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Film Review: ‘Holiday’

A gentle, attractive coming-out story of modest ambition and zero pretension.

With:
Juan Manuel Arregui, Diego Andres Paredes, Manuela Merchan, Canela Samaniego, Irwin Ortiz, Francis Perez Uscocovich, Cristina Morrison, Pepe Alvear, Peky Andino, Elena Vargas. (Spanish, Quichua dialogue)

A sensitive 16-year-old boy from a privileged background develops feelings for an indigenous teen who’s into black metal in Diego Araujo’s sincere debut, “Holiday.” Set during Ecuador’s financial meltdown in 1999, the film weaves in economic and class elements in an attempt to add complexity to the overall picture, though in the end this is basically a gentle, attractive coming-out story of modest ambition and zero pretension. Gay fests of course will line up, with even mainstream showcases possibly taking interest given the relative novelty of pink productions from Ecuador.

Shy, poetry-scribbling Juan Pablo, known as Juampi (Juan Manuel Arregui), is dropped off for the Carnival holidays at the villa of his uncle Jorge (Peky Andino), currently embroiled in a banking scandal that’s filling the airwaves. His cousin Maribel (Canela Samaniego) is a decent sort, but her brother Jorgito (Irwin Ortiz) is a jerk; at least Maribel’s friend La Flaca (Manuela Merchan) is rebellious fun, using Juampi as cover whenever she wants to go off with her b.f.

One night, Uncle Jorge and his staff surprise a couple of guys stealing hubcaps; they beat one to a pulp, but the other, Juano (Diego Andres Paredes), escapes with Juampi’s help. The two strike up a friendship through which Juampi, of well-off European stock, discovers life on the other side of the tracks, along with the local black-metal scene. He also starts articulating his attraction to Juano, at least in his ever-present notebook, uncertain whether the feeling is reciprocated.

Though hardly original, “Holiday” works best as a classic tale of a teen on vacation coming to grips with his sexuality, and the rest simply lends a bit of color, verging on depth but rarely quite reaching something profound. Araujo is only partially successful at building parallel tensions between Juampi’s self-discovery and the banking crisis embroiling the nation, and most of the real news footage he edits in feels like an extraneous hook.

Far more natural are the hesitant Juampi’s observational silences, nicely captured by young Arregui with a mixture of timidity and curiosity that says as much about vulnerability as it does about desire. Occasional moments meant to add to an understanding of character, such as Juampi’s nosebleeds, are superficially tossed in and then forgotten. The ending, however, is absolutely spot-on.

Visuals have an innocent sensuality, especially sensitive to plays of light and always appealing to watch. Music occasionally takes too much control of a scene.

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Film Review: 'Holiday'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Generation 14plus), Feb. 10, 2014. Running time: 82 MIN. Original title: “Feriado”

Production: (Ecuador-Argentina) A Lunafilms, Cepa Audiovisual, Abacafilms production. (International sales: M-Appeal, Berlin.) Produced by Hanne-Lovise Skartveit. Co-producers, Andres Longares, Felicitas Raffo, Juan Sebastian Jacome, Irina Caballero. Executive producers, Skartveit, Renos Vakis.

Crew: Directed, written by Diego Araujo. Camera (color), Magela Crosignani; editor, Julian Giulianelli; music, Daniele Luppi; production designer, Roberto Frisone; costume designer, Ana Poveda; sound, Martin Litmanovich, Juan Jose Luzuriaga; assistant director, Renata Duque Lasio; casting, Mauricio Samaniego, Carlos Ramirez, Gabriela Garcia.

With: Juan Manuel Arregui, Diego Andres Paredes, Manuela Merchan, Canela Samaniego, Irwin Ortiz, Francis Perez Uscocovich, Cristina Morrison, Pepe Alvear, Peky Andino, Elena Vargas. (Spanish, Quichua dialogue)

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