“Casi Divas” uses comedy to make some serious points

Telenovelas rock. They just seem to be so much more soapy and operatic than U.S. serials. Even though I don’t speak much Spanish, I love the over-the-top drama of it all.

That’s why I’m looking forward to seeing Casi Divas, a Mexican film about four women vying to become the next big telenovela star.

Casi Divas is the story of four young women competing for the lead in the movie version of a popular telenovela. The women are from very different backgrounds and each satirizes a stereotype of Mexican society.

Francisca (Maya Zapata) is a shy Indian from Oaxaca.

Ximena (Ana Layevska) is a formerly pudgy rich girl who now is thin but miserable – and really hungry.

Catalina (Diana Garcia) is a troubled factory worker from Ciudad Juárez, where young women disappear with alarming regularity.

Yesenia (Daniela Schmidt) is a flamboyant hairstylist from a poor section of Mexico City.

The women share a dream of changing their lives through fame. And even though the American Idol type pageantry pokes fun at the drama behind the scenes of such contests, the movie tells some important stories in the process. Casi Divas touches on racism, gender identity, body image and the horrors of the sex slave industry.

Director Issa López told Melissa Silverstein of Women & Hollywood why she felt the need to address these issues and how she kept the movie light while making some important points.

From the start, the producer of the film, Gabriel Ripstein, and I realized that if we were going to talk about young women in Mexico, we had to address these huge, vital issues. And in that case, could we bring such serious business to the Mexican middle class, pop consuming culture that goes for Hollywood fare, romantic comedies andtelenovelas ? Because that is your movie ticket buyer in Mexico. Could we make these things the subject of coffee talk? We had to.

The one way to do it, was to make it… entertaining. And engaging. And fun. Without taking the finger out of the wound. The way that I describe this movie, is a cake with a blade inside. It was a constant fear, and a very fine line to tread. So we worked carefully together on the script, on the casting, on the general tone to keep this very fine balance between fun and content.

Here’s the trailer:

 

Casi Divas opened last week in Los Angeles, New York and Miami — the three biggest Latino markets in the U.S. — with hopes that at least a moderate success will pave the way for independent Mexican productions to attract interest from U.S. distributors.

Does Casi Divas spark your interest? Can movies like this succeed in the U.S.? If you’ve seen Casi Divas, what did you think? (Please avoid spoilers in the comments — thanks.)

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