Human existence is striding a lot easier these days.
A mere hundred years ago, a trip from the Far East to the Americas could take longer than the 16- or 17-hour flight it takes now. Nowadays, though, you can be in Moscow, New York, and Honolulu all in the same 24-hour span (it takes about 10 hours from Moscow to New York and another 10 from New York to Honolulu. We did the math).
With the newfound accessibility, cultures clash on a daily basis as people of different races become acquainted more frequently.
The international premiere of Speechless at this year's Miami International Film Festival explores the realities of this truth through the eyes of directors and screenwriters Ana Sofía Osorio Ruiz and Diego Bustamante.
Much like Chinese Take-Away, an Argentine film that premiered at MIFF last night, Speechless tackles the growing and prevalent issue of Chinese nationals attempting to make their way to the United States through often indigent South and Central American countries.
Raul (Javier Ortiz Vargas) is a struggling artist in Bogota that is using a job at a hardware store to make ends meet when a rather ordinary looking young Chinese girl sitting across the street at a bus stop catches his eye. Lian (Liao Xuan) obviously doesn't fit in with the rest of the residents and looks confused and disoriented, unable to communicate even the simplest terms and distrustful of complete strangers. Raul, we learn thanks to his very talkative and somewhat nosy store manager, is still reeling from a previous relationship with a German girl and longs for the love he once felt.
The young store clerk is the picture of patience, doing what he can to help Lian while also building her trust. We follow the two as they attempt to communicate without knowing each other's respective languages, and learn the universal language of human nature in the process. The viewers themselves feel Raul's struggle intimately, as Speechless puts the audience in the shoes of the protagonist by featuring only Spanish subtitles.
Speechless explores the abstract topics of love and culture shock through language barriers and still manages to keep your attention. The filmmakers make a statement with their uninhibited exploration of what are often sensitive topics. The audience is ultimately taken through a series of emotions, without exhaustion, and emerges with its own understanding of cultural interaction.
Despite its success exploring these topics, however, Speechless fails to match its depth with effective use of cinematographic techniques. We don't get a zoom in when Lian is exploring her own thoughts, and no camera panning as the two walk through the park or towards each other. They may be simple techniques, but used effectively they add to the character of the movie itself.
Though lacking impressive cinematography and short on symbolism where plenty could have been used, Speechless is worth the $12 price of admission.
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There will be an additional screening Saturday, March 10 at Regal South Beach Cinema at 3:30 p.m.