Synopsis by Josh Ralske
Yet another American filmmaker inspired by the storytelling economy of Dogme 95, writer/director Eric Eason shot his feature debut, Manito, on digital video with a tiny budget and cast the film predominantly with first-time actors. Native New Yorker Eason's tale takes place in the Puerto Rican community of Washington Heights. Manny (Leo Minaya) is graduating high school near the top of his class and is headed to Syracuse University on a full scholarship. His family proudly organizes a massive graduation party, paid for by his older brother, Junior (Franky G.). Junior is a habitual womanizer who's done time for dealing drugs, but now he's working as a contractor. He's still hustling -- he falsifies his insurance certificate for a new job and hires illegal Mexican workers off the street -- but he's trying to pull his life together and support his wife, Miriam (Julissa Lopez), and their little boy. But his big celebration for Manny (staged at the famous Jimmy's Bronx Café) does not go smoothly. Their father, Oscar (Manuel Cabral), a reformed crack dealer, tries to participate in the big event, but Junior, still haunted by their ugly past, chases Oscar off, threatening to kill him. Manny has a crush on a sexually mature classmate, Marisol (Jessica Morales), and when he escorts her home from the party, they're accosted on the subway by two hoods who molest Marisol and steal Manny's graduation money. Just when it seems the world might be opening up to them, Manny and Junior find their hopes for the future in jeopardy. Manito won a Special Jury Prize for its ensemble cast at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, and was shown in competition at the 2002 Tribeca Film Festival.
brother, family-abandonment, family-strife, graduation, illegal-alien, Latino/Latina, prison, scholarship