It is surprising that El Superstar is director Amy French’s first feature film. This mockumentary is cast in the fashion of predecessor films (in spirit) like This Is Spinal Tap or A Mighty Wind. Juan Frances (John French, Amy’s brother) was abandoned by eir real parents in Beverly Hills, but was given a second shot at life through the caring arms of eir nanny (Lupe Ontiveros, As Good As It Gets) and eir husband (Danny Trejo). Being inculcated in Latino mores, music, and style, Juan Frances becomes a performer in the same fashion as those ey watched in eir formative years. Grinding out performances in local clubs, it is only a matter of time before ey is given a chance to succeed. Enter a promoter (played here by David Franco), who sees dollar signs as Frances’ agent.
Cinema Libre has done well in providing a sharp video transfer of El Superstar, linking the video to a similarly-strong audio track. This results in viewers being able to properly take in the number of musical cuts in a way that only cinema viewers were originally able. The characterization of the different actors seems a little archetypic but calls forth a much earlier drama and comedy tradition, while the humor works well despite typically acting at a low-brow fashion (the number of mentions of CACA, or Chiropractic Aid for Chicano Agriculturalists).
Amy French is still a new force in cinema, and while this film does well in telling the story and throwing in a number of laughs along the way, I would like to see how eir evolves in the course of the next few decades. Pick up El Superstar today if you like musical mocumentaries.
El Superstar: The Unlikely Rise of Juan Frances (DVD) / 2011 Cinema Libre / http://www.cinemalibrestudio.com