Knight at the Movies Archives
An earnest, well meant biopic, an earnest, well meant behind the scenes theatre documentary
Pedro, which debuts tonight Wednesday, April 1st on MTV relates the meteoric rise to public prominence and early death of AIDS
activist and reality sensation Pedro Zamora. By the time Zamora came to public attention when he appeared on MTV’s “Real World”
reality program in 1994 he had already been battling AIDS for five years (since contracting the HIV virus at 17). Once the program
began airing Zamora with his smoldering dark looks, quiet dignity and determination to educate others around him about his
disease became a touchstone for a young generation that had missed the first wave of the pandemic. Sadly, the day after the final
episode of the show aired Zamora passed away at the shockingly young age of 22.
The movie is an earnest effort with an intense leading performance from handsome newcomer Alex Loynaz in the leading role and a
nice supporting turn by Justina Machado playing Zamora’s feisty but loving sister Mily. The film is told in flashback, interspersed with
black and white talking head interviews and quickly sketches out the details of Zamora’s life and transition from Cuban immigrant to
an unapologetic AIDS activist. Though the film recreates familiar seminal moments in Zamora’s life – his confrontations with the
obnoxious “Reality World” housemate Puck and his commitment ceremony on camera with his boyfriend Sean (played by DaJuan
Johnson), etc. – it’s the more intimate moments that resonate like Zamora and family watching the commitment ceremony on
television with the father finally accepting him.
Pedro certainly has an admirable gay pedigree with a script by Milk Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black and it was executive produced by
the professional and personal team of Richard Glatzer (who plays Zamora’s physician) and Wash Westmoreland, the winning duo
responsible for Quinceanera. President Bill Clinton adds more gravitas to the production by introducing the movie. Without a doubt
it's an inspiring story but it still has a bit of the “after school special” to it and Black’s script though respectful is a tad by the
numbers. There are brief hints about an unexplored duality to Zamora’s personality in Black’s script with his insistence on having
the cameras film everything no matter the intimacy of the moment but mostly he comes off as a literal saint.
Pedro, sober minded and literal to a fault, isn’t exactly the greatest biopic you’ll ever see but it’s still laudatory that the movie got
made and 15 years after Zamora’s death it’s a needed reminder that the AIDS crisis is still very much alive.
When Meryl Streep returned to the stage in 2006 in New York to star in gay playwright Tony Kushner’s English adaptation of Brecht’s
“Mother Courage” – one of theatre’s most strenuous tests of an actress’s endurance she allowed filmmaker John Walter to film her
rehearsal process. Theatre of War, his documentary of the experience is a complicated film that gives us a tantalizing peek at
Streep’s process, a biography of Brecht and the original 1949 production starring his wife Helene Weigel (of which we see rare
glimpses). Walter links these productions with lots of anti-war ruminations wedged into the middle of the film which eventually fall
on deaf ears: the viewer wants to get back to Streep and failing that, Heigel. “I never let anybody see process. Because process is
clunky; looks like bad acting,” Streep comments and she was obviously right to limit the amount of rehearsals Walter was allowed to
attend. Tantalizing as the idea is, it’s not until we see full tilt Streep mesmerizing in the part that the film truly catches fire.
Theater of War, which is getting it’s Chicago premiere at Facets Multimedia beginning this Friday, April 3rd, is filled with powerful
moments but reaches its emotional peak when Streep performs a devastating lullaby to her dead son. “It all comes down to a
mother standing over her dead child asking why?” Streep has commented earlier in the film and once again she’s right on the
Pedro-Theater of War
Expanded Edition of 4-1-09 Windy City Times KATM Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.