Day Three in Minneapolis marked the end of sunny and warm, and the beginning of rainy and cold. My first film of the day at the Twin Cities Film Fest 2015 was the 1:00 PM screening of Pocha: Manifest Destiny.
In case you were wondering, Pocha is a derogatory term used by Mexicans to describe Mexican-American girls who have little or no understanding or fluency in Spanish – and have major communication difficulties with Spanish-speaking Mexicans. The term is derived from the word pocho which means rotten or discolored fruit. Said in a broader context – both pocha and pocho are intended to mean – useless.
As the film opens – we meet a young Mexican American woman who will be known as Pocha. She’s got major financial problems, the home she lives in with her mother is facing foreclosure. The loan officer at the bank tells her she must come up with 20k to become current.
So she connects with some people she knows whose major business is credit card fraud and debit card fraud. With the aid of sophisticated equipment, they can rob you blind. It works until it doesn’t work. She’s busted.
As an undocumented person while in custody, her info has been sent to Immigration. They give her two choices: 1) Plead guilty and be immediately sent back to Mexico as a free person with no rights to ever re-enter America again, or 2) Plead innocent, take your chances in court (against a very strong case) – do your jail time – then be deported.
Your basic situation of being between a rock and a hard place.
Not much of a choice. Her estranged father lives in Mexico, and our girl figures she can avoid doing time in jail, and eventually she’d find a way to cross back into America.
So there’s Pocha arriving at her father’s ranch. He is a cattleman, and NOT what you’d called a gentleman farmer. He’s a working guy and his hands and his clothes get dirty every day.
But he’s got a big ranch, and as Pocha finds out, she’s got to help out. She can’t be allowed to spend all day in bed. Her Dad says the pay is $10. An hour?, she asks. No, a day.
So she’s paired up with Arturo, who does speak English, The job – build and maintain fencing made from wooden stakes and barbed wire.
But, while Arturo did speak English, he was in the pocket of the local drug smuggler called Ricky. Drug shipments out would cross the ranch’s land, as would the returning suitcases filled money.
But Arturo had been squeezed by the local cops, so Ricky lost a shipment. As Ricky would tell Arturo – you know the deal.
So Arturo, and his truck disappear.
There’s your set up. Pocha, who is played marvelously by Veronica Sixtos, once again finds herself in a bad place. She now has to deal with Ricky.
If you liked Sicario, and watched Narco, then this film represents a perfect accompaniment. However the scope is much smaller than either of those two. This is not about big time law enforcement, or warring cartel factions. This is a film about a local smuggler, a local cop, a good Dad, and a girl who will find trouble at every turn. This film has violence, a bit of sex, and is one that has revenge, but not as a major theme.
Instead it is about making the wrong choices and the consequences that follow. It is about doing the right thing in the face of high risk. Drugs are certainly a dangerous business. High risk, high reward. Mistakes are repaid with one earning the ultimate and final pink slip.
To me this film worked perfectly. Pocha makes a perfect anti-hero. She’s sexy, and smart, and she’s no angel. She crossed the line back in Addison Park, Illinois to live a flashy and luxe life. And it caught up with her.
Then in Mexico, she again crosses the line, and more than once. So while the term anti-hero is apt, you won’t be able to summon up enough reasons to root against Pocha.
Four point zero on the rating scale, and I’ll give the film a strong recommendation.