As a sampling of flourishing populist art in Guatemala, “The Return of Lencho” solidly plugs into graffiti/mural painting, avant-garde dance, poetry slams and hip-hop. As an expose of the murderous military police presence that still covertly holds sway behind the nation’s liberal facade, it convinces. But as a fictional heroic narrative, writer-director Mario Rosales’ pic comes across as repetitively and regrettably self-indulgent. Still, its bold palette and lively musicality may overcome its melodramatic excesses for some in limited theatrical play.
Lencho (Mario Lanz), a tortured soul, comes home to Guatemala, triggering memories of his father’s death, a scene re-enacted so frequently it feels more like a tic than a trauma. Lencho is even portrayed as Christ on the cross, albeit in his own erotic dream. The military tags him as a potential political threat, so when he and his fellow rebellious artists organize a multidisciplinary arts festival in Rabinal, the site of a 1982 Mayan massacre by the army, his movements are recorded and interpreted as seditious, with tragic results.