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Critics' Pick We Are Mari Pepa (Somos Mari Pepa)

Movie Details

  • Genre: Comedy, Drama
  • Running Time: 95 min.
  • Director: Samuel Kishi
  • Cast: Alejandro Gallardo, Arnold Ramírez, Moises Galindo, Rafael Andrade, Petra Iñiguez
  • Writers: Sofaa Gomez-Cordova, Samuel Kishi

It doesn't matter that Iggy Pop endorses Carnival Cruises, or that Ramones-style crunch chords now power Top-40 country hits. Today punk is whatever you need it to be when you're at the age that you need it. And it's endlessly localizable: In the Guadalajara of Samuel Kishi Leopo's sweet (but sharp-edged) We Are Mari Pepa, gangly teen boys take up guitar and drums to shout about what matters most to them, too.

Their band, Mari Pepa, manages to write two songs. The chorus of the first: "I wanna cum in your face, Natasha!" For them, punk is an identity, a chance to vent, a thing to do for kids not into sports -- and not successful, yet, at love. The boys of Mari Pepa are horny and rude, often dispiritingly so, catcalling strange women and calling each other "faggot." Director Leopo makes no apologies for this collective nastiness. Instead, he presents it as a default mode for communication among the film's middle-class boys, all motormouthed and inexperienced. It's a stage of development, and Leopo suggests, in the final reels, that the band's sympathetic songwriter Alex (Alejandro Gallardo) may be growing out of it.

The story is slight, but the film is full of miraculous moments of life. Scenes of Alex lounging around his poster-collaged bedroom suggest the primalness of such private spaces. It's a chrysalis stickered over with what it is he hopes to become: He's hung a sliver of mirror over Joey Ramone's brow -- as Alex looks into it, his eyes peer out of the face of rock's great gawky beanpole. We Are Mari Pepa is a sweaty, urgent, beautifully honest bliss out.

Alan Scherstuhl

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