Santera

Well-intentioned and daring, Solveig Hoogesteijn's "Santera," which looks at the impact of indigenous Latin-American witchcraft on the life of a city girl, approaches a difficult subject with intelligence and enthusiasm. Direction is up to scratch, but a labored script and unmemorable perfs suggest this would have worked better as straight documentary. Bewitchment of non-Latino auds is unlikely.

With:
Paula ..... Laura del Sol Soledad ..... Hirma Salcedo Eulogio ..... Victor Cuica Belen ..... Gledys Ibarra

Well-intentioned and daring, Solveig Hoogesteijn’s “Santera,” which looks at the impact of indigenous Latin-American witchcraft on the life of a city girl, approaches a difficult subject with intelligence and enthusiasm. Direction is up to scratch, but a labored script and unmemorable perfs suggest this would have worked better as straight documentary. Bewitchment of non-Latino auds is unlikely.

Paula (Laura del Sol) is a social worker sent from Spain to work in a women’s prison in Venezuela. On arrival, she makes contact with prisoner Soledad (Hirma Salcedo), who is being shunned because other prisoners believe she is a santera, a faith healer who uses the ritual powers of witchcraft to evil effect. When she sees prison officers torturing Soledad, Paula takes her under her wing.

Pic awkwardly describes Soledad’s complicated family history in her jungle pueblo, which involves her spiritual father, Eulogio (the magnificently physical Victor Cuica), a dead child and an irate family friend (Gledys Ibarra). Visually , the pueblo scenes are stunning, with Hoogesteijn going to great lengths to re-create the color and delirium of authentic santera rituals and dances as chickens wander round with glumly expectant expressions. These sequences are so much fun that it is a disappointment to have to return to the plodding Paula narrative.

The script raises awkward questions about the value of pre-Christian practices in a post-Christian society, but its relentless earnestness and occasionally implausible dialogue — Eulogio in particular can barely open his mouth without being ponderously mystical — mean that pic becomes hard work, especially in its later stages. Production values are solid.

Santera

(VENEZUELAN-SPANISH-CUBAN)

Production: An Alter Producciones, CNAC, RCTV, Macu Films (Venezuela)/Gona TV (Spain)/ICAIC (Cuba) production. (International sales: Centro Nacional Autonomo de Cinematografia, Caracas.) Produced by Delfina Catala, Cristian Castillo. Directed by Solveig Hoogesteijn. Screenplay, Hoogesteijn, Senel Paz.

Crew: Camera (color), Andres Agusti; editor, Sergio Curiel; music, Victor Cuica; sound (Dolby), Germinal. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Made in Spanish '97) , Sept. 23, 1997. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: Paula ..... Laura del Sol Soledad ..... Hirma Salcedo Eulogio ..... Victor Cuica Belen ..... Gledys Ibarra

More Film

  • Rupert Murdoch

    Fox Founder Rupert Murdoch Insists Disney Deal Is Not a 'Retreat'

    Well-intentioned and daring, Solveig Hoogesteijn’s “Santera,” which looks at the impact of indigenous Latin-American witchcraft on the life of a city girl, approaches a difficult subject with intelligence and enthusiasm. Direction is up to scratch, but a labored script and unmemorable perfs suggest this would have worked better as straight documentary. Bewitchment of non-Latino auds […]

  • 'Father Figures' film premiere

    'Father Figures' Premiere Raises Funds for Southern California Wildfire Victims

    Well-intentioned and daring, Solveig Hoogesteijn’s “Santera,” which looks at the impact of indigenous Latin-American witchcraft on the life of a city girl, approaches a difficult subject with intelligence and enthusiasm. Direction is up to scratch, but a labored script and unmemorable perfs suggest this would have worked better as straight documentary. Bewitchment of non-Latino auds […]

  • Carrie Fisher Star Wars

    Fox Merges With Disney: The Storied Studio's 102-Year History

    Well-intentioned and daring, Solveig Hoogesteijn’s “Santera,” which looks at the impact of indigenous Latin-American witchcraft on the life of a city girl, approaches a difficult subject with intelligence and enthusiasm. Direction is up to scratch, but a labored script and unmemorable perfs suggest this would have worked better as straight documentary. Bewitchment of non-Latino auds […]

  • 'Bright' film premiere

    Will Smith Discusses 'Bright's' Racial, Social, Allegorical Undertones

    Well-intentioned and daring, Solveig Hoogesteijn’s “Santera,” which looks at the impact of indigenous Latin-American witchcraft on the life of a city girl, approaches a difficult subject with intelligence and enthusiasm. Direction is up to scratch, but a labored script and unmemorable perfs suggest this would have worked better as straight documentary. Bewitchment of non-Latino auds […]

  • ‘Hunting Season’ Takes Top Prize at

    ‘Hunting Season’ Takes Top Prize at Macao Festival

    Well-intentioned and daring, Solveig Hoogesteijn’s “Santera,” which looks at the impact of indigenous Latin-American witchcraft on the life of a city girl, approaches a difficult subject with intelligence and enthusiasm. Direction is up to scratch, but a labored script and unmemorable perfs suggest this would have worked better as straight documentary. Bewitchment of non-Latino auds […]

  • Bob Iger Rupert Murdoch

    Disney-Fox Will Be Global Powerhouse, Especially in Asia and Europe

    Well-intentioned and daring, Solveig Hoogesteijn’s “Santera,” which looks at the impact of indigenous Latin-American witchcraft on the life of a city girl, approaches a difficult subject with intelligence and enthusiasm. Direction is up to scratch, but a labored script and unmemorable perfs suggest this would have worked better as straight documentary. Bewitchment of non-Latino auds […]

  • X Men avengers potential teamup Disney

    Fantastic Four, X-Men Can Team With Avengers Thanks to Fox, Disney Deal

    Well-intentioned and daring, Solveig Hoogesteijn’s “Santera,” which looks at the impact of indigenous Latin-American witchcraft on the life of a city girl, approaches a difficult subject with intelligence and enthusiasm. Direction is up to scratch, but a labored script and unmemorable perfs suggest this would have worked better as straight documentary. Bewitchment of non-Latino auds […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content