Alejandra Santos is about to turn 15 years old. She is becoming a woman and so it is time for her coming of age ceremony, the Quinceanera, a Latin American tradition. Alejandra is troubled though because her father is nowhere to be found as the ceremony is about to begin and they recently had a fight. To make matters worse, gangster Chavo Del Rio shows up looking for something of his, though nobody at the party knows what. Events turn deadly and soon Alejandra and her abuela (grandmother) find themselves in a deadly battle with the Del Rio family.
Welcome to Luchagore’s new web series La Quinceanera, a seven part series developed by Stage 13, a new online content developer for Warner Bros. The series will air next year but we got the world premiere at Morbido this past weekend.
For the strongly independent and industrious Luchagore team this is their first foray into the studio system, creating web content from an original script by regular Shane McKenzie. La Quinceanera was originally planned for eight episodes but they will only release the first seven. That way it leaves the story of the Santos ladies open ended and fingers crossed it leads to a second season. All seven mini episodes were played out to Morbido audiences in a single run.
I am going to yank the band aid off of this project right away. Rather than be disappointed just here me out first. La Quinceanera is a mixed bag of wins and losses. This is not excessive calorie Luchagore, this is Luchagore LITE. There are hints of their cinematic magic in there; we get rare glimpses of the vivid colors in the backdrop and Luke Bramley’s creative photography sometimes show up. Bramley’s work appears to suffer the most here as we know what he is capable of doing with a camera and that is a big loss for creativity everywhere.
There are hints of classic ‘Luchagore y Shane McKenzie’ in the dialogue as well, the laces of dark humor in the exchanges that the grandmother has with villains through each episode are awesome. Even some of the episode titles elicited chuckles before each episode continued.
So what do we get if it’s not full on Luchagore? We still get a web series featuring awesome kick ass ladies like Alejandra (Mia Xitlali) and her Abuela (Gabriela Reynsoso). Counter to their awesomeness are the evil ladies of the Del Rio family, Beatriz (Veronica Diaz) and the Del Rio matriarch, Bertila (Bertila Damas). Luchagore regular Mathias Retamal is their brother/son Chavo and he chews the scenery with mucho gusto but ultimately La Quinceanera is all about the ladies. They are indeed a reflection of series director Gigi Saul Guerrero, the fierce Mexican Canadian face of Luchagore.
What I was not expecting was the level of emotional punch in the series. This is a level of storytelling that we have not seen from the Luchagore team before and I am so proud of the gang for showing us how well they can bring the emotional aspect of storytelling to their repertoire.
So it turns out that I’m not so much angry, as I am disappointed.
Long, long ago Luchagore’s Gigi Saul Guerrero excitedly told me that the team had been approached to create an original content program. That was all I could get out of her at the time. It was an ultra top secret project and all she told me was the studio that was involved. This was it. I am sure everyone who knew the gang and heard this news, as cryptic as it was, this was their first big opportunity to show the rest of the World what the Luchagore team could do. Their shot. Their first opportunity into the big leagues. Moving up to a bigger sandbox and have to resources they need to take Luchagore to that next level.
What is baffling to us is why WB and Stage 13 would recognize a group that stands out from the crowd only to make them go along with it? Luchagore fans may be disappointed with the end result but blame does not lay with those kids, our friends.
My challenge to Stage 13 and WB now is to let these kids do what they do best. Let them be the Luchagore team that we have come to know and love. Take the shackles off of them and them run free in their brand, a world of kaleidoscopes of colorful cinema. Use that spectrum of talent that has won them fans and awards from all over the World. Give them a second season and let them back into their own sandbox, but with your sandcastle toys.