This film from Venezuela covers some interesting ground, if not always successfully. Written and directed by Mariana Rondon, the film is about Junior a nine year old boy of mixed race who is obsessed with his hair. This obsession worries his mother enormously since she thinks it is a sign that he is gay, something she cannot reconcile herself to.
As she struggles to cope with Junior and his baby brother and tries to win back her job as a security guard, her older son’s continued attempts to straighten his hair aggravate her. His insistence on having a school ID photo taken as a singer with straight rather than curly hair is misinterpreted by all around him.
A tempting offer from her mother in law to bring him up as her own is rejected at first and Junior is not at all happy at the prospect since his grandmother, convinced the boy is gay, wants to knock off any signs of masculinity. Having lost her own son, to gang violence we are led to believe, she thinks any boy is bound to get into trouble with gangs and guns unless he chooses a more gentle path.
Junior is caught between the adults whose views on his identity are forced upon him. The simple truth, that he would just like straight hair, is never accepted at face value.
Although slow at times, the film does raise interesting points about identity, gender and family loyalty. The title translates as ‘Bad Hair’ and it is interesting to note that we only ever see actor Samuel Lange Zambrano, who plays Junior, with straight hair while the closing credits are playing.
‘Pelo Malo’ was screened as part of the Bath Film Festival.