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Pedro: The Movie – Film Review

April 9, 2009

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Pedro Zamora died at my age from complications of AIDS in 1994; he was only 22 years old.  He contracted HIV at the age of 17 while living in Miami, Florida. He auditioned for the Real World in 1994 and made the cast. Pedro is based on the early reality television star’s experience on the Real World and the height of his public exposure. He even gained the support of then-president Bill Clinton. Remarkably, it’s been almost 15 years since he passed away.

The ’90s was a different world. Sex education was becoming household talk, and homosexuality was working its way well into a status of familiarity in the mainstream. When MTV cast a young HIV positive Cuban-American  gay man, it broke grounds for reality television.

The film depicts Pedro’s feud with Real World: San Francisco housemate, Puck.  It also shows how he grew to have a close relationship with friendlier housemates, Pam and Judd. At times it seems as if the pacing of the film is off, but the flashbacks to his childhood in Cuba and his upbringing in Miami helps provide some clarity.

Experimental camera angles and certain transitional shots makes the film visually intriguing. Also noteworthy is how sometimes the producers and cameramen on the Real World attempted to almost script “reality”-  such as in one scene in which Pedro and housemate Rachel halt their argument as they wait for a cameraman to change his tape. I thought it was a little brave of MTV to tell on itself, in a way. The film also didn’t shy away from some of the drama in the aftermath of the Real World production such as when Pedro’s partner Sean clashed with his family.

I’ve heard some complaints about the acting. Honestly, I think some people opinions on films are as useful as a third elbow. Not everyone can properly review or critique a film. The acting was not “bad,” but perhaps boarderline mediocre. The actors were convincing enough to keep the audience drawn into the story. The best actor of the film, however, was Justina Machado, who played Pedro’s older sister, Mily. Machado, well known for her role as Vanessa from HBO’s Six Feet Under, eclipsed the lead actor Alex Loynaz, who portrayed Pedro. She brought her acting skills to the table and delivered.

The most touching part of the movie was the end when updates on the charcters was given alongside real-life footage from The Real World. A center-piece for the film seems to be Pedro and Sean’s televised commitment ceremony. The juxtaposition of Pedro’s death to his mother’s death was especially moving, and showed strength in the scriptwriting.

Pedro touched many people as a HIV/AIDS educator and as a television personality that perhaps many gay young gay men wouldn’t have been able to identify with publically, if he had not put his life out on display to help others. Pedro passed away at a young age, yet was so bold and so brave and didn’t let his disease stop him from trying to make a difference in at least one person’s life. The film is not a masterpiece, but is a nice compliment to his legacy and one that will be appreciated by a new generation of Real Worlders and future generations to come.

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