Depicting the horrors of illegally crossing the U.S. border so starkly that even Lou Dobbs might shed a tear, Paraíso Travel plays its immigrant song with only one chord.
Based on a 2001 novel by Jorge Franco Ramos, who co-wrote the screenplay, Simon Brand’s second film tidily categorizes most of its women characters as whores or mothers, and sometimes both.
Teen temptress Reina (Angelica Blandon) convinces boyfriend Marlon (Aldemar Correa) to leave his comfortable life in Medellín, Colombia, and make the trek with her to New York, where he’ll be rewarded with her virginity.
They’re separated in Brooklyn; Marlon ends up in Jackson Heights—desperate to be reunited with his queen as he cleans urinals—has his manhood insulted by strippers from back home, and shares a squat with John Leguizamo (who also co-produced) as a stuttering s/m impresario.
No cliché about journeying or ironic use of “paradise” goes unused; when Marlon arrives in Atlanta for his rain-soaked cathartic moment, the pitch of the melodrama is so deafeningly high that only employees at nearby Tyler Perry Studios could possibly hear it.
Those who make it to the finale will be rewarded with a gorgeous end-credit sequence. Everything else is paraíso lost.
The film has won 14 national and international awards, including several audience awards at film fests in Latin America and Spain and the Jury Award at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.