The third adaptation of Miguel Angel Asturias' classic magic-realist novel, "El senor presidente," about a mad dictator and his victims, is a daring if shoddily filmed swipe by director-producer Romulo Guardia at his nation's tube-loving president, Hugo Chavez.

“Mr. President,” the third big-screen adaptation of Miguel Angel Asturias’ classic magic-realist novel, “El senor presidente,” about a mad dictator and his victims, is a daring if shoddily filmed swipe by vet Venezuelan TV director-producer Romulo Guardia at his nation’s tube-loving president, Hugo Chavez. That it was produced by the very outlet — Radio Caracas Television — that Chavez shut down in 2007 underlines the project’s bravery, but doesn’t make it a better film. Intense local controversy drew late 2007 auds, but international fest rollout has flatlined.

The murder of one of his top military aides enrages Senor Presidente (Gustavo Rodriguez), the supremely egotistical dictator of an unidentified Latin American nation, while he eyes Camila (Chantal Baudaux), the daughter of once-loyal Gen. Canales (Jean Carlo Simancas), as a future member of his private prostitution ring. Camila’s lover, Miguel (Carlos Mata), helps her hide, while Presidente unleashes a brutal campaign of tortures and executions. The soap opera level of the acting, and Guardia’s flat direction and gloppy pacing make for a disconcertingly simplistic rendering of Asturias’ landmark novel. HD lensing and sound rank in the technical basement.

Mr. President

Venezuela

Production

A Cinematografica Blancica release (in Venezuela) of a Radio Caracas Television/Angostura Film Co. presentation. Produced by Romulo Guardia, Jorge Granier, Caupolican Ovalles, Jaime Dos Reis. Directed by Romulo Guardia. Screenplay, Guardia, Sergio Jablon, based on the novel "El senor presidente" by Miguel Angel Asturias.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Gabriel Guerra; editors, Vicente Mejias, Jorge Cisneros; music, Alan Gonzalez; production designer, Maria Fernanda Maragall. Reviewed at Los Angeles Latino Film Festival, Sept. 16, 2008. Running time: 120 MIN.

With

Gustavo Rodriguez, Carlos Mata, Chantal Baudaux, Javier Vidal, Norkys Batista, Jean Carlo Simancas, Daniel Alvarado, Roberto Moll. (Spanish dialogue)

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