tells of two restless siblings dealing with their stern industrialist father and his sexy new partner. It is the second feature from Mendez following "Dias de Santiago," which traveled widely, winning prizes, and was Peru's official Oscar contender in the 2004 foreign language film category. Boasting bright performances, colorful images from cinematographer Mario Bassino and a sharp line in social comment, the film should follow a similar path to festivals and art houses.

Sergio Gjurinovic plays Diego, a young man with raging hormones, most of them fixated on his sexpot sister Andrea (Anahi de Cardenas). She parties hard in the high-priced drinking spots of Peru's luxury coast, carelessly indulging in indiscriminate sex and drug taking, with Diego moping along as her shadow.
Their father, Agustin (Edgar Saba), just about tolerates Andrea's misbehavior but gives Diego a hard time for failing to make good on the promise he's shown at college. When not running his factory, Agustin is also consumed with his new inamorata, a gorgeous young peasant girl, Elisa (Maricielo Effio), whom he is grooming for polite society.

Elisa keeps her warm family at a distance as she is introduced to the hypocrisies of the rich and of indolent wives who study the Bible while keeping up very expensive and sometimes decadent habits. She would like a child of her own. When Andrea becomes pregnant, Agustin sees a way to exploit both his daughter's and his bride-to-be's problems.

Mendez defines cleverly the enormous divide between the rich and their servants, while actors De Cardenas and Gjurinovic do a good job of ensuring that the siblings do not come off as appealing despite their attractive looks. Andrea's slovenly sex life and taste for illegal substances are matched by her brother's drooling over any young girl he gets close to, including his lissome sister.

Effio makes the most of her role as the beautiful newcomer trying to fit in but struggling with the conflict between loving her family and making a new life. She has a very funny scene in which Elisa drunkenly decries the biblical chapters she is obliged to read.

For the most part, Mendez avoids being heavy-handed in his satire, choosing to let the excesses of his characters speak for themselves. He adds a surrealistic final sequence that brings a smile but is a bit over the top.

Production: Chullachaki Cine (Peru). Cast: Maricielo Effio, Sergio Gjurinovic, Anahi de Cardenas, Edgar Saba. Screenwriter/director: Josue Mendez. Producer: Enid Campos. Executive producers: Enid Campos, Josue Mendez. Director of photography: Mario Bassino. Production designer: Giuseppe de Bernardi. Music: Leonardo Barbuy. Costume designer: Alberto D'Angelo. Editor: Roxana Rivera. Sales agent: Doc&Film International.
No rating, 91 minutes.