Spoken Word, norteño family drama, not rated, CCA Cinematheque, 2.5 chiles
IDirector Victor Nuñez, best known for quiet, emotionally dense character studies set in his home state of Florida (most notably Ulee’s Gold and Ruby in Paradise), trains his lens on Northern New Mexico in this comparatively low-budget (around $4 million) indie film shot in and around Chimayó and Santa Fe. Co-screenwriters William Conway and Santa Fe-born spoken-word poet/promoter/ multimedia artist Joe Ray Sandoval deliver a screenplay partly based on Sandoval’s life, enlisting plenty of local talent and nationally recognized actors with ties to New Mexico.
The film focuses on the strained relationship between spokenword poet Cruz Montoya (Kuno Becker) and his father, Cruz senior, played by The Milagro Beanfield War’s Rubén Blades. When Cruz learns that his father is dying of pancreatic cancer in Santa Fe, he returns home from his new life in the Bay Area over the Thanksgiving holiday to take care of him, leaving behind his artist girlfriend (Persia White) and a classroom full of aspiring young poets.
When Cruz left Santa Fe to pursue poetry, he shed numerous demons, drugs and alcohol among them. Now, as he struggles to repair strained relationships with his widowed father and his brother Ramon (Antonio Elias) while medicating his bipolar disorder, those demons beckon and he finds himself losing the battle to keep his addictions at bay. Complicating matters is Emilio, a dapper nightclub owner, midlevel drug dealer, and former friend of Cruz’s father, played by ex-Santa Fe resident Miguel Sandoval ( Tortilla Heaven, Blow, television’s Medium).