University hosts screening of "Pelo Malo"

 On Wednesday, Feb. 17, the Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies Program hosted a screening of “Pelo Malo” in Ten Hoor Hall Room 125 at 6 p.m.

The film, directed by Mariana Rondon, is set in a poor area of Caracas, Venezuela in 2011, and focuses on a 9-year-old boy named Junior, who, with his mixed ancestry, struggles to find his physical identity.

The film was shown to bring awareness to the shared histories between the United States and Latin America and to highlight the context of race, bodies and hair, as well as tackling racism and homophobia. The showing of the film was also in connection with Black History Month.

Marie-Eve Monette, UA assistant professor of Spanish Latin American Cinema, gave a brief introduction of the film before starting it.

Junior, who has European, African and indigenous ancestry, “struggles with the desire to connect with his Afro-Venezuelan roots and also to reject them by embracing characteristics that are considered more white, such as making his hair straight and listening to music that is not considered Afro-Venezuelan.”

This leads to a constant struggle with his single mother throughout the film.

The term “pelo malo” means “bad hair” in Spanish, and due to Junior’s ancestry, his hair is thick and curly. Throughout the film, he makes constant attempts to straighten it, ranging from using a blow dryer to putting mayonnaise in it.

This comes at a time when President Hugo Chavez’s health is failing due to cancer, and in solidarity, Venezuelan citizens are shaving their heads.

Junior’s mother, Marta, portrayed by actress Samantha Castillo, questions his sexuality and believes that he is gay due to his longing for straight hair and passion for singing. She even consults his pediatrician concerning the matter.

After multiple attempts of Junior’s grandmother, who supports his singing and desire for straight hair, saying she will pay Marta to take him and raise him, Marta begins to pack a bag for Junior after his final time of attempting to straighten his hair.

Junior promises his mother that he will never sing again and that he will shave his head if he can stay with her.

In the final scene of the film, Junior is shown in a school yard, surrounded by singing children, head shaved and not singing along before it ends.

At its conclusion, a discussion was held among the audience about the film.

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