Tag Archives: religion

Military and Religious Dystopia in Mexico’s 2033 (Movie Review)

Pablo orders some Pactia Pop

Mexican science fiction film 2033 is an intriguing glimpse into a dystopian future set in Villaparaíso (Paradiseville), the newly renamed Mexico City.  The Mexican government is a military regime that uses a drug called Tecpanol (and its derivative food product, Pactia) to control the population. Under pressure from corporations and the original coup d’état leader, the ailing PEC, General Jamaro crushes any sort of rebellion coming from religious rebels that are banned from practicing any form of worship.

The movie has a “Gattaca” look with its futuristic buildings and pretty privileged people. In contrast with the Gattaca protagonist, the story is seen form the point of view of a privileged person, Pablo- the closest thing to a son General Jamaro has. Pablo is basically a douchebag that believes in the system, and abuses his power quite dramatically. What will someone who is destined to become a regime commander do when confronted by the religious leader of the rebellion and his father’s secret past?

[SPOILERS!] As you might guess, Pablo will become involved with the “good guys.” However, the way this happens is one of two issues I have with the film. Pablo quickly accepts the rebels in spite of his lifelong indoctrination and hatred of religious fanatics. Also, the rebel priest leader Miguel trusts Pablo far too easily with sensitive missions- why risk telling him so much so soon?  The second issue I have is Pablo’s out-of-the-blue romance with rebel Lucia. It was so out there I could only justify it with “pretty people in peril” syndrome. Still, I think 2033 is a good movie and recommend you check it out. Seriously, there is even a Mexican standoff. [END SPOILERS]

Nerd harassment is alive and well in 2033

2033 is a solid scifi film. It’s definitely set up for a sequel, although no word as to whether this will happen. If you’ve seen it, comment and let me know what you think.

Francisco Laresgoiti directs, Jordi Mariscal wrote the screenplay. The official website is here and their Facebook page is here.

Watch the official trailer below. If you’d like one with English subtitles, click here.

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The Island of Eternal Love by Daína Chaviano (Book Review)

Spanish book cover and front flapBefore reading fantasy novel La Isla de Los Amores Infinitos (available in English as The Island of Eternal Love) the only other Chaviano work I had read was a sci-fi short story about the Immaculate Conception (mentioned in my Cosmos Latinos anthology review). I really enjoyed that story for its irreverent sense of humor. It put the author on the radar for me. The Island of Eternal Love is part of Chaviano’s “The Occult Side of Havana Series” which the author’s website describes:

“In these works Havana is the point of departure for arriving at other universes – fantastic or magical – that lead the characters to unexpected discoveries about themselves. Each novel explores different facets of spirituality: reincarnation, Celtic magic, Spiritism or mediumistic practices, Afro-Cuban cults…”

The Island of Eternal Love is a family saga that includes ghost relatives, fantastical creatures, obscure religious rituals and supernatural abilities. It’s also a great story to learn about Cuban history while being entertained. The novel focuses on three families originally from China, Nigeria, and Spain that end up in Cuba .

The three families are [this section contains spoilers]   :

1. From China: Kiu-fa, husband Síu Mend, son Pag Li. They flee Chinese civil war to Cuba with Síu Mend’s grandfather who lived in Havana’s bustling Chinatown. They used dream interpretation to play the clandestine Chinese Charade lottery.

2. From Spain: Clara, husband Pedro, daughter Ángela. When the women of this superstitious family hit puberty, they are cursed with a mischievous dwarf called Martinico only they can see. Ángela can also see other fantastical entities.

3. From Nigeria: Caridad (African name Kamaria) and Florencio, both emancipated slaves of African mothers and white slave trader fathers that start a business in Havana. Caridad can see ghosts, and her daughter Mercedes falls victim to a demon that completely alters her personality.

English translation cover [END SPOILERS]

The families’ story is told by an old woman (Amalia) to Cecilia, a Cuban woman who left Havana for Miami. She alternately misses Cuba and despises it. Cecilia’s loneliness in her new city makes her visit with the old lady again and again to continue the tale. Cecilia is a reporter investigating claims about a phantom house that appears and disappears in different Miami locations. Only people with the ability to see supernatural phenomena can see it. In general they are reluctant to talk about it, so Cecilia is having a hard time writing the story.

