KAREN CRIES ON THE BUS - Colombian Cinema On DemandJuly 27, 2011

KAREN CRIES ON THE BUS - Colombian Cinema On Demand

Film Movement

On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: KAREN CRIES ON THE BUS (Film Movement).


KAREN CRIES ON THE BUS - Colombian Cinema On Demand
A simple, eloquent story that smashes stereotypes…

By Cynthia Kane


It’s rare in the U.S. that we get to see fiction films from Colombia – even rarer stories from Colombia that don’t depict drug cartels, the FARC, paramilitary groups, etc. In fact, the first time I screened KAREN CRIES ON THE BUS, I knew little to nothing about what I was going to watch and I spent way too much time wondering where I was, which country, which city in Latin America.

I was stunned to find myself in Bogota, Colombia. I felt absolutely guilty and watched it again immediately to focus on the story.

All that aside, this is a beautiful, simple, yet eloquent story with tremendous performances – in some ways it’s more of a character portrait than a story with great action. Meaning story arc does not loom large, but the characters will stay with you for a long time.

Angela Carrizosa is Karen, a woman in her mid-30’s who has really, really lost herself; a woman absolutely suffocated by the upper middle class life she leads. She flees her boring, repressive life and belittling, macho husband, Mario (Edgar Alexen) like a dying creature gasping for its last breath. For her it’s flight or cease to exist. And though she flees crying on a bus – one wonders if it’s the first time she’s ever been on a bus – and lands in a filthy, low rent hotel in part of the city that may – or may not – be familiar to her, there’s a sense that she just might make it and survive, because she’s taken this first, brave step.



If she can just get through the first stages of an independent life, she might survive. Her innocence this day in age is staggering, at the same time utterly believable. It’s a visceral and painful performance.


And the supporting performances are no less striking. (And here I must add the actors here all work in theatre as well as film in Colombia. Hmmm…it does seem many of the best actors are stage-trained.)


After the shock of the first night on her own, fighting over the communal shower with several large cockroaches, Karen considers her mother’s desperate request that she go back to her husband. Without him, she is nothing; she has no place in the world she knows, no social class; she finds herself suddenly marginalized by society. But a single trip back to her former home shows her instincts are spot-on. She leaves once more amidst a tirade of every demeaning and horrific criticism her husband can throw after her.

After taking a job selling language courses through by what most people would immediately sense as an untrustworthy group of people, she’s robbed on the streets, must turn to shoplifting, even beg to survive. Yet she doesn’t give in. Her young and lively hairdresser neighbor, Patricia (Maria Angelica Sanchez), whom she meets one night by carrying her drunk and passed-out up the steps to her room, gives her some important life-giving, life-saving advice, and helps her physically recreate herself. “Don’t be afraid of living life and taking risks like I do…”

KAREN CRIES ON THE BUS is Colombian writer/director Gabriel Rojas Vera’s feature film debut. This was a film-to-see on the 2010/11 festival scene with a premiere at San Sebastian and soon thereafter at Berlin and then at home at Cartegena.


Gabriel Rojas

While he goes for a somewhat easy-out here – an end with hope and possible redemption via a handsome playwright (Juan Manuel Diaz) who gives new energy and hope to Karen’s life – and too many references from Henrik Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE indicate the an emerging and first-time filmmaker. But there’s without a doubt something special here and we can only hope he’ll grow into and develop his talent.

There’s wonderful subtlety and this whole film touches on metaphors of the new Latin America, of the last years searching for a liberation and freedom from macho colonial rule. If Latin America today enjoys a degree of this liberation and freedom – and democracy, it is in part because of the political left's existence and its struggle against decades of dictatorship. Let’s hope to see and hear more of these voices not only politically but in the voice of cinema as well. I, for one, welcome more from Rojas Vera and other new emerging talent – that’s what really gives me hope.


- Cynthia Kane

Cynthia Kane reviews documentaries for On Demand Weekly. She is a writer and Sr Programming Manager for [ ITVS], overseeing the International Initiative for funding in their SF office. Prior she’s had many incarnations from actor to writer to producer. She co-created DOCday on Sundance Channel.


Look for KAREN CRIES ON THE BUS (Film Movement) under your cable system's On Demand section.

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