Unjustly overlooked at Sundance by both auds and jurors, Mark Becker’s “Romantico” is a beautifully lensed — on actual film — docu about illegal Mexican immigrants. Pic, which lends the subjects’ vivid verite life-drama a poetical dimension, should easily connect with fests. Spanish dialogue (with English subtitles) is the only limit to pic’s broadcast potential.
Becker initially intended to make a short about Mariachi musicians in his San Francisco ‘hood, finding the ideal subject in a self-exiled 57-year-old family man, Carmelo Muniz Sanchez. Latter roams the Mission District with best friend-cum-fellow-singer/guitarist Arturo, whose alcoholic binges occasionally derail their musical career. They live in a tiny, cramped apartment housing six other illegals. Carmelo is nonetheless able to send home profits that keep his wife, teenage daughter and diabetes-afflicted mother (who’s already had both legs amputated) in relative comfort. When he decides to come home, his joy at a family reunion is qualified by fact that he can only make a fraction of his U.S. income in native Salvatierra, where women whose husbands leave or die are commonly forced into prostitution. Engrossing pic is impressively shot, edited and scored.