When I stumbled upon Aurora Guerrero’s queer coming-of-age story, Mosquita y Mari in 2012, my heart skipped a beat. As a queer Latinx myself, I scrambled to watch it. I may have come for the identity politics, but I stayed for the extraordinary filmmaking.
Mosquita y Mari is the story of two teenage girls, both daughters of immigrants, struggling to deal with the pressures of their lives in Huntington Park, Los Angeles. While Yolanda’s parents push her to perform at school, Marí’s mom relies on her to earn money to make ends meet. After Marí saves Yolanda from being disciplined and getting into trouble with her parents, the two form a bond, and Yolanda commits to helping Marí in school. As the girls continue to get to know each other, both joy and confusion arise when their intimate friendship begins to feel like something more. While the respite from the difficulties of their lives gives them solace, it makes their problems worse, as they begin to neglect their responsibilities in order to spend time together. When pressures mount and their lives and connection become even more complex, their relationship faces new challenges.
Guerrero is a master of “showing, not telling.” Shared headphones and ice cream, bicycle rides and sing-alongs, a lingering shot of hair in the wind or a fan blowing on young Yolanda’s face—these are some of my favorite moments of the film and they reveal so much with little dialogue. The visuals depict an intimate world between these characters and the depth of their emotions is made palpable through the realism with which they approach their new found feelings. It seems that Guerrero is there to capture something that’s hidden from the others, to share something intimate and sacred, something that doesn’t need words.
Mosquita y Mari provides a deep insight into the immigrant and queer experience, an antidote to the villainizing words of politicians. If film is the ultimate “empathy machine”, Guerrero is successful at delivering that, and much more. The film offers something visually masterful and sharply observant, something tender and hopeful, something that, ultimately, illuminates a very human experience of self-discovery and love.
Mosquita y Mari is available for rent and purchase on iTunes, and for DVD purchase on WolfeVideo. Follow Mosquita y Mari on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and the film’s website, and Aurora Guerrero on Twitter.