In a celebration of the trans community in Puerto Rico, the fissure between internal and external is an ever-present battle. A unique exploration of self-discovery and activism, featuring a diverse collection of subjects that include LGBTQ advocates, business owners, sex workers, and a boisterous group of drag performers who call themselves The Doll House, Mala Mala portrays a fight for personal and community acceptance paved with triumphant highs and devastating lows.
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★★★★ review by Waldo on Letterboxd
A stylish documentary about the complex world of transsexuals here on my own backyard, Puerto Rico. We follow the day to day of nine individuals dealing with their own personalities, sexual identity, their work, their struggles and most importantly their titanic battle to overcome discrimination and achieve acceptance not only from the society they live in but their own trans community. It offers an honest portrait in the most compassionate way. There's a scene that floored me. I don't wanna give it away but it's a trans man singing in his bedroom with a "microphone". It was one of the most moving scenes I've seen in a while. At first you laugh, then you give in to the performance, by the time the scene ends I was almost in tears! A powerful documentary.
★★★★½ review by john on Letterboxd
u tell that dude binding with ace bandages to call me im dying with worry
★★★★ review by isabella 🐇 on Letterboxd
i would die for you april carrión
★★★½ review by Jason Bailey on Letterboxd
A group of trans women (and one trans man) struggle to find their place in modern Puerto Rico in this intensely personal and thought-provoking documentary. Directors Santini and Sickles initially create disparate portraits, with subjects of varying ages, personality types, status, and experience, moving from the exquisitely photographed joy of the drag club to the nitty-gritty depression of the street corner. But the film turns inspirational in the third act, as they create a community (and a non-profit foundation) to organize, march, and fight for their cause. A sensitive and non-judgmental appeal to, as one subject puts it, “Say who you’re gonna be, and then be it.”
★★★½ review by Scott Renshaw on Letterboxd
As nice as it is when a documentary is informative, it also helps if it feels like a damn movie. That’s what Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles achieve in their tour through the world of transgender people and drag queens in Puerto Rico, wisely never attempting to draw overarching conclusions about the community. Indeed, it’s most effective at providing a wide variety of voices: some that lament the focus on Barbie-doll looks, some that see no point in getting any kind of physical surgery, and so on. But even more surprisingly, it’s just a beautifully shot movie, never falling back on a static talking head when a slow-motion shot under pulsing red siren light might be more potent; even the closing credits have a spunky flair to them. The multiple profiles leave a few feeling half-sketched, and the climax built around an attempt to pass anti-discrimination legislation feels like rote material for this kind of documentary. But damn, mija, this thing has style.
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