The Latin American telenovela, receives a deserved whack upside its hugely popular head in Alvaro Velarde's debut, "Destiny Has No Favorites." Borrowing from the Pedro Almodovar paint box for some of his more colorful satiric strokes, Velarde uses the making of a soap opera in the backyard of a bored, rich housewife as a way to poke fun at the genre's class divisions.

The Latin American telenovela, receives a deserved whack upside its hugely popular head in Alvaro Velarde’s deliciously subversive debut, “Destiny Has No Favorites.” Borrowing from the Pedro Almodovar paint box for some of his more colorful satiric strokes, Velarde uses the making of a soap opera in the backyard of a bored, rich housewife as a way to poke fun at the genre’s class divisions and the unsuppressed desire to play-act. Pic’s sharp comic appeal and solid worldwide fest play portend good returns in mostly Spanish-language markets — and hint that Peru may have a director with breakout potential.

While her hubby is away on business, cool, effete Ana (Monica Steuer) must put up with his having approved the shooting of a soap titled “Destiny Has No Favorites” on their spacious grounds. While her maids are openly thrilled at the distraction, Ana secretly harbors a desire to get close to the action.

In a manner that has the feel of American comedy stylists like Billy Wilder and Frank Tashlin, Velarde manipulates events to get Ana cast in a bit part that develops into a major, recurring role. Turns out Ana has a knack for playing the cutthroat bitch –an indispensable telenovela role.

Silly but good-natured nonsense ensues as show writer Magda (Celine Aguirre) suspects Ana of being a spy from a competing soap, not realizing she’s the lady of the house, while the maids connive to get parts on the show alongside their boss.

“Destiny” pushes the parody to its logical extreme, as Ana (maintaining her alter-ego’s disguise off the set) arranges story conferences with the show’s director, Nicholas (Paul Vega), to pump up her role as the expense of others.

Farceurs abound, led by the compellingly watchable Steuer, reveling in the role of a woman junking her dull everyday identity for an infinitely more exciting one, yet unsure how to reconnect with reality when she needs to.

Cinematic details, such as the TV-inspired score and the consciously campy cinematography and design, simultaneously embrace and lampoon small-tube bad taste and aesthetics.

Destiny Has No Favorites

Peru

Production

An Alvaro Velarde Prods. and America Prods. presentation. (International sales: Alvaro Velarde Prods., Lima, Peru.) Produced by Velarde. Executive producer, Gustavo Sanchez. Directed, written by Alvaro Velarde.

Crew

Camera (Covitec color), Micaela Cajahuaringa; editor, Danielle Fillios; music, Irene Vivanco; production designer, Alejandra Arteta; art director, Ernesto Koster; sound (Dolby Digital), Marcos De Aguirre. Reviewed at L.A. Latino Film Festival, July 24, 2003. (Also in Rotterdam, Puchon, LatinBeat 2003 film festivals.) Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Angie Cepeda, Monica Steuer, Paul Vega, Tatiana Astengo, Rebeca Raez, Bernie Paz, Elena Romero, Celine Aguirre.

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