José (Li Cheng, 2018): Guatemala

Reviewed by William Edwards at the 2019 Santa Barbara Film Festival.

I was very pleasantly surprised at the quality and emotional content of the movie.   Based upon the very real economic and personal conditions of life in modern day Guatemela City, “Jose” (2018), directed by Lie Cheng, is the story of one young man, named Jose has he navigates not only the universal conditions of adolescence but the cultural stigmas and economic hardships of present day Guatemala.

Jose works as at a restaurant that caters to quick food outlets as a parking guide and waiter.  He also lives at home with him mother who dotes on him, prays for his well-being but who is concerned, both personally and religiously for his sexual lifestyle – which by the way, is presented as a sincere search for a committed relationship.  In fact, this is presented in contrast to a work colleague who one can see is in a relationship with another woman colleague at work but only has sex in mind.

We finally see Jose find a love one, but the tragedy of the movie centers around this inflexibility of the new man to allow him to stay in the city to continue the relationship with his mother – which is totally understandable since Jose is still in late adolescence – and thus, the relationship breaks up.  We see Jose struggle with the fact that he still does not really know what to do with his life, primarily because he has no father figure and secondly, the economy and educational system is highly lacking in resources to help a sincere and otherwise, nice, sweet and sincere young man.

After a lengthy question and answer period with director, Li Chang and producer, George Robertson, I quickly got the picture that this movie was a total dedication on both parties to install humanitarian and sympathy for ordinary people trying to live a quality life, regardless of the ethnic, racial, economic and religious conditions of their life.  No matter where a person comes from or whatever influences they have been born into, all human beings are essentially the same: we all have desires, feelings of hope and have to deal with real human conflicts and thus, should be considered worthy of empathy, consideration and understanding.  A great movie and should be witnessed by all.

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