Well made for a relatively small and self-selecting audience

by Martin Hafer

Mala Mala is not the sort of film I usually watch due to the subject matter, though I am a huge fan of documentaries. This isn’t a complaint…and I did enjoy the film. But I mention this because the target audience for the film is probably the LGBT community and because of that, it probably will have a more limited audience than a typical documentary.

Filmmakers Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles interviewed a variety of folks who represent a wide spectrum within the transgender spectrum in Puerto Rico. The theme of the film seems to be the great variety within this group–different motivations, different lifestyles and different ways they see themselves. They are not a monolithic group with one goal and one lifestyle. A few are very flamboyant while others do their best to blend in with society and lead ordinary lives. But the one thing they all have in common is that they want their rights–the right to hold down jobs and to have the same rights before the law as anyone else. Much of the latter portion of the movie is about an effort by a grassroots group to gain these legal rights–and to make Puerto Rico the most liberal and accepting place in the United States for the transgender community.

Mala Mala
Directed by
Antonio Santini, Dan Sickles
Jason Carrión, Paxx Moll, Alberic Prados
Release Date
1 July 2015
Martin’s Grade: A

The film has a lot going for it. It does a good job humanizing the interviewees without whitewashing them or making them appear noble–and I credit Santini and Sickles for this. They also have created a very professional film that makes quite the emotional impact on the viewers and it has some excellent points to make. However, it isn’t at all surprising that portions of the film are very adult and explicit. This is not a film you’d show your kids and I am sure some of it is bound to offend some viewers’ sensibilities. Many might be very accepting of the LGBT community while still not wanting to see some of the more graphic scenes in the documentary. None of this is meant as a critique–it’s more to let the viewer know so they can make an informed decision as to whether or not to watch the film.