Sabina Rivas AKA La vida precoz y breve de Sabina Rivas AKA The Precocious and Brief Life of Sabina
R2 - United Kingdom - Simply Media
Review written by and copyright: Matthew Crossman (22nd January 2016).
The Film

The movie opens with a gang initiation in Guatemala. A young man stands amongst a crowd of Mara gang members. To join this gang he must survive a vicious beating from the members of the gang. He is mercilessly pummelled and finally left on the mud banks of a river bleeding profusely. Now we travel to The Tijuanita whore house which specialises in under age girls. The ‘Pearl of the Tijuanita’ is the beautiful Sabina Rivas (Mena Greisy). Sabina may be a prostitute but she is also a good singer and dreams of making her way across the nearby border into Mexico where she hopes to keep on going North, maybe into The United States of America, where she hopes to find her fortune. From time to time the madam of The Tijuanita provides girls for private parties in Mexico. Sabina is sent to one of these parties but she is held at the border by immigration officials and is brutally raped and beaten by one of them. Sabina is returned to The Tijuanita the following day. She is then visited by the young man we saw at the beginning of the film being initiated into the Mara gang. Sabina knows the young man and despite his presence reminding her of the night her Mother and Father were killed, by him, they make love. Afterwards she pleads for him to leave her alone and never see her again. The border official that raped Sabina earlier now sees her again when she crosses the border on her way to another party but he is called away on an urgent matter before he gets a chance to remove her from the bus. He promises to make sure that he sees her on her way back. On her way back Sabina, clearly not wanting to get raped and beaten again, exit’s the bus early and walks back across the border. There she is met by a fellow member of the immigration officer who tells her that she must come back with him so that the rapist can have his way with her again. Sabina fights him off and manages to escape. Later the pair meet up again. If the immigration officer does not return with her then he will be in trouble. Sabina then blackmails him into taking her past the border into Mexico. He leaves her to run a vital errand, promising to return at dawn to complete their journey. When he fails to show she has no choice but to return to Guatemala. However, on the way back to The Tijuanita she is persuaded to come to a refuge by a ferryman. Here she is shown the way that refuges can make it North. As she prepares for this journey the Mara gang show up.

First off, a warning. This is a bleak, dark and harrowing film. Certainly not to be watch if you are in a depressed mood. Pretty much everything about the film screams desperation from the young, under age girls being forced into prostitution, the tattooed gang members of The Mara who beat, rape and kill their fellow countrymen for money, but, it seems for sport, to the corrupt and criminal immigration officers who view any life South of the Mexican border they patrol as worthless. Every character in this film is trying to screw over every other character and our only sympathies lie with Sabina although at the denouement of the film a plot strand is tied together which taints the viewers opinion of Sabina quite dramatically. The acting in the movie is of a good standard. The immigration office Burrona is slimily played by Joaquin Cosio who appeared in the James Bond film ‘Quantum of Solace’ in a similar role and is wonderfully disgusting in this too. The stand out credit goes to Mena Greisy playing in the titular role. Greisy would have been around eighteen years old at the time of the making of the film and it’s a brave part to play. She spends quite a bit of the film either topless or nearly nude and either performing sex acts or being abused. Sabina Riva is not an easy film to watch but it is well directed, well acted and overall a good film about a very dark and disturbing subject.

Video

The film is presented in it’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is anamorphic. I have no qualms to the picture quality at all. Whilst not demo quality the blacks are pretty deep and the sun bleached day time scenes hold up well. The sharpness of the picture is such that in one scene you can clearly see the small, fine hairs on Mena Greisy’s chest above her breasts. In fact the picture is clear enough to add to the disturbing feeling one has when they are told they are watching naked underage girls in a whore house.

Audio

The only option available is the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. This is supplemented with English subtitles for the, mainly, Spanish spoken parts of the film. The soundtrack is very good indeed. The centre speaker is for the dialogue of the film which is crisp and clear. The front left and right speakers handle the sound of the whore house music scenes well without overpowering the spoken parts of the film. The rear speakers come into their own during portions set in the Guatemalan countryside with the constant chirp of insects which sound like the are buzzing around your head. The sub woofer does not have much to do but there are a couple of scenes featuring trains where the distinct rumble of their locomotion across the tracks is portrayed well.

Extras

None.

Overall

Sabina Rivas is a brutal and uncompromising film that made me feel quite uncomfortable many times. There are many scenes of violence and rape and the whole film left me feeling that I could do with a good shower afterwards. However, having said that, please don’t take it as a recommendation not to see the film. It is well acted, scripted and directed but just don’t expect to come away from the film in a good mood. Oh, and don’t except to be booking a holiday to Guatemala any time soon after viewing either.

The Film: B Video: B Audio: B+ Extras: F Overall: B

 


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