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March 5, 2008
San Jose Cinequest Film Festival 18
86 Minutes
Eva Norvind

Documentary about a Mexican musician/actor/father born without arms. Inspiring in a different way than most of these types of films. We aren't asked to feel sorry for him at all. The filmmaker does an interesting thing. We feel automatic pity when first introduced and by the time the film ends, he's just another guy who needs help getting dressed.

We first meet Jose in a shaky camera opening as he has his harmonica strapped to his mouth by an out-of-frame helper. We see crowded streets, and we assume that he'll play a few notes and beg a little and pesos will be thrown into his hat. Then he speaks on camera and we realize that he's thoughtful, caring, really knows music, and doesn't need our pity. His wife or a son helps him out when he performs. He talks with the other performers who move from festival to circus to parade. They form a close-knit family of sorts. But Jose has his own family. During the course of the film, his sixth child is born. Jose has appeared in films, traveled, helped with the design and construction of a house large enough to hold his family and even his children's families. He has taken numerous lovers, once getting permission for his wife to visit a film set and then getting permission for his mistress to also visit. We travel with him back to his childhood home where old-timers talk about Jose as a baby. We see him play soccer with his sons. When he takes a tumble, someone is there to pick him back up. He's on a horse, he's on a boat. He's randy, he flirts, he tells jokes. He is a man.

And if that weren't enough to make heads turn, either towards or away from him, we find out that his beloved wife is also his much younger niece--something that sits well with neither some family members or the Catholic Church.

Well done basic documentary about a life.



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