Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fantasia '17 Film Review - Most Beautiful Island

Luciana (Asa Asensio) is near the end of her rope, physically, mentally and psychology. She is in New York City but undocumented. She does not have a social Insurance number therefore she is relegated to cash paying day jobs. Beneath the surface she is suffering from a self inflicted wound that she continues to pick at linked to a tragedy back home in Spain hinting towards the death of a child. Her main job babysitting two bratty kids but even that work plus the temporary gigs make it difficult to pay the rent in her cockroach infested apartment.

The first sign that Luciana is on the edge of society is encapsulated in a doctor's visit. She goes to see Dr. Horowitz (David Little) directed there by Russian immigrant acquaintance Olga (Natasha Romonov) although she has no health coverage. Blocked by paperwork at reception Luciana is forced to bust into The Doctor's office and insisting not to leave until he diagnosis her problem. After a particularly humiliating sequence of events culminating with a job handing out flyers for a restaurant dressed in a chicken suit; Olga tells Lucinda about a cocktail party where she can make $2000.00 if she attends in Olga's place. Desperate and not asking the right questions Lucinda agrees to attend but its not until she is in a basement rom with several other terrified model type women including Olga does she gain a sense of the stakes.

Director Asa Asensio's stars in her feature film debut that is based on her experiences when she arrived in the United States and over stayed her Visa. The life of the undocumented is always hustling, taking low and demeaning jobs for cash or risky ones for a quick payday while suffering the humiliation of asking to pay for items the next day or being on display or a plaything for rich seedy New Yorkers. The pivotal scene pays out as a challenge or test of nerves for the women who are invited in by the rich attendees who bet on their fate. If successful the model leaves shaken with an envelope full of cash. If not screams are heard from the room from which the invitee will not emerge.

Asensio uses hand held super16 filming for a good portion of the film. it brings out the hectic nature of Lucinda life as she crisscrosses the City trying to get through the day. She does all the heavy lifting her directing, writing and staring in the film. Natasha Romonov is credible as the Russian beauty who seemingly has high brow connects but gives off the air of someone that is not to be trusted.  Caprice Bendetti is wonderful as the over the top Model wrangler Vanessa.

Most Beautiful Island is a gritty tale of the struggles and potential fate of undocumented residences in New York City. They hustle from  one menial cash job to another. If they are pretty enough a potential big pay day could be in the offering but it's likely at a great risk. Asensio's film is fast paced shot mainly handled to reflect the hectic nature of her life. It's a feaure that I can highly recommend.

**** Out of 4.

Most Beautiful Island | Ana Asensio | U.S.A. | 2017 | 80 Minutes.

Tags; Undocumented, Immigrant, New York, Cocktail Dress, Basement, Game, Chicken Suit, Ice Cream, I.O.U.

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