REVIEW: ‘Ecuatorian Shetta’ finds Baltasar balancing life with his daughter, his clients

The third Ecuadorian Film Festival in New York includes screenings of Ecuatorian Shetta from director Daniel Varela. Image courtesy of Cinema Tropical.

Ecuatorian Shetta is a slight comedy that sometimes dips into drama but, for the most part, remains a one-hour diversion with an enjoyable cast and some excellent on-location shooting in Ecuador. The film is part of the third Ecuadorian Film Festival in New York.

Daniel Varela writes and directs the film with a bent toward the whimsical nature of life — cherishing the mundane, seeking the companionship of a quality friend, struggling to survive.

There are also some unexplained moments. UFOs appear in the skies, and strange goings-on impact the lives of the assembled characters. Nothing is questioned and not much explained, and that seems about right. Instead, the movie expects its audience members to immerse themselves in the narrative fabric and become lost in the journey.

The main character is Baltasar, a local marijuana dealer who has run out of stock and must grab some “Ecuatorian Shetta” from a friend named Laura. Baltsar’s visit to Laura’s home lasts for probably longer than he anticipated, but that’s the rhythm of his day. He has a habit of napping, talking and wasting time with his clients and friends; no doubt some of this procrastination is a byproduct of the marijuana.

Baltasar is also a father, and he needs to pick up his daughter from school. That means she will accompany him as he makes some of his client visits. One simple exchange in the car perfectly encapsulates their relationship. Catalina, his daughter, wonders why her father is a drug dealer. He responds that he’s not a drug dealer; he only sells marijuana.

The conversations between father and daughter are the best parts of Ecuatorian Shetta. There’s a certain maturity to Catalina that makes her the sound-minded, dominant one of the two. Baltasar is a nice enough guy, but he does some questionable actions — bringing his child around to his clients being the most egregious. Unfortunately the movie fails to explore his character completely. It’s obvious that he’s an easy-going person, but it’s not obvious what motivates him. He’s not mean to his clients, so the money factor seems secondary. The thrill of running an elicit business also is not there. Perhaps it’s the ability to care for Catalina? Perhaps it’s his dream to bring the family to the Galapagos Islands one day?

There are a few parallel storylines that help the movie not be a short film, although a one-hour running time is pushing it. The best storyline involves two of Baltasar’s clients who waste the day eating, smoking, drinking and spraying graffiti. They are chased by the police and seem to enjoy each other’s company, but this is clearly Baltasar’s story. So they do not receive a complete arc.

The cinematography is quite nice. Quito, Ecuador’s capital, becomes a character in the film as Baltasar makes his way through the streets and apartments of the city. There’s a real intimacy achieved, and that’s a credit to Varela. He obviously knows the city and its locations, so much so that he’s able to capture authenticity with his camera.

A better story and more fleshed out main character could have made Ecuatorian Shetta even more memorable.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Ecuatorian Shetta (2017), written and directed by Daniel Varela, recently played the third Ecuadorian Film Festival in New York. Running time: 60 minutes. Rating: ★★½☆ Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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