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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Santitos: Esperanza's Box of Saints
Directed by Alejandro Springall
Columbia TriStar 07/00 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - sexual content, language
Esperanza (Dolores Heredia) is a widow who lives with her teenage daughter Blanca (Maya Zapata) and another widow (Ana Bertha Espin). She's a religious woman comfortable in a world of statues, votive candles, rosaries, religious medals, and saints.
When Blanca goes to the hospital for an operation on her tonsils and then dies of a freak virus, Esperanza can't believe what has happened. She is not even allowed to view the body because the authorities are frightened of the virus. Then the figure of St. Jude appears to Esperanza inside her greasy kitchen stove saying that Blanca isn't dead. She rushes to tell her elderly priest (Fernando Torre Laphame) who has a penchant for soap operas and tabloids. He advises her to be careful what she does with the information the saint has given her.
Soon Esperanza leaves her small Mexican village to search for Blanca. She travels to two brothels in Tijuana where she's heard that young girls are sold into slavery. Has Blanca been kidnapped for this purpose? Esperanza endures the dangers and the humiliations of a life in an underworld of sleaze and pornography. She is willing to do almost anything to find her missing child.
Eventually Esperanza lands in Los Angeles where she meets "the Angel of Justice" (Alberto Estrella), a wrestler with a heart of gold. She unmasks him, and they begin a relationship. But Esperanza decides she must return to her village. There she has a final visitation from the world beyond.
Alejandro Springall directs this phantasmagorical Mexican drama that brings to mind the magic, the lyricism, and the comedy of Like Water for Chocolate. Only here the focus is not food but the strange ways God speaks to us and surprises us with grace-filled moments of mystery.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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