This review is part of double feature on the film Mosquita y Mari. Please check out Alexandra Hidalgo’s interview with director Aurora Guerrero.
Mosquita y Mari (2012). 85 min. Directed by Aurora Guerrero. Starring Venecia Troncoso, Fenessa Pineda, and Joaquín Garrido.
In the film Mosquita y Mari, director and writer Aurora Guerrero captures an ardent relationship that unravels between two Chicana high school sophomores. Guerrero does an alluring job of using an ordinary relationship between two teenagers to illustrate how expectations are meant to be tampered with. As I watched two young girls bare their sexuality through friendship, I was fascinated by how Guerrero gave viewers a clear perspective of the lesbian relation between the girls, while keeping the characters living through it in the dark. As a result, I involuntarily watched the film from different lenses; as the viewer, as the friends and parents, as Yolanda and Mari, and as a child of immigrant parents. This made Mosquita y Mari a great film to watch and a film I urge others to watch as well.
Guerrero takes a unique approach using silence as a tool to help develop her characters. Despite the lack of conversation between Yolanda and Mari, Guerrero guides viewers to understand these characters through silence, with the help of the playful camera movements and lyrical lighting. Yolanda and Mari’s facial expressions reveal each character’s personality. Yolanda, a quiet, shy, and college-bound girl, is able to create a bond with Mari, who is fast-paced and has a way of getting into trouble. Usually I would have loved to see more dialogue between the protagonists, but the concept of less dialogue works for Guerrero’s film. We clearly understand the two girls’ friendship and their conflicted feelings towards each other, their community, and their parents.
Yolanda lives in a two-parent household, where her parents demand that she reject the temptations of being a teenager (boys), while constantly reminding her of their sacrifices as immigrants. Across the street from Yolanda, lives Mari and her little sister, who are being raised by their struggling single mother. Despite the difference in their household situations, both girls are pressured to grow up and expected to someday live a better life than their parents have. Guerrero uses this parental expectation to draw the girls together and bring them apart at the same time.
Guerrero uses Latina actors, art, clothing, and music to bring us into Huntington Park, Los Angeles, where the girls live. We experience life in a Latina small space within L.A. For me personally, the film evoked the pressures I experienced and I’m still experiencing as a child of Haitian immigrants. In a scene where Yolanda is in the car with her parents, they point out the Latina homeless population and tell her, “We don’t need to go back home to see poverty. It’s right here.” At that moment, I could see myself sitting in the backseat with my parents telling me the same thing. As a child of immigrants, I often felt as if I should one day be the liberator who would give my parents and family members better living conditions. If not, I would be a disappointment to those who raised me. Yolanda’s body language while her parents continue to lecture illustrate her desire to enjoy the longings of a teenage girl instead of thinking about getting her family out of Huntington Park.
Stepping away from the main plot of a lesbian relationship between two young Chicanas, Mosquita y Mari explores the relationship between children of immigrants. I enjoyed the love story between Yolanda and Mari—it was bare and invisible at the same time—but given my own history, I was captivated by how Guerrero captured the second-generation immigrant experience in the U.S. Growing up with immigrant parents I was never able to have the relationship that I wanted with them because their primary objective was for me to go to school and church in order to fulfill their vision of a perfect child. Unintentionally, they weren’t aware of my relationships with my friends (guys and girls), and how those relationships influenced certain decisions I made. Yolanda and Mari found in each other what they couldn’t find in their parents, and that’s what made their relationship strong and made their very different personalities work well together. Mosquita y Mari isn’t only a film about children of immigrant parents, but a story of two teenagers faced with their first love. Their forbidden reckless friendship reminds us of the many childhood relationships we couldn’t explain to our parents. I can’t wait to see where else Guerrero takes us in her future ventures behind the camera.