Raising Victor Vargas

Poster for Raising Victor Vargas

Autumn 2003 Main series

Sunday, November 2, 2003 at 4:00pm
Sunday, November 2, 2003 at 7:00pm
Monday, November 3, 2003 at 7:00pm

Empire Theatres, New Minas, NS

Directed by


Rated NR · 1h 28m

Like an old fashioned rock ’n’ roll song from the days of doo-wop, Peter Sollet’s debut feature Raising Victor Vargas celebrates long hot summers and first loves with an aching rhythm that goes straight to the heart. Victor (Victor Rasuk) lives in a Lower East Side Latino neighbourhood and frequents a municipal swimming pool that is the summertime hub of local adolescent social life. Along with his younger brother Nino and little sister Vicki, Victor is being raised by his imposing grandmother (Altagracia Guzman), a stern matriarch bent on preserving the family and unwilling to accept the radical changes in adolescent life. On the cusp of manhood, Victor is out to prove himself and rescue his reputation through a time-honoured ritual: winning the hand, if not the heart, of the hottest girl in the ’hood, “Juicy” Judy Rodriguez (Judy Marte). Never mind that she’s made a pact with her best friend to scorn boys completely; Victor, a smarter Cyrano, enlists the help of Judy’s little brother to gain an audience. As Victor’s snitch of a sister and goody-goody brother start yearning for some action themselves, Grandma fears she’s losing her grip on the family. Locking the telephone doesn’t work, so she marches Victor and the kids off to a puzzled family-services caseworker in one of the poignant film’s most heartbreakingly hilarious scenes. An ode to love, family and summer in the city, Raising Victor Vargas is destined to make hearts melt faster than a block of ice in the sunshine. Under its spell, the dreams of a young Latino in a hot New York summer propel a transcendent drama with an emotional grandeur that street realism rarely yields. Altagracia Guzman is captivating in the role of the grandmother, stealing scenes and reminding us that sometimes “the real thing” trumps conventional acting pedigree. With the poetic camera work of Tim Orr (George Washington, All The Real Girls) and dialogue naturalized by extensive improvisation and rehearsal with this gifted ensemble of young actors, Sollett proves himself a spectacular storyteller. With well received showings in Cannes, Toronto and Sundance (a rare feat), Raising Victor Vargas is an original, insightful crowd pleaser that makes one yearn for the hot days of summer.

“As fresh – and as restorative – as a lemon ice on a hot day.” – Laura Winters, The Washington Post

“The true love story at the heart of the film is about family, a theme rarely handled with such grace and humour.” – Katrina Onstad, The National Post

“Mr. Sollett’s accomplishment is the film’s matter-of-fact solidity; he makes you wonder what his creations are doing when they’re off screen.” – Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

“It’s the kind of movie you know you can trust, and you give yourself over to affection for these characters who are so lovingly observed.” – Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times