Juan Carlos Valdivia's Southern District (Zona Sur), which won Sundance awards for directing and screenwriting, opens at the Coral Gables Art Cinema tonight. It's is a subtle film that comments on Bolivia's dissolving upper class seen through the seemingly scattered lives of an affluent La Paz family. Matriarch Carola is beset with money problems, while trying to keep up appearances and maintain control over her three children who live with her in their upper class abode-tile-roofed multistory home in the "Zona Sur (Southern District)" suburb.
Her oversexed eldest son, Patricio, drinks too much and gambles
away his car. Daughter Bernarda is constantly clashing with her mother's
unwavering desire to see her grow into and become more a part of the
bourgeoisie. And little Andres finds himself on the rooftop or tree
house playing with his imaginary friend, "Spielberg." Meanwhile, butler
Wilson, who is an Aymara Indian, keeps things together with his resolute
service to his employer.
It's a banal existence the divorced Carola has constructed for herself and her children. She uses her home to ostensibly shield them from the outside world, while trying to maintain an air of wealth and class, all while not being able to pay the help their wages. A spoiled person herself, you see the overindulgence reflected in her kids -- most notably in Patricio, who lives life oblivious to consequences. And while she treats butler Wilson with contempt, you know (and eventually see) that without him, her world caves in. Carola must eventually deal with letting go. Her two elder children are at college age, she's growing older and her debt is mounting. She realizes the house she's made her sanctuary from the outside world is not truly a home. In time, the line that once divided Carola's family from their Aymara native servants begins to blur.