Written and Directed by Jen Kleiner, USA, 2007, 23 min
Source: DC Shorts Showcase 1
Afternoon, Mexico, somewhere near the US border; Lucena and her “loving and caring” boyfriend Tomas are planning to run away. Evening, Lucena on her way to out to meet Tomas has an argument with her dad because her clothes are inappropriate. Still evening, the couple meets Robert an American who has fake passports for them; the three cross the border. Morning, Lucena wakes up alone and naked in a dingy room, Tomas’ is nowhere to be found; instead Melinda her “owner” tells Lucena that she paid a lot for her, so she better get to work.
At first glance, the film is set to be yet another American Dream film, pretty-girl-and-loving-boyfriend-live-happily-ever-after-some-difficulties-in-USA. But, we start to get a different idea after Lucena argues with her dad. Things become a little more obvious through the cinematography and one shot specifically. When the trio is crossing the border, Lucena is sitting in the back seat, light is coming through the window-illuminating half of her face and shadows surround her. They get permission to pass and a few shots later we see Tomas gives her a pill. Next thing we know she’s been broken and the darkness that surrounded her in the car has completely fallen on her.
The scenes at the prostitution house/cock fighting range are indeed darker in mood and a little long. The short could, perhaps, be a little shorter and more poignant; maybe is just its theme makes us say here-we-go-again. While it does not give us a new and fresh view about child trafficking and prostitution; it does entice the audience visually and through less expected outcome and twists. Basically there are 3, first and least surprising twist, the already stated fact that Tomas used her. Second, when Lucena escapes from Melinda, she does not find a friendly Latin@ community and stays in the US. Third, she denounces Melinda, and we are left with the question of what would happen to her.
The last shot is of Lucena as she sits across the table from two detectives and the camera slowly zooms in to her. Fade to black, the credits begin to roll, and at the very end appears the AFI logo. Niña Quebrada is Kleiner’s graduate thesis film. It’s like that moment in the movie when Lucena asks a little girl at the prostitution house how is she and she responds 12. We as an audience want to know Lucena’s age but we don’t find that out until she’s at the police station. Personally, I think Niña Quebrada’s script is one of the few good ones in this showcase, and makes me wonder about the festival’s decision not to distinguish between the non-student films and the student ones.