By Raymond R. Beltrán
A Rigo BoSD underwear billboard, with half nude, hard body models, acts as the needle by which 26-year-old Bolivian director Rodrigo Bellott weaved a stream of sexually dependent stories together in his first feature film, Dependencia Sexual. As a needle would, this billboard pricks at the five protagonists, who battle with the bipolar reality of wanting to keep the sacredness of their bodies in a lascivious, obscene world.
From the brothels and nightclubs of Santa Cruz, Bolivia to the United States’s fraternity boy lifestyle of sucking beers and hiding homosexuality, Bellott portrays the use and abuse of sexual intercourse on a cross-cultural level.
With a Pulp Fiction-esque style of intertwining stories and characters, one thing that is great about the movie is this multiculturalism that is rarely seen in other films. With subtitles in English, during the Bolivian scenes, and subtitles in Spanish, during the North American scenes, Dependen-cia Sexual forces audiences of South and North American ethnicities to be tolerant of each other’s foreign rituals and languages.
Being highlighted as the first Bolivian-produced feature film of the 21st Century, Bellott has pushed the limits of experimentation with a split screen that compares and contrasts each scene from two different perspectives. Bellott’s split screen is as close to poetic movie producing as it comes. Ronnica V. Reddick, a North American college student Adina, serves a compelling monologue, reminiscing about the days when she was a ten year old black girl longing to look like white Barbie dolls, only to later become disgusted by what she sees in the mirror after being a victim of rape. Split screen enhances her performance by overlapping voice, scenes and emotions. The way it comes across to viewers is overwhelming, the way the incident must have been for the character.
Roberto Urbina, who plays Sebastián, delivers a very emotional performance, one of which stands out among all of the very talented actors in this film. As 15-year-old Sebastián arrives in Santa Cruz to reunite with his cousin and tía after twelve years, he finds his cousin Fabián, played by Rodrigo Mendez Rosa, mixed up with a rowdy group of teenage boys, who’s ultimate goal is to get drunk, harass homosexuals and degrade women. When the two cousins are split up for the night, Sebastián is caught, in all of his virginity, when the group of boys begins to question him about his sexual experiences. By the end of the night, Sebastián is forced to become a man, on their terms. Urbina exemplifies his character’s emotions and brings a true sense of what it’s like to be a young boy forced into the mezcla of sex, alcohol and torment.
In all of it’s independence from Hollywood dollars and world famous cast members, Dependencia Sexual delivers an honest depiction of the harsh realities of sexuality when at the fingertips of the most unstable youth of our time. Bellott, having been lucky enough to find such a talented bunch of amateurs, seems to have depended more on the naturality of human emotion within the five stories presented than glitz and glamour of generic red carpet performers.
When Choco, a jealous boyfriend played by Jorge Antonia Saavedra, leaves behind a girlfriend, a life of upper-class nightclubs and women at his beckoning call, he dives into the North American realm of racism, phobias and overindulgence. By the end of the movie, no matter how much you’ve loathed his outrageous acts of jealousy; he’s been cut down to size like a small fish in a big pond. Choco finally discovers what it’s like to be the prey from nights in those Bolivian discotecas, and nothing will prepare the audience for the finale in this flick.
Dependencia Sexual is a movie for those who have ever admired other people solely based on the size of their waist, the bulge in their biceps or the curve in their frame. The half nude BoSD billboard, which makes its envious presence throughout the stories, is the epitome of what is wrong in the society of Bellott’s film and in reality. But we are also able dive into the story of the billboard’s top model and discover that, with all of his muscles and even with the two women surrounding him, his secret is one that will divide him from the rest of his college, beer-drinking buddies.
Two thumbs up for this Rodrigo Bellott film, bringing a mature and sophisticated storyline to an immature and closed-minded reality. This 90-minute, Bolivian film is in Spanish and English, with subtitles in vice versa, and will be playing at the San Diego Latino Film Festival at Madstone Theaters in the Hazard Center Shopping Mall (7510 Hazard Center Dr., San Diego, CA. 92108) on March 18th, 19th and 20th.