HOLLYSHORTS 2020 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! We are often given opportunities to reinforce or buck public notions of who we are, whether those assumptions be positive or not. Whether being labeled or doing the labeling, then compounded by social expectations and cultural biases, stigmas spread like wildfire – even festering within those who were once called friends. The isolation that follows, especially within the shadow of a great tragedy, can be a persistent crippling agent, and this is one of the harrowing backdrops to Miguel Angel Caballero’s latest short film Acuitzeramo.
Salvador (Sal Lopez), an elderly Mexican man, has just lost his partner of 15 years. In the wake of his death, Salvador informs the man’s estranged son Anthony (Luis Aldana), as to what had occurred. Anthony, unaware of Salvador’s relationship to his father, travels from Chicago to the small titular town to pay respects and collect his remaining mementos. While the pair spend time together, Anthony’s interactions with locals and with Salvador himself set him on a path toward terms with his late dad.
“…interactions with locals and with Salvador himself set him on a path toward terms with his late dad.”
There’s a distressing clarity that is returned to often throughout Acuitzeramo, which only comes through a considerable amount of repressed pain. While characters recount memories, wonderful and ill, the performances of Lopez and Aldana ooze with palpable drama and many unspoken years of love and hurt. These moments are bookended by numerous ethereal dancing sequences, which feel a bit out of place in relation to the rest of the film’s flow and direction. However, they do not overly detract from the overall experience either, adding further to the uncertain state we find our characters.
The film is also hallmarked by the beautiful cinematography crafted by Philip Narvaez, which manages to make even a cemetery glimmer with a weathered beauty. These compositions are buttressed by Robert Revell’s fairly solid score, though there were a few instances where some abrupt music stingers undermined the natural drama of the scene (though only just a touch). Crossfades between a handful of sequences feel a little ill-placed and manage to sour an otherwise well-crafted final cut, with a steady, deliberate pace and economic coverage continually going the distance that the film needs.
Impressing at moments like a proof of concept project, and I could easily watch a full feature film with the same characters, the short also serves well as a self-contained piece where we experience a transformative moment in these few people’s lives and how the world continues on, even when we feel like everything has stopped dead. Acuitzeramo is a little rough around the edges but remains a taut emotional experience nevertheless.
Acuitzeramo screened at the 2020 Hollyshorts Film Festival.
"…an elderly Mexican man has just lost his partner of 15 years."