Review of “La aguja/The Needle”


In “La aguja: notable película boricua se presenta en festival de NYC,” Rodrigo López Chávez reviews La aguja [The Needle], the documentary film by Carmen Oquendo-Villar and José Correa Vigier. As we announced previously, the film will be screened as part of the L.E.S Film Festival on Thursday, June 20, 2013, at 6:00pm, at Sunshine Cinema (143 E. Houston Street) in New York [see Screening in NYC: “La aguja/The Needle”]. Here are a few excerpts with a link to the Spanish-language original below:

[. . .]  Cinema in Puerto Rico has historically been stronger in formats other than the feature film, which fills our imagined cinematic future with dreams of a bygone, golden Hollywood. Along with many Latin American countries, the identity of Puerto Rican cinema has been defined more in terms of those “bastard” cinematic forms: short film and documentary film. In fact, the most notable Puerto Rican feature films in recent years have been documentaries, such as Ejkei; Las carpetas; Una identidad en absurdo, Volumen I; etc. Starting with the DIVEDCO films of the 50s—mostly short or medium-length films—and following with documentaries by directors like Diego de la Texera, Sonia Fritz, Ana María García, Juan Carlos García, and Karen Rossi, among many others, Puerto Rico has generated a wealth of film and television products in this format, as the island’s most consistent talents have honed their skills.

An adventure called La aguja: [. . .] 2012 presented a climactic moment in Puerto Rican cinema when the short film La aguja (The Needle) was released during the Puerto Rico Queer FilmFest. [. . .] La aguja inserts itself into a unique space within the modest but steady flow of Puerto Rican film history. It is also a highly effective film. As a documentary, it was borne out of an anecdotal fascination with its main subject: José Quiñones, an artist of transvestism who runs a home clinic in Santurce, frequented by many different people for beauty treatments and bodywork. However, through the directors’ camera, the story found a witness willing to do something that we do not often see in the local movie theater: to let the images speak for themselves—to express their own reality, and to tell their own story, at their own pace.

[. . .] In fact, La aguja has no music, and most of its takes are static, as Correa Vigier explains. It has no artificial lighting, but rather, records the basic reality captured by the camera and sound equipment. Nevertheless, the film is not limited to form a collage of images in search of an interpretation; La aguja has a narrative arc that—although it was sought out—was pretty much found along the filmic journey. [. . .] “In that dramatic arc, we sought a common denominator that would be universal: loneliness and the pursuit of happiness through beauty. Those two elements had to be present. There other factors that give life and character to the film, but those two had to be constant.”

Indeed, La aguja is a document in which myriad topics and areas speak to each other and impact those who have the eyes and ears to understand their language. It is a story that mimics life itself in its flux of emotional highs and lows, of truths and deceptions, of anonymity and identity. It focuses on a subject looking for beauty in the artifice of chemical substances and accessories, but it cannot help but reveal its counterpart: the nakedness implied in the process of undressing, of aging, of facing the silences of solitude. The film proposes a cinematic invitation to understand its subjects as part of their environment—Santurce—and to discover that environment through its subjects. It is also the story of the emotional ties that arise from familial rejection and lead to adopted families, as reflected in the relationship between Quiñones and Kelly and Maybelline—two young street prostitutes who find shelter in the home of the artist.

Barring all other explanations, La aguja is a remarkable debut for Correa Vigier and other valuable step in Oquendo-Villar’s trajectory, a film that will inspire much dialogue after its June 20 presentation at the Sunshine Theater in the New York’s Lower East Side.

For full review (in Spanish), see

Ms. Oquendo-Villar has been kind enough to offer Repeating Islands readers a 50% discount on tickets; for tickets (use promo code: needle419), see

“Like” The Needle on Facebook to learn more:

For more information on the festival, see

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