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Kristin in Nicaragua

"La Yuma": movies, news, nationalism

While I was out of town when "La Yuma", the first Nicaraguan full length feature film to be produced in 20 years came out in theaters here, I was able to see it yesterday. The film is the story of a young woman named Yuma who lives in a barrio popular in Managua and struggles to get herself ahead through boxing. Yuma's family life, marked by machismo, an abusive stepfather, an indifferent mother, drug-using brother, and Yuma's loving protection of her two young siblings, is representative of the lives of so many young women in Managua. Her barrio, economically-poor, but rich in color, idiosyncrasy, and people trying to make a living any way they can, is also a reflection of the life in so many working class/poor barrios in Managua. The film starts and ends with baseball - the opening scene a game between the neighborhood gang and police - and the final scene a somewhat unsatisfying close to the film (in my view). Throughout, the film is situated at sites familiar to any Managua audience: the Universidad Centroamericana (where i often work), the "zona viva" in Belo Horizonte, and the city's Municipal Gym, where Yuma trains. It was fun to see the film in a theater here, with everyone talking excitedly about the scenes displayed on the big screen - a certain cause for national pride in a country that hasn't seen itself reflected this way in decades. In fact, in its first weekend in theaters here, La Yuma beat out Iron Man II at the box office, earning news coverage, which noted, "the gringo super production of the man of metal was cast to stones by the little national boxer". In an interview at the opening of the film in Managua, director Florence Jaugey said, (my translation): "i think the film fills a void. People go to the theaters, content, proud of being Nicaraguan, almost grateful to see themselves registered on screen. For us it's a battle won against indifference. We're so happy to see people enjoy the film and take it as their own. It's the best prize we could receive. It was worth the 10 years it took to bring the film to the big screen." Yes, that's right, the film was in production for 10 years before Jaugey could secure the needed financing to finish production and post production. The good news is that with all the hype and momentum surrounding the film, the Nicaraguan National Assembly passed a law to support the national audiovisual arts industry, a bill that had languished for years without support needed for passage. La Yuma has been recognized with prizes at various international film festivals, and I definitely recommend seeing it if it comes to the LA Latino Film Fest or an international film fest near you. If you see it, send me your comments! and if you want to read more from director Jaugey, see a good interview (en español) at: http://cineyvideocentroamericano.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=847:la-yuma-la-lucha-por-contar-historias&catid=19:noticias&Itemid=7

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