One of today’s new releases is a fascinating little indie flick from writer/director Jim Mendiola. Mendiola, a journalist, political activist and documentarian from San Antonio, was awarded a Rockefeller Intercultural Media Fellowship for his film AN AMERICAN ARTIST. He has won numerous awards at festivals all over North America for his short film PRETTY VACANT. Mendiola then set his sights on feature films, and his first outing COME AND TAKE IT DAY, was immediately selected for the Sundance Filmmakers Library. Read on to get the lowdown on this excellent new flick… Now MTI and Delta Home Video have released COME AND TAKE IT DAY on DVD and VHS. Admittedly, it is a little rough around the edges, and the low-budget shows in the production values of the film. This is, however, still a dramatic, thoughtful and interesting ride through modern San Antonio’s uneasy TexMex culture, and it’s violent and racially segregated past.DAY follows the day to day life of a pair of Tejano cousins – Jesse and Miguel, ably performed by easily recognizable character actors Jesse Borrego (FAME, MI VIDA LOCA) and Jacob Vargas (CRIMSON TIDE, GET SHORTY TV’s KINGPIN). Jesse is a self-educated scholar, obsessed with uncovering proof of his lineage to the famed Gregorio Cortez. When Jesse discovers a hidden family secret, he enlists Miguel in helping him retrieve long-lost family gold, now buried on a military base.This basic plot framework is fleshed out with sub-plots involving a young waitress at the restaurant where Miguel and Jesse work, as well as the tensions between Jesse and an old friend, who also works at the restaurant. All of these elements are interwoven with heartfelt realism, and a dedication to highlighting the differences between the Tejanos and their white Texan neighbors. There is quite a bit of history of the area to be taken away from the film, and without a doubt, you can sense the pride with which Mendiola carries his own Tejano heritage. Considering the sore lack of Latino films out there, this definitely came as a welcome surprise and a fresh perspective on the “heist” film, the heading of which this technically falls under.The acting is excellent, as is to be expected from two established character actors like Vargas and Borrego. Jesse Borrego, an accomplished stage actor and trained dancer, is now 20 years removed from his breakthrough role on TV’s FAME, and has proven in everything from a bit part in NEW YORK STORIES to parts in LONE STAR and CON AIR as the young drug Prince being reclaimed by his father. In DAY Borrego simmers with anger over his station in life, and over a betrayal that landed him in jail. Jacob Vargas was most recently seen tearing it up as manic psychopath “El Huevudo” on TV’s KINGPIN. Vargas has also starred in memorable roles in TRAFFIC, NEXT FRIDAY, AMERICAN ME, SELENA and as the unfortunate Yayo Portillo in GET SHORTY. Vargas is a talented character actor and comedian, and brings both to the forefront here. He injects Miguel with a likeability and casual attitude that makes him the focal point of every scene he’s in.Something of a throwback to early 90’s indie fare like GAS, FOOD, LODGING, BODIES, REST & MOTION or FLOUNDERING, where dialogue is more important than action or flashiness. There are no prolonged chases, no gunfights and no gratuitous sex. This is a thoughtful film, about realistic people and is presented in a realistic way. It’s the kind of movie that used to incite long conversations over coffee (regular black coffee, not “specialty coffee”) after a viewing at the local arthouse theatre. This is a welcome and refreshing change from all of the flash-in-the-pan, high concept, all-technique, no-substance indies that have been plaguing the industry as of late. COME AND TAKE IT DAY proves that you don’t have to have eight million jump cuts, excessive camera trickery or mindless violence and action to make a good movie.I caught this on a VHS copy, but DVD is also available. Buy it now from AMAZON.COM

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