'Santa Mesa' Shockya.com Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello
Director: Ron Morales (2012′s ‘Graceland’)
Starring: Jacob Kiron Shalov (TV’s ‘The Knights of Prosperity’), Jaime Tirelli (‘Carlito’s Way,’ TV’s ‘You Don’t Know Jack’) and Melissa Leo
People often tend to try and classify themselves as being from one particular culture and having one heritage, but that has become increasingly difficult as people in recent years have progressively moved from country to country. The tendency to categorize people culturally and racially is the major conflict in writer-director Ron Morales’ feature film debut, ‘Santa Mesa.’ This trend, and the inability to cope with one’s new society, are the major problems plaguing the drama’s main character, Hector.
‘Santa Mesa’ follows the 12-year-old Hector (played by Jacob Kiron Shalov) in the immediate aftermath of his mother’s death, as he’s forced to come to terms with the new adjustments in his life. While his mother’s friend Maggie (portrayed by Melissa Leo) is concerned for Hector’s well-being, he is still sent to Manila to live with his grandmother Lita (played by Angie Ferro), who he has never met. While Lita is dealing with the loss of her daughter, Hector is left by himself to adjust to his new culture and life in the Philippines.
Hector is seemingly taken in by Miguel (portrayed by Pierro Rodriguez), the leader of a local street gang, when he first arrives in Manila. However, his initiation turns for the worst when is caught breaking into the house of photographer Jose (played by Jaime Tirelli). Haunted by the memories of his mother, Hector is taken under Jose’s guidance and learns the art of photography. He begins taking pictures of a local woman, Rosa (portrayed by Lynn Sherman), and also bonds with another local teenager, Sel (played by Maria Lopez), much to Miguel’s disliking.
Morales made the first decision in hiring Shalov to portray the important main character of Hector. The filmmaker has said he spent approximately six months looking for an American actor to travel to the Philippines to portray the teen who experiences tremendous culture shock when he moves to his new country. Shalov, who made his feature film acting debut in the drama, perfectly embodied the nervousness and anxiousness of anyone who is afraid to open up to new experiences in a foreign society. Viewers worldwide will surely understand the emotional difficulties Hector faces as he tries to adjust to his new life in Manila.
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