Luz is a teenager in a small town. While balancing family obligations, a job at a fast food joint, a boyfriend, and school, she’s also competing in the state championship for high school female weightlifting. Luz sees weightlifting as her ticket out of Benavides, Texas. A scholarship would give her the chance to go to university, which Luz recognizes as a way to a better life. But, scholarships in weightlifting are scarce, and in order to get first place, Luz will do anything, including risking everything.
Director Amy Wendel’s first feature captures the struggles of teenagers in a small town without ever falling into cliché. We’ve seen films about kids struggling to leave their home towns against fantastic odds, but what makes Benavides Born such an original piece is its strong female lead. Corina Calderon plays Luz with skill and nuance – especially considering her only other film credit is as a featured extra in Machete. This is that rare gem of female coming of age films where boyfriends aren’t the main concern. Luz’s central problem is her rage issue, not first kisses or handholding. And though the boyfriend (played by La Mission’s Jeremy Ray Valdez) is a main character in the film, he seems to be merely an innocent bystander to Luz’s struggles.
Benavides Born combines old world mysticism (embodied in the Abuela character played by Julia Vera) with contemporary teenage American assimilation. Again, we’ve seen this struggle before, but this film stands out by never delving into stereotype. Benavides Born tells an old story in new ways, combining exceptional performances and meticulous direction.