6/17/2007

Yo Soy Boricua pa’que tu lo sepas!

Translated Title: I’m Boricua (Puerto Rican), Just So You Know!
Directors: Rosie Perez and Liz Garbus

Within the first few moments of Rosie Perez’s alternately funny, engaging, and angering documentary, as we are shown footage of New York City’s Puerto Rican Pride Parade she asks the question that will become the film’s thesis, namely, “Why are Puerto Ricans so damn proud?” Perez, an entertaining host (most famous for her spirited turns in films including her debut Do The Right Thing) reportedly did not want to be onscreen during her feature debut but producers (including her co-director Liz Garbus) prevailed in changing her mind. Rosie's involvement helps make the film--which succinctly chronicles the entire controversial history of the commonwealth of Puerto Rico-- into a personal all-access home movie. Featuring not only Rosie but her sister Carmen and cousin Sixto, Yo Soy benefits from the intimate approach as we come along for the ride while they introduce us to the Nuyorican CafĂ© poets, the Young Lords who helped fight for civil rights in 1960’s America and duing their search for the history of the land itself (both hidden and placed proudly in museums) as well as their relatives throughout America. The history they uncover is shocking and tragic as our lead trio along with narrator Jimmy Smits relay the commonwealth’s oppression over hundreds of years as they were first taken over by the Spanish government, with devastating results. Finally, last century America stepped in with both positive (but mostly negative, depending on viewpoint) results as we learn about the forced sterilization by the government that forced Puerto Rican women to “control the population,” including using the Vieques island for sixty years of bombing tests from the Navy and turning the inhabitants into test subjects for numerous unsafe pharmaceutical tests. Discovering the vast range of ethnicities mixed into the Puerto Rican bloodline, including Tanio, Spanish, African, Irish, Scottish, and French, one feels instantly connected to the plight of the people who-- although given United States citizenship and the duty of paying taxes, are denied the right to vote. While admittedly one-sided and it’s tough to whittle down the history of an entire population into a brief ninety minute film, Perez’s inquiry does make one want to learn more about Puerto Rico and her admirable film brought to viewers from IFC and Netflix will help open one’s eyes about a culture usually ignored in textbooks.

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