Posted in: Disc Reviews by Michael Durr on June 1st, 2007
Most people don’t know where to place Puerto Ricans. Some would like to think they are Hispanic, some would like to think that they are African. To treat them as anything beside their own culture would be a mistake. They are Puerto Rican, proud and have been in the United States for almost a century. Puerto Ricans have been for the most part unfairly discriminated against and put into groups that they simply do not belong in. From Pedro Albizu Campos to Jennifer Lopez, there has …een famous Puerto Ricans we have come to know and appreciate. Rosie Perez (White Men Can’t Jump, Do the Right Thing) decided to direct a documentary in 2006 that would talk how it was to grow up Puerto Rican but also explore the culture and the history of Puerto Ricans in relation to the United States. This is a side of Puerto Rico that few get to see.
The documentary for the most part is fantastic. Going towards the obvious, one might see directed by Rosie Perez tag (and she is the major focus of the documentary) and immediately think, “Oh geez, do I have to listen to her squeaky obnoxious voice for 85 minutes?” Not entirely. Her voice actually isn’t as squeaky as it used to be and she seems more down to earth than the way media portrays her. She does drop a few curse words here and there, but not too many. The historical portions are narrated by Jimmy Smits (NYPD Blue & L.A. Law) which provides a good clear voice to listen to as he talks about parts of history such as Act 136 of 1937 which talks about Female Sterilization or the life of Pedro Pietri; a former poet and member of the Young Lords. The view does seem somewhat slanted but it is a very interesting introductory look at the history of Puerto Rico and the United States. It is handled professionally and touches on a multitude of subjects.
The video was shot in 1.33:1 full screen presentation. Most of the footage looks pretty good as it starts out showing the beautiful colors of the Puerto Rican Day parade and shows present day Puerto Ricans and their culture. It also shows historical footage which looks very well restored considering the age and quality it was probably collected from. None of the footage really feels hard to watch outside of any emotional aspect.
Audio is both great and not so great. Audio is presented in English 2.0 Dolby Digital. The audio is incredibly clear considering the accents of those involved. However, it is curious that Spanish was not included as a language option. Most Puerto Ricans are bilingual; however a nod to that would have been appreciated. Also, there are Spanish subtitles but no English subs. I did understand 98% of what was said and I consider that very good given my hearing and my non Puerto-Rican culture. However, everybody else might not be so fortunate.
Automatic Trailers: Penelope, After the Wedding, Family Law and princesas. Outside of that, the only other extra was the original trailer to the documentary. A commentary would probably have been redundant but maybe a small 22 minute piece that just focused on history of the Puerto Rico people and the United States would have added depth to this dvd.
I was a little tentative when I got this dvd. Sure I’m Caucasian as can be, but I’ve had friends and girlfriends from all walks of life. However, Rosie Perez isn’t exactly the first person I would want to represent the Puerto Rican culture. But what Rosie does here is takes a very personal look into her own upbringing and Puerto Rican people’s upbringing in dealing with the United States involvement. She does it professionally and with a certain grace and humor. This is Puerto Rican and U.S. History 101 and would be suitable to show in a classroom to young high school students or older learning about the same subjects. (There are a few curse words, but that is the only cautionary part of the documentary). All the people involved with this documentary do a fine job such as Jimmy Smits and Sixto Ramos (cousin of Rosie Perez). The dvd presentation is good but not perfect as explained with the audio choices above. I recommend this as an educational piece but if you are interested following the presentation of this documentary, please take the opportunity to learn more about the culture and its people. Puerto Rican people are a proud and wonderful society. They have endured much and deserve our eternal respect.
Special Features List
- Automatic Trailers (4)
- Original Trailer