The first feature from Paraguay in 30 years, “Miss Amerigua” is no great earth-shaker but a mild political satire with touches of magical realism that paints an agreeably sketchy portrait of a fictional South American town.
Pic starts with a hint of a childhood bond between black-haired Evaristo and fair-skinned Maria in an idyllic waterfall setting. This reverie is shaken when the boy witnesses the murder of his activist father at the hands of Amerigua’s resident fascist, Col. Banderas. Years later, the grown Evaristo (Hector Silva) returns from revolutionary training in Nicaragua with revenge and Maria on his mind.
At first, the town doesn’t notice his arrival, since everyone’s caught up in the annual bathing-babe contest. This time, there’s unusually stiff competition between the very grown-up Maria (Sonia Marchewka), Evaristo’s sexy sister Rosa Pasion and Carmen Banderas, haughty daughter of the colonel, who by now owns most of the verdant region. Leftists eventually confront the right, love triumphs, and there are literal fireworks to abruptly, and rather haphazardly, end the semi-farcical proceedings.
Chilean-born, Swedish-based helmer Luis Vera is better at handling light comedy and tender moments than holding narrative together, and auds may have trouble differentiating principal characters or caring about their aspirations, let alone finding allegorical meanings in their exaggerated actions. Much of the expository dialogue is perfunctory, but peripheral business, as with an inept young journalist (Jorge Baez) and a philosophical hairdresser (Carlos Cristaldo) , is reliably amusing.
Tech credits are adequate, with Vera and lenser Martin Nilsson excelling only in isolated vignettes that drop plot in favor of a gently supernatural texture. Aggressive marketing, based on attractive female troika, could bring “Like Water for Chocolate” fans sniffing. Pic, however, is too slight and fragmentary to sustain non-Spanish-lingo interest.