Cecilia isn’t a very likeable character (she gets rather depressing after a while), but she is a smart investigator that is open-minded about the supernatural. The novel constantly switches from Cecilia’s investigation to Amalia’s story. At first I found Cecilia’s phantom house investigation intriguing, but as it went on I wanted to get back to the “good stuff” which to me was the old woman’s story.

The old woman’s tale eventually brings the three families together and along the way explores Cuban political, musical, slave, and ethnic Chinese history. It is also heavy on the religious rituals from all three family cultures and has a subtle sense of humor throughout. I would recommend this book for anyone who likes stories of ghosts and the occult and/or is interested in multi-ethnic Cuban history. Chaviano writes beautifully in Spanish, so I hope this translates well in the English edition.

Check out Daína Chaviano’s official website here. There is also a Facebook fan page and a book trailer for The Island of Eternal Love.

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A Latina in Space: Paula Garcés on Defying Gravity

Astronaut Paula multitasks teaching & annoying her coworkers

Astronaut Paula multitasks teaching with annoying her coworkers

Did you get a chance to watch Defying Gravity this summer on ABC? If not, you missed out on a gem cut short before its time. ABC aired eight episodes of this show and hasn’t decided whether or not to air the remaining five. This is a shame, because while this series is definitely sci-fi and us geeks could revel in its space station beauty and solar system CGI, it also has suspense and romance that could appeal to a wider audience. I’m not sure how well publicized this show was, but considering how I am always on the lookout for new sci-fi shows, Defying Gravity caught me off guard and I didn’t hear about it until a few episodes into the first season.

So here’s the story: It is the year 2052, humans have been to Mars, and the next great multinational exploration mission is aboard spaceship Antares. For six years, it will travel around our solar system visiting several planets for research purposes. I like this premise because it seems realistic that humans will be able to space-travel close to Earth this century (here’s hoping). There is a team of eight astronauts that all have well-hidden emotional baggage, so there is drama amongst the crew and the Mission Control staff back on Earth. The mission itself has its own secrets unbeknownst even to most team members.

Paula Garcés, of Colombian heritage, plays Paula Morales, a former schoolteacher from Texas. She is the payload specialist on the Antares. Fluent in English, Spanish and Ameslan, she is also a shuttle pilot and documents the trip for the whole planet. For example, she carries a video camera around and interviews the other astronauts, then relays the videos to school children. Most of the time she speaks in English, but she also speaks in Spanish making me wonder if she’s talking to English-speaking students studying Spanish, Spanish speaking students studying English, or bilingual students. This may or may not be related to the steady growth of Latino minority groups in the United States. Whatever the reason, it is nice to hear Spanish in space. Never mind that Paula tends to annoy the other astronauts with all her questions.

Paula is very religious and isn’t afraid to display her faith to the crew. She consults her bible whenever she gets stressed out. While the character’s faith is possible, I find it hard to believe it is probable that an astronaut at her level can be so religious.  However, I would let this slide if not for Ajay Sharma, a fellow astronaut from India who is also very religious. They both relate their jobs directly to their faith and destiny. While the one black astronaut transcends ethnic stereotypes, Ajay and Paula unfortunately represent the exotic on the show.  The other characters, white and black, are distinguished by their personalities more than by their religion so it is disappointing how Paula and Ajay are introduced.  I am absolutely not saying that I want no religion or heritage on display and everybody should hide their culture. I am saying that cultural idiosyncrasies shouldn’t be as dominant as it is for these two characters. They are definitely not well-rounded roles. On the bright side, I am grateful that Paula is not the ship’s sex bomb. It is a shame we might not get more episodes because I was beginning to see a glimmer of much needed character development for Paula.

The first eight episodes of Defying Gravity are available on iTunes along with a free preview. They are also available on the ABC and CTV websites. CTV is airing the remaining episodes that ABC can’t decide on showing. As is usual in the case of great shows getting the axe, there is a Save Defying Gravity campaign you can join here and here.

UPDATE: Seems like the show was canceled, but if you’d like some resolution, here is an article interviewing its creator James Parriott.

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