Director and co-writer Jorge Ali Triana aspires to make major statements about the exploitation of history, the absurdity of cinematic reenactment and the rampancy of political corruption in South America in "Bolivar Is Me" a seriocomic farce, romance and satire that bites off more than it can chew.

Director and co-writer Jorge Ali Triana aspires to make major statements about the exploitation of history, the absurdity of cinematic reenactment and the rampancy of political corruption in South America in “Bolivar Is Me” a seriocomic farce, romance and satire that bites off more than it can chew. Despite a bold leading performance from Robinson Diaz in a complex role, pic tries too hard, undercutting most of its bright ideas. While pic is not without interest, it’s too unrealized to attract major fest exposure, and too intellectual an exercise to perform commercially.

Pic begins with a funny set piece in which the life of Simon Bolivar is being brought to the screen as a multi-part telenovella called “The Lovers of the Liberator,” in which Bolivar spends more time in the bedroom than on the battlefield. Script also has rewritten Bolivar’s death as an execution by firing squad, as opposed to tuberculosis,which just wasn’t sexy enough. It’s all too much for series star Santiago Miranda (Diaz), a testy prima donna already teetering on the verge of madness. During the shooting of Bolivar’s “execution,” Miranda finally snaps, and storms off the set.

The producers can’t finish the show without their star. But figuring out how to win Miranda back soon becomes the least of their problems. For when the star leaves the set, he leaves reality behind too, remaining in character as Bolivar, to the horror of the showrunners and the delight of the local politicos, who are quick to seize upon Miranda as a way of exploiting the symbol of the revolutionary hero for their own gain. The addled star is invited to perform as Bolivar in the national Independence Day parade and to speak at an upcoming summit. That is, before anyone realizes that Miranda now believes it is his mission to fulfill Bolivar’s dream of a united South America.

Some of Triana’s poison-tipped darts precisely puncture their targets, particularly in pointing out how far reality has strayed from Bolivar’s ideal, using his name and image on decaying hospitals and huckster travel agencies. At one point, Miranda/Bolivar laments that he is “one of history’s three greatest dummies” — the other two being Jesus Christ and Don Quixote. But more often than not, Triana hits upon a promising notion and then keeps hitting, until sheer repetition has robbed it of its meaning.

While Diaz’s dexterous, loose-hinged performance can be a splendor to behold, Triana lets the character veer too quickly from lampoon to cartoon, and we’re left confused as to whether or not we should take any of this seriously.

Visually, pic is uncertain, too, with an overuse of claustrophobic closeups that suggests telenovellas even in non-telenovella scenes.

Bolivar Is Me

Colombia-France

Production

A Grupo Colombia and United Angels Prods. presentation. Produced by Jorge Ali Triana. Executive producers, Gustavo Angel, Clara Maria Ochoa. Directed by Jorge Ali Triana. Screenplay, Manuel Arias, Alberto Quiroga, Triana.

Crew

Camera (color), Rodrigo Lalinde; editor, Erick Morris; music, Osvaldo Montes; art director, Rosario Lozano; sound (Dolby), Evelia Cruz, Jorge Carrasco; sound designer, Mario Martinez; assistant director, Jose Luis Arzuaga. Reviewed at L.A. Latino Film Festival, July 26, 2002. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Robinson Diaz, Amparo Grisales, Jairo Camargo, Fanny Mikey, Gustavo Angarita, Carlos Barbosa, Alejandra Borrero, Santiago Bejarno, Ana Soler
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