After 15 years, Cisco (Algenis Perez Soto) returns home to the Dominican Republic after doing time in the United States. Confronting reality of his old stomping grounds not being much of a pleasure either, stakes become even greater as he needs to deal with a fragile, alcoholic mother and a younger brother knee-deep in a life of crime. As life’s misfortunes continue to pile up due to his past, the only way for him to bring in steady income is through fighting in the streets. Spotted by Nichi (Ettore D’Alessandro), a former Italian boxing champ who lives within the vicinity, he sees a promising benefit in Cisco and decides to train him. Nichi, having his own issues, sees redemption in both of them, but the road to make it isn’t presented without uneven footing and violent run-ins.
Less is indeed more. In a world of overblown, over-CGI’d and over-exaggerated Hollywood nonsense, SAMBÁ does a fantastic job at soothing its way into one’s psyche and take control by allowing one to gradually immerse itself in a story that although dark and strategically slow, at times its simple and subtle execution presents what the art of film truly is. The cast’s backstories are the film’s backbone. It helped structure each of the character’s forced, eye-opening approach on redemption. And although its non-“Disney-like” ending may rub some the wrong way, I thought it added more to the piece. As a whole, the film’s got an enormous heart that beats to the rhythm of humility.
Grade: A / Genre: International Narrative (Spanish) / Run Time: 1:30
Starring: Algenis Pérez Soto, Ettore D’Alessandro, Laura Gómez, Ricardo A. Toribio
Directed by: Laura Amelia Guzmán, Israel Cárdenas
TFF2017 Festival Screening Info: https://tribecafilm.com/filmguide/samb-2017
© 2017 ECAN Film