FRAMELINE: BAD HAIR (Pelo Malo)

Bad Hair  {Pelo Malo}

Nine-year-old Junior obsesses about transforming his truculent curly mop into a luxuriant head of silky, straight hair. He fills his lazy vacation days wandering the crowded streets of Caracas in search of tonsorial treatments—a temporary respite from the tiny apartment and pinched existence he shares with his unsympathetic mother and infant brother. Suspicious of her delicate son’s effeminacy, mother Marta harshly squashes all of Junior’s attempts to express and discover himself, complying readily with the homophobic presumptions of her poverty-stricken community.

As the day when Junior’s school photo will be taken approaches—a photo in which he fantasizes he will be glossily captured as a leonine pop singer—the pressure to conform only increases, as does the strain of his mother’s continued unemployment. Junior’s isolation is relieved only occasionally by a neighboring little girl, who accepts Junior as he is, even as she cautions him against his own nature, and by his paternal grandmother, whose offer to care for the boy raises hopes as well as questions about her motives.

Eliciting two astounding juvenile performances, writer-director Mariana Rondón imbues this powerful and disquieting story of longing with discerning compassion. Bad Hair astutely examines the effects of unremitting hardship, the desperate choices hopeless circumstances entail, and the rare moments of simple tenderness these circumstances engender.

Venezuela, 2013 , 93 min.
Director: Mariana Rondón

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