Sexual Dependency

A series of artily risque underwear ads connect co-writer-director Rodrigo Bellott's five crisscrossing tales of sexual anxiety and violence in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and Ithaca, New York, shot on digital video and almost entirely in split screen. Impoverished Santa Cruz schoolgirl Jessica (Alexandra Aponte) is bullied by her macho father (Arturo Lora) and...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A series of artily risque underwear ads connect co-writer-director Rodrigo Bellott's five crisscrossing tales of sexual anxiety and violence in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and Ithaca, New York, shot on digital video and almost entirely in split screen. Impoverished Santa Cruz schoolgirl Jessica (Alexandra Aponte) is bullied by her macho father (Arturo Lora) and brother (Javier Yabeta) and taken advantage of by her date to her friend Isabel's (Maria Elva Saucedo) 15th birthday party. Jessica crosses paths with wealthy model Love (Liv Fruyano), whose jealous, narcissistic boyfriend, Choco (Jorge Antonio Saavedra), is leaving for the U.S. the next day to study civil engineering at Ithaca College. All their paths, in turn, intersect with that of Colombian teenager Sebastian (Roberto Urbina), in town to visit his filthy-rich cousin, Fabian (Rodrigo Mendez-Roca). Fabian and his friends take Sebastian to a popular disco, but Sebastian is stranded when Fabian leaves with a girl and the rest of the gang take it upon themselves to have Sebastian deflowered by a prostitute before the evening is over. Choco arrives at Ithaca to find the cachet and privileges he enjoyed in Santa Cruz evaporated: In America he's just another guy with an accent. Haitian-born Ithaca student Adinah (Ronica V. Reddick) relates the story of her long battle with self-hatred and her sexual awakening, while closeted football player Tyler (Matthew Guida), who models for RIGO BoSD (including the billboard that looms over downtown Santa Cruz), is increasingly unhappy with the division between his public persona and his private life. The film builds to a brutal conclusion and finds all the principle characters physically and emotionally bruised by the disparity between slickly manufactured images of sensual freedom and the reality of their own painful experiences. Bellott, an Ithaca graduate, created the fake clothing brand RIGO BoSD as part of an art project exploring the commercial manipulation of erotic images, then wove it through these disturbing stories developed from interviews he conducted with hundreds of teenagers. Ambitious, highly politicized and ultimately surprisingly affecting, this clever, nervy drama dips deeply into the works of photographer Nan Goldin (which includes "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency), playwright Ntozake Shange and novelist Toni Morrison, but its power lies in the intense, subtle performances of the ensemble cast and Bellott's ability to keep the tangled narrative threads from becoming a knotted mess. (In English and subtitled Spanish)

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A series of artily risque underwear ads connect co-writer-director Rodrigo Bellott's five crisscrossing tales of sexual anxiety and violence in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and Ithaca, New York, shot on digital video and almost entirely in split screen. Impoverish… (more)

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