Nueba Yol

on February 14, 1996 by Kim Williamson
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   A Dominican widower, Balbuena (Luisito Marti), decides to leave the economic strictures of island life behind for the streets-are-paved-with-gold promise of the Big Apple in this Spanish-language drama (subtitled "A Funny Way to Say New York"). There, he finds troubled reunion with family members who long ago left the Republic for America; struggles to find employment without a green card; love with another ex-Dominican (Cuban actress Caridad Ravelo); and darker and unwilling involvement with small-time crime. At the film opens, Balbuena's question for himself is, Should I go to New York? As the film progresses, the question to answer becomes, Should I go home? Released last year in the Dominican Republic, where the character of Balbuena (always trying but failing to reach New York) has long been a favorite with TV viewers, "Nueba Yol" had such a strong response it forced American fare like "Pocahontas" and "Batman Forever" off screens. Already platforming in New York and other markets with Hispanic audiences, "Nueba Yol" also has been finding heady patronage stateside. Non-Hispanic moviegoers, however, are more likely to respond lukewarmly. Marti brings a good-heartedness to Balbuena, but the actor lacks the Hollywood charisma to which multiplex (or even most specialized) audiences here are accustomed; filmmaker Angel Muniz keeps his verite drama lively with a mix of humor, romance (none too believable) and suspense, but those contrasting genre elements don't blend well enough to make an effective fiction narrative. Plus, Muniz's camera keeps its distance; even with a limited budget, the use of at least a minimum number of close-ups would allow us to see into the characters. However, "Nueba Yol" (and its early returns) is good enough to serve as the hopeful vanguard for a new Spanglish cinema. Starring Luisito Marti and Caridad Ravelo. Directed, written and produced by Angel Muniz. A Kit Parker release. Drama. Spanish-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 104 min
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