Sundance 2020: La Leyenda Negra

Monica Betancourt and Kailei Lopez appear in La Leyenda Negra by Patricia Vidal Delgado, an official selection of the NEXT program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Matt Maio.

La Leyenda Negra is the black-and-white narrative feature selected for Sundance that the current presidential administration doesn’t want you to see.

It’s one thing for Aleteia (Monica Betancourt) to deal with her fellow classmates.  Dealing with the new immigration regulations brings about an entirely different reality.  This is certainly reality that the large majority of Americans will never truly understand.  It’s an unfortunate case.  We can always watch a film but we’ll probably never be able to see it through their lens.  No matter how hard we try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, this is almost always the case.

Writer-director Patricia Vidal Delgado takes us inside the borders of Compton.  To be more precise, she draws upon the real-life experiences of Compton High School students.  On top of this, there is also her boyfriend’s experiences.  It’s a film that is seemingly personal for all involved.  Monica Betancourt is a first-time actress and a Compton graduate.

Imagine living in America and never knowing if you’ll be detained and deported the next day.  This is the living reality for thousands living in the United States.  One could have Temporary Protected Status and see it revoked the very next day.  This film displays the stressful conditions that most Americans don’t see.

Listen, it’s certainly not uncommon for Sundance to select political films.  Most of the the time, the political films fall under the documentary category.  Every now and then, we’ll get a narrative feature that blows us away.  Usually, these films are in the dramatic competition or premiere categories.  The NEXT program certainly features a gem or two.  La Leyenda Negra is the type of film that SHOULD inspire us when it comes to voting.  Think about the students in this film!  I don’t wish to tell people how to vote but this is one of those films that makes you think twice.  While it’s true that there is a system in place, it’s not always easy to play by the rules.  There must be exceptions.

Don’t let the black-and-white cinematography dissuade you from seeing this film.  First time actors Monica Betancourt and Kailei Lopez deliver strong performances in Patricia Vidal Delgado’s debut feature.  More importantly, this film couldn’t be more important and timely.  Children get locked up in cages for the simple crime of not having been born in America.  If this doesn’t get you to experience some empathy, I don’t know what will.

La Leyenda Negra is a stark reminder that all art is political–never forget that.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER:  Patricia Vidal Delgado
CAST:  Monica Betancourt, Kailei Lopez, Irlanda Moreno, Justin Avila, Sammy Flores, Juan Reynoso

La Leyenda Negra holds its world premiere during the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the NEXT program. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.