Inside America (2010)

Inside America is Barbara Eder‘s first film, starring Patty Barrera, Carlos Benavides, Edward K. Bravo, Luis De Los Santos, Zuleyma Jaime, Raul Juarez and Aimee Lizette Saldivar.

6 Teenagers in Brownville, Texas: Patty (Patty Barrera) struggles in school, while her grandmother things the best choice for her would be to marry quickly, but definitely not her boyfriend Manni (Raul Juarez) who doesn’t have any money himself. Manni has to work the nightshift and tries to be diligent, but gang violence keeps catching up with him. In the meantime Aimee (Aimee Lizette Saldivar) tries to fulfill her mother’s dream of getting voted Most Beautiful in high school and to convince herself that it’s her dream, too while her weapons-obsessed boyfriend Carlos (Carlos Benavides) sleeps with her maid. Zuly (Zuleyma Jaime) is about to move out from her foster family and has no idea where she could move to. And Ricky (Luis De Los Santos) is so shy that he can’t even sell some cookies for a fundraiser.

Inside America is an interesting look at the unpolished side of US-American high school life. It tries to look at a difficult subject from a fresh perspective, but can’t really get away from the stereotyped characters it created.

Inside America is an interesting mix between documentary and feature film: All of the actors are amateurs, there was no scripted dialogue and the characters were drawn from people Barbara Eder actually knew. I also appreciated that Eder was very non-judgemental through that. The camerawork was also very documentary-style, with a lot of shaking which we all know I hate. But it fit and was only really disturbing in a couple of scenes.

But this documentary approach made the occasional wooden dialogue or unrealistic turn even more grating. These instances don’t happen often, but they just stick out like sore thumbs.

The movie’s biggest handicaps, though, were some of its characters, which were just too clichéd. Especially beauty queen Aimee and violent weapon-obsessee Carlos suffer from this, but also Manni and Ricky don’t really have more than one dimension and it’s a dimension we’ve seen quite a few times already. Patty and Zuly are welcome exceptions to this.

Especially Zuly and the relation ship with her natural mother was very spot-on. [Though I was very surprised about the blasé way the foster family just kicked her out on her 18th birthday. I don’t know about the American system, but in Austria usually foster families get paid until the child finishes school, and it’s still in the responsibility of the social worker/the foster family to make sure that he/she have somewhere to go to when they terminate their care. And if that is not the case in the US, the social system is even worse than I thought it was.]

Summarising: Probably the least Austrian Austrian film I’ve ever seen, and for that alone interesting. But even without that, it is definitely a fascinating bit of film.

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