By: Steve V. Rodriguez
Sambá is a multi-layered story about redemption told through an underdog boxing film motif. Through well developed characters against an appealing Dominican Republic backdrop, the viewer is drawn into the well crafted script penned by lead actor, Ettore D’Alessandro and Carolina Encarnacion.
After spending 15 years behind bars for an unrevealed crime, Cisco (Algenis Perez Soto) returns home to the Dominican Republic to try and reignite his life. His mother shows an initial joy of her son’s return which quickly fades away as she drowns in her alcoholism. Cisco is forced to live with his mother and his younger
brother who wants nothing to do with Cisco, and is on his own fast track to no good. After trying to get a job with a prison record, Cisco tries his hand at an underground street alley fight. Using his boxing skills he acquired in prison, he meets Nichi who needs a quick detour of his own before his world crumbles in this bleak pocket of the world.
The two unite as coach and boxer. Nichi convinces Luna (Laura Gomez), who runs the legitimate boxing circuit to allow Cisco to fight in an upcoming match. Is the ultimate match enough to bring these frayed and connected lives together once and for all?
Fans of “Orange is the New Black” will revel in the casting of Laura Gomez who is unrecognizable, yet familiar throughout the film. Her hard beauty, tough exterior and intensity she brings to the film are mesmerizing and just the right amount of femininity the film’s recipe needs. Ettore D’Alessandro not only understands the complexity of playing a brooding and defeated character, as he co-wrote the script, but somehow fuses an unrelentingly pride to his down and out character. Algenis Perez Soto says more with his eyes and subtlety than with words which proves extremely effective against this volatile backdrop.
“Sambá” is one of those intense films that quickly draws the viewer into a world many will find unfamiliar, but it’s through well developed and appealing characters that audiences will relate to, and ultimately cheer along with on the sidelines.