SHORT FOCUS 2018 - BEST SHORT: Pa'lante [Kristian Mercado, Puerto Rico/USA, 2018]
Hurricane Maria hit Dominica, the U. S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in 2017, devastating the landscape and causing over three thousand deaths. In light of this terrible tragedy, Hurray for the Riff Raff’s song ‘Pa’lante’, meaning ‘onwards’ or ‘forwards’, is a cry for hope amongst despair. Kristan Mercado’s award-winning video accompanies the song and successfully unites personal and national crises with an emotional gut punch that is almost impossible to attain with headlines and statistics.
As lead singer Alynda Segarra’s heartbreaking vocals ring out, we see the everyday tragedies and triumphs of separated parents Milagros (played by Mela Murder) and Manuel (Kareem Savinon) as they try to get by in post-hurricane Puerto Rico. As well as contending with domestic issues and environmental disasters, this song also broaches issues of immigration and assimilation, and the sense of loss and dehumanisation that comes with living as a marginalised group.
Although this may all sound too overwhelming for an eight-minute music video, the simplicity of the main storyline makes it work. The mind-numbing monotony that Milagros goes through to take care of her children and the frustrations Manuel endures to make ends meet show a family struggling just to survive. Combined with an excerpt from ‘Puerto Rican Obituary’ by Pedro Pietri and scenes of the devastation caused by the hurricane, these simple scenes illuminate a much wider, much more complicated network of issues.
To achieve such emotional heft in a music video is truly admirable and, while most of this is down to the raw vocals and ingenious lyrics of the song, the superb acting of Mela Murder and Kareem Savinon certainly helps.
The song and the video end with defiant hope in the face of hardship. In spite of the film’s focus on Puerto Rico, the determination to keep going is something that anybody can relate to, and it is almost impossible not to be moved and inspired by this story that is well deserving of its awards.
'Pa'Lante' was part of the Official Selection and the winner of the audience-voted 'Best Short' award at Short Focus Film Festival 2018.