Rezeta: Slamdance Review

Charming actors help to propel a slight tale of lovers adrift in Mexico City.

The film follows the haphazard adventures of a young woman who arrives in Mexico City from Albania.

Fresh talent enlivens Rezeta, which won a special jury award at this week’s Slamdance Film Festival. Writer-director Fernando Frias makes his feature directorial debut, and the two stars -- Rezeta Veliu and Roger Mendoza -- are also new faces to film. They all show talent, but the film is too lightweight to serve as much more than a calling card. Distribution beyond the festival circuit seems unlikely.

The film follows the haphazard adventures of a young woman named Rezeta, who arrives in Mexico City from Albania and struggles to get work as a model. Her beauty and pluck land her some jobs, and she also has a series of freewheeling sexual affairs with men she meets.  But she is more drawn to the heavily tattooed Alex (Mendoza), who works on the crew of one of her shoots and seems far less impressed by her than the other men she encounters. Since he’s hard to get, he begins to intrigue her, and the two spend more time together as they explore the possibilities.

That’s about all the story that the film contains. Many of the scenes seem improvised and cry out for the incisiveness that a more experienced writer might have provided. The basic idea, of course, is a solid one that worked for Howard Hawks and many other filmmakers: A man and a woman who begin as sparring partners eventually discover deeper feelings underlying the hostility. This dynamic succeeds here because of the appeal of both actors.  Veliu is a stunning presence, and she has plenty of energy and feistiness. Mendoza is a punk musician who had never acted before, and he conveys an understated, laid-back charm.

Frias makes Mexico City another vibrant character in this tapestry. As the characters crisscross the city, all of the locations come to life.  Viewers who have been fearful of visiting Mexico because of the crime reports may rethink their hesitation after watching this film. The director brings saucy verve to the uninhibited sexual scenes, and the film jumps to the beat of a carefully chosen soundtrack.

Nevertheless, even though the film runs under 90 minutes, it drags because it’s basically just a series of loose episodes without much tension. The likable actors can carry the picture only so far. At a certain point the film just stops, which is characteristic of the entire freeform approach. There’s nothing wrong with an ambiguous ending, but the whole film sometimes feels as if it’s waiting to get started.

Venue: Slamdance Film Festival.

Cast:  Rezeta Veliu, Roger Mendoza, Paulina Davila, Emiliano Becerril, Sebastian Cordova.

Director-screenwriter: Fernando Frias.

Producers:  Gerardo Gatica, Alejandro Saevich.

Executive producers:  Gerardo Gatica, Moises Cosio, Antonio Nacif.

Director of photography: Emilio Valdes.

Production designer: Fernando Lopez.

Music supervisor: Mariana Uribe.

Costume designer: Masha Orlov.

Editor: Yibran Asuad.

No rating, 84 minutes.