Romantico is a feature-length documentary film portrait of two Mexican musicians, Carmelo Muñiz and Arturo Arias. Carmelo and Arturo are two nomadic Mexican troubadours who walk the San Francisco streets from restaurant to restaurant and play from a repertoire of melancholic love songs. Carmelo and Arturo immigrated without documents to the U.S. in order to support their wives and children in Salvatierra, Mexico.

Romantico will be photographed with patient vérité camera work. The gaze of the camera poignantly captures these two men as they play their songs, in direct contrast to the way they are often ignored by their intended audience.

The rhythm of the first section of the film will lull the viewer into Carmelo and Arturo’s world of nocturnal wanderings. And then this mood is gradually punctured as the central dilemma of the film unfolds: These two men, who sing love songs to couples in San Francisco joints are supporting families whom they haven’t seen in many years.

Carmelo’s stay in San Francisco ends abruptly when he learns that his ailing mother has taken a turn for the worse. Upon his return to Mexico, Carmelo sees his family for the first time in many years. But almost as soon as he arrives, he realizes that he must return to San Francisco in order to adequately support them. Once again, the border threatens to separate Carmelo from his wife and children. Indeed, in order to adequately support his family, he must tear himself away from them again.

The structure of Romantico will be dictated by two interwoven threads, which together will bring meaning to the story of Carmelo and Arturo. The two threads are (1) the transitory drama of both characters’ lives, each leaving home for years at a time; and (2) the political/cultural context of the film. Thread 2 (the context) will be seamlessly embedded into Thread 1 (Carmelo and Arturo’s story). This stylistic conceit should illuminate the ways in which the political/cultural backdrop directly impacts Carmelo and Arturo (and by extension, millions of others).

As Romantico progresses, the two threads will become seamlessly intertwined, each one commenting on the next. Through Romantico, you will feel the weight of the American economic presence in Mexico. And you will see how work in the States beckons from thousands of miles away. The film will make clear that Mexican immigrants brave the desert and cross the border because this is the only sensible choice before them. Carmelo and Arturo will become the human faces within the larger drama of conflicting national interests. Gradually, one suspects that the two musicians are struggling to achieve contentment against forces beyond their control.

Romantico is supported by grants from the Sundance Documentary Fund, California Council for the Humanities, the Jerome Foundation, Pacific Pioneer Fund, the Eastman Foundation, and the Fleishhacker Foundation.


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