You’re either a criminal or you’re not. You’re either good or you’re bad. Which are you?
But life, as lived, is never so cut and dried. No one is all one or another – and the complexity is portrayed brilliantly in the new film Pocha (Manifest Destiny) directed by Michael Dwyer, screenplay by Kait McLaughlin. Northern Baja residents who see the film will recognize that much of it was filmed right here in our own back yard of Santa Rosa, La Mision, and along the free road to Ensenada.
Pocho is Spanish slang for a Mexican who grows up in the US and who often, consequently, speaks no Spanish. But pocha has a more literal meaning as well-literally fruit that is rotten or discolored. Claudia (Veronica Sixtos) is the ‘pocha’ -deported from the US and sent back to Mexico where she is forced to live with her estranged father on his cattle ranch. It is her ‘abuela’ who asks the question – are you a criminal, or aren’t you? Which is it? Which are you? She asks the question in Spanish – and is surprised to realize that her granddaughter doesn’t understand. But Claudia, a Mexican citizen raised from a young age in the US, is not nearly that easy to define – nor, it turns out, is her hard working father. The film is a brilliant exploration of their characters, but also the issues facing the border, immigration, deportation, and getting mixed up in things one never would have dreamed of, for all the right reasons, but with complicated results.
Pocha had its premiere last month at the LA Film Fest, where it received the Audience Award for Best Fiction Feature Film.