Sundance 2023: Rotting in the Sun, Jamojaya, Cassandro | Festivals & Awards

In other stunning moments, Chon is preternaturally in tune with the calming gift of nature, just like Joyo. Unru’s performance is a gentle marvel and is genuinely sweet each time he refuses the son’s request to leave, which could easily be annoying with a different actor’s approach. Some of his heartbreaking moments involve him doing his favorite morning ritual of standing on the beach and laughing, throwing his arms in the air. “Jamojaya” has an array of big emotions, and Unru brings a natural power to all of them. 

It’s important how the drama here never feels easy despite being so restrained. “Jamojaya” is not only about the father aching for the love of his son; his son also has a great deal of loyalty that pains him, too. Both James and Joyo are at odds with this environment, and Chon’s direction makes every bit of this marvelous story deeply felt. Their bond is everything, and it means so much when James finally decides what to do with his dad. 

Gael García Bernal gives one of his most vibrant performances in director Roger Ross Williams’ “Cassandro,” playing a real-life Lucha Libre wrestler who challenged a “tradition” about exoticos in the ring. Usually, people like his character Saúl Armendáriz are meant to lose and be beaten up, often to audience chants of homophobic slurs. Saúl asks why it can’t happen the other way. The world of these masked men battling in a wrestling ring, with one person forced to be lesser, makes for a powerful microcosm in this story about changing harmful cycles.

Saúl Armendáriz created a Lucha Libre sensation with his powerful and flamboyant character Cassandro, and this movie tells the emotional journey behind that ascendance with a great deal of heart. It’s not only about Saúl but the people in his corner, like his trainer (Roberta Colindrez) and his mother (Perla De La Rosa). Bernal’s performance is the film’s sweet core, his warm smile never hinting at ignorance but a certainty that his pride is greater than hate. 

But the script by co-writers Williams and David Teague is a little less stable when it comes to charting how Saúl’s Cassandro became so popular. For example, it undersells one pivotal moment that should be bigger when the crowd rooting against Cassandro decides that they want to now cheer him on. And a later scene, in which Cassandro is interviewed by a former competitor about his career, feels tacked on. 

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