Miami Film Festival

Miami International Film Festival: A Review of Florence Jaugey's La Yuma

On the surface, this debut feature by writer-director Florence Jaugey is about a girl boxer, Yuma (Alma Blanco), struggling to escape the barrios of Managua. She lives in a concrete-floor shack with her often-absent mother, unemployed pedophilic stepdad, teen junkie brother, and two younger siblings. She loves and protects the children but despises the adults. Meanwhile, outside her home, Yuma's street thug boyfriend, Culebra -- whose name means "snake" -- tries to control her, saying, "Women don't box." But Yuma is wild and tough. She continues training and soon starts an affair with Ernesto, a middle-class journalism student at Universidad Centroamericana.

La Yuma is the first full-length fiction film to emerge from Nicaragua in the past two decades. The problem, though, is that it doesn't dig deeply beneath the surface. Jaugey -- a 50-year-old, French-born but Nicaragua-based filmmaker -- can't decide which story she wants to tell. She fails to fully explore the loaded love triangle of Yuma, Culebra, and Ernesto (or perhaps more important, the triangle of Yuma, Culebra, and boxing). Most of the major characters never evolve beyond mere outlines. And although the film runs only 90 minutes, it becomes entangled in a mess of completely unnecessary subplots and side plots, involving locations such as the circus, a male strip club, and a clothing shop called Ropa USA.

There's a simpler, better movie in there somewhere, especially considering Blanco's exceptional lead performance. But, ultimately, Jaugey was unable to find it.

March 7 at 4 p.m., Regal Cinemas South Beach, 1120 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-674-6766. March 9 at 7 p.m., Tower Theater, 1508 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-642-1264.