Blast Beat deals with immigrant experience to America, highlighting a specific element to the audience: the Columbian American experience. Though the premise is quite familiar, this angle has not been explored in films before. Instead of focusing on the struggles and perils of leaving Columbia, the film offers a very specific story about a family on the lookout for a better home. However, they end up walking into more hardships, which eventually end up being uniquely universal!
Want to know more about Blast Beat? We’ve got you covered!
What Is Blast Beat About?
Directed by Esteban Arango, Blast Beat has been co-written with Erick Castrillon. It is based on a short story of the same name that was made back in 2015. The film centers around two brothers, the artistically-minded and rap enthusiast Mateo (Moises Arias) and metalhead Carly (Mateo Arias). The boys along with their mother Nelly, played by Diane Guerrero, arrive in Atlanta to meet their father, played by Wilmer Valderrama.
They were trying to escape extortion in Bogota, Columbia towards the late nineties. From the moment the film introduces the two brothers, the audience can figure out that the movie is not going to be yet another rags-to-riches story. It also avoids the unfortunate stereotypes that Hollywood movies often bank upon, when it comes to the on-screen portrayal of Columbians.
Blast Beat steers clear of any references to drugs or gangs, but there is an underlying fear of getting involved with the “Lanceros,” an elite anti-guerrilla military group. This can also lead to them being killed in the jungle. On the other hand, Curly is excited about moving to the U.S. since, according to him, this is the place where he can fulfill his dream of working at NASA.
What Makes Blast Beat a Standout Film of Its Genre?
One of the primary reasons Arango wanted to put forth this story for the audience is the defiance of expectations of how Columbians are supposed to look and act in a film. He has himself grown up loving American movies, and so, along with Castrillon, he was keen to tell stories that he himself has experienced.
In a media statement, Esteban Arango expressed that he always attempts to introduce an authentic and truthful lens into such stories since, according to him, only being hyper-specific lends a universal language to movies. Without it, cinema loses its honest origin, and feels “watered down”. He incorporated this sense of authenticity by imbuing the script with real experiences, whether from Arango’s life or friends, family, or acquaintances.
This authenticity and specificity of the story make Blast Beat stand out, as these elements permeate every bit of the movie. In the past, Hollywood has churned out big-budget movies catering to an under-represented section, including the likes of Crazy Rich Asians and Raya and the Last Dragon. However, these movies have borrowed from several cultures without delving deep into any specific culture or country. No wonder, such films lack depth in their representation.
The Immigrant Experience Integrated Through Subtle Elements
Unlike most stories about immigration, which tend to group all Latin American countries together and only vaguely allude to the origin of the characters, Blast Beat gives Mateo and Carly a specific and rich texture in the way they speak. They casually drop words like “cucho,” “parce,” and “paila” whenever they’re talking Spanish. In fact, this is one of the very few movies that make “perreo” part of its plot. Though Carly and Mateo have majorly spoken Spanish in the film, they also speak English fluently, which makes this one of the rare movies about Latinx immigrants without focusing on ESL struggles.
The best part is that the film’s authenticity and rawness are not confined to the part set in Columbia but extend to when the family reunites in America. It serves as a poignant commentary on the American Dream, harping on the challenges of assimilating in a strange place that is not very welcoming to outsiders.
An All-Pervasive Portrayal of the Immigrant Experience
As soon as the family arrives in Atlanta and the father picks them up, both the script and the camera of the film conspire to make you feel the palpable emotional rift in the family even if they are in denial. Blast Beat subtly portrays the devastating impact of the time the family spent apart. The film builds this impact slowly until it reaches a climax of sorts. Thus, it manages to perfectly capture the emotional distance that many immigrant families have to confront where one parent emigrates, and the family is left to deal with a gnawing sense of separation for years.
Valderrama has officially affirmed that the father character suffers from shame when they get home and realize that there was a gap between what he had told them or what they had expected and what they eventually found. Even beyond the home, we see Mateo and Carly face continuous xenophobia and racism at school. Arango went on record to say that the struggle of making it in the U.S. as an immigrant is not an oft-referred subject. In its own way, the movie tries to send out the message that the American Dream is real, but not the only way.
One can go back and do much better than the ones who stayed back. Contrary to the popular notion, not getting to stay there is not a kind of defeat, implying that you couldn’t make it.
Final World on Blast Beat
As a film, Blast Beat not only revolutionizes the immigrant story but also serves to show the importance of telling these stories from a different angle, with different people holding the reins. The movie is messy, just in the right way, since immigration is no less messy. It presents an equally loving and critical perspective for both the homes, without being afraid of showing the good and the bad alike!