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Quinceañera is a Good Movie About Los Angeles

September 1st, 2009 | 1 min read

By Jeremy Mann

If you are full deep yearning, and I hope you are, it's fair to assume you have two dogmas regarding cities. (Those with very deep yearning won’t bring it up, but they actually have two “dogmata”) These axioms help inform all other urban value judgments. They are:

#1. New York is good.

#2. Los Angeles is bad.

Armed with these two dogmas, its easy to deduce what to wear, how to get around, who to be friends with, what to live in, and which expressions should adorn your countenance. Cardigans, subways, Puerto Ricans, lofts, and angst are sexy, being characteristic of New York. I’ll leave you to fill in rest regarding velour, city buses, Mexicans, ramblers, and stupefaction.

Given your yearning, I don’t need to tell you about a recent movie that makes Los Angeles a look a little less bad. In light of that film, however, I thought I’d recommend another made in Los Angeles.

Quinceañera, released in 2006, tells the story of Magdalena, a pregnant 15-year-old; Carlos, a gay cholo; and Tio Tomás, a 70-year-old street vendor. I was interested in watching it because it was filmed in the neighborhood I live in and love, Echo Park, by two men from the neighborhood. Even with only a $400,000 budget, the film did remarkably well at Sundance, I assume because it is a moving story told plainly.

Quinceañera portrays the interaction between two groups that are interacting more and more in the hearts of our nation’s cities: low-income minorities and white artists/homosexuals. The movie doesn’t demonize anyone or exposit the many concerns of gentrification; it also doesn’t try too hard or try hard at trying to look like it’s not trying too hard, both rare among indie movies.
So if you live in Los Angeles or have lived in Los Angeles, I recommend you don’t miss this charming film that is local but delightfully absent that star of most of our local films: the LAPD. Watch it in a velour tracksuit.