Monday, September 17, 2007

The 11th Hour, No end in sight, and El cantante

by Hiram José Irizarry Osorio, Research Associate at the Kirwan Institute

Is there any commonality among these three films besides the fact that the author of this blog entry recently watched them? Many people have watched these films and among those, many have written reviews praising or criticizing these films. I think this business of writing reviews is a worthwhile endeavor, but not the one I undertake here. My purpose is to underscore, however limited, salient points that came to my mind when (and after) watching these films.

The first two films (The 11th Hour and No End in Sight) would seem more relevant to U.S. audiences because they deal with world-wide issues that need to be addressed. Although this is true, I would underscore that these are issues that should concern people beyond the U.S. This is somewhat obvious regarding The 11th Hour, which underscores the human causes of change in our environment (or as it is emphasized throughout the film, our home). The topic addressed in No End in Sight is the latest Iraq war and its mismanagement from the get-go until the present. The people interviewed in this film were not “outsiders”, but individuals involved with the current administration that became disenchanted and disillusioned by how the current Bush administration handled (handles) the enterprise of going to war and its aftermath.

In regard to El Cantante, the appeal is more personal being a Puerto Rican and seeing in the big screen homage being paid to one of the great salsa singers: Héctor Lavoe. Many people have criticized this film for focusing too much on Mr. Lavoe’s drug use, others have underscored that there was not enough character development for people to get to know the story of Héctor Lavoe. These are all pertinent criticisms; however, they depend on how we choose to watch or pay attention to in the film.

I am not presuming to know what was in the mind of those that put the film together, but what I can state is how I interpreted this film. I think that although Mr. Lavoe and his wife’s life could be interesting, the most important issue is what they represented-the reality of Puerto Ricans after mid-20th century. They represented that cleavage in Puerto Rican society between “the real” Puerto Ricans (e.g., represented by Héctor Lavoe) and those diasporic Puerto Ricans (e.g., Mr. Lavoe’s wife and Willie Colón). The film also underscored the reality of those Puerto Ricans that migrated to New York City looking for a better life. Mr. Lavoe made it (or did he?), but what about thousands of others (like his brother) that get lost within the marginalizing tentacles of U.S. society? Thus, I think that this film is worthwhile to watch for the statement it makes within U.S. mainstream about those that have been labeled as Puerto Ricans and their history.

Hence, what do these three films have in common? I would venture to state, the fight for survival of the human species at different levels and scenarios: global environment (The 11th Hour), national-global war (No End in Sight), and colonial reality (and its struggle) within the streets of the U.S (El Cantante). What do you think?

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