The first voiceover is the story that 10-year-old Cecilia (Johanna Trujillo, in a spellbinding performance) whispers to herself and to the old man seated within a snow globe, her most valued possession. Sent from Mexico across the border to allegedly meet a father who never shows up to claim her, Cecilia is left to fend for herself. Withdrawn and sullen, she negotiates her compromised existence with an imaginative, interior life that informs and motivates her survival. She speaks only to the old man in the snow globe who, oddly enough, is a sailor. Why should a sailor be in a snow storm? And why should that snow storm be carried around in a desert? These are facts incidental to Cecilia's world and the movie starts us out in that snow storm to signal that her inner life is the real story.
Roberto 'Sanz' Sanchez) who left his wife and children behind in his native Cuba in hopes of securing a better life for them in the U.S. He clings to the belief that he has done the right thing, even as time steals any semblance of certainty from him. He survives as a brasero working odd jobs and by managing a holding house for illegal aliens, who he sees as "hurt animals" in his care, especially Cecilia who touches his heart in unexpected ways and who he affectionately nicknames "kitten." She is, indeed, at times, as feral as a cat.
The third voiceover is brief and epistolary, but instrumental in bringing the story to its conclusion. It belongs to Francisco's wife who he has left behind in Havana, who cautions that his dreams for a better life have robbed them of the life they could have shared.
Between these three voices Mike Ott creates a compelling portrait of displaced souls lonely for family and suggests that where one is lost another can be found. Mike Gioulakis's light-saturated and flaring camera work softly melds landscape with inscape, reading hopeful lyricism into the harshest of realities. María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir's score accentuates a spiritual quest for resolution with the buzzing drone of desert heat.
Benjamin Morgan's line-up for this year's Treefort Film Festival is strong, but I would say that without question Lake Los Angeles is the film that should not be missed. Boise is lucky, indeed, to be added to the film's robust film festival trajectory, where it has garnered favorable reviews and multiple awards on the circuit, including Best Feature Film, Best Actor and Best Cinematography at the Las Vegas International Film Festival, Best Actress at the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest, Best Narrative Feature at Mexico's Festival Sayulita, Best Feature Film at the Urbanworld Film Festival, Best Cinematography at the Bend Film Festival, and the Someone to Watch Award for Mike Ott at the Cleveland International Film Festival. Lake Los Angeles was also awarded $40,000 in post-production funds from the US-in-Progress organization in Wroclaw Poland.
Lake Los Angeles screens at 8:00PM on Saturday, March 28, 2015 at The Flicks and will be followed by a Q&A session with producer Alex Gioulakis and DP Mike Gioulakis.