Bad Hair

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Bad Hair
Directed byMariana Rondón
Written byMariana Rondón
StarringBeto Benites
CinematographyMicaela Cajahuaringa
Release date
  • 7 September 2013 (2013-09-07) (TIFF)
  • 25 April 2014 (2014-04-25) (Venezuela)
Running time
93 minutes

Bad Hair (Spanish: Pelo malo) is a 2013 Venezuelan drama film written and directed by Mariana Rondón. It was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.[1][2]

The film has been praised by critics for its performances by Castillo and Lange.[3] It deals with many topics ranging from adolescence and parent-child tensions to gender identity and sexuality. Its setting in Venezuelan society also contributes to many of the film's themes.


Junior, a young nine year old boy, lives in Caracas in a shoddy apartment complex with his mother and baby brother. He has "pelo malo," a Hispanic term for curly, Afro-textured hair, which he constantly attempts to straighten using various methods, including smearing a mixture of mayonnaise and other ingredients into it. His hair is a constant source of frustration for both he and his mother, who does not approve of his obsession with his looks, believing that it's not normal behavior for a young boy his age.

Junior and his friend from the apartments, "La Niña," spend a lot of time together in her family's apartment watching the Venezuelan beauty pageants on TV. La Niña is the classic "girly girl," dressing like a princess and playing with makeup and dolls often. Junior also enjoys the beauty pageants, and when the time comes for the two to take their school pictures, La Niña chooses to dress as a princess while Junior wants to dress as a singer with straight hair. It is in this scene that the double standard for males and females in Latin American society is demonstrated best; the photographer suggests that Junior dress as something more masculine, suggesting a soldier with a gun and hat. It is considered normal for La Niña to be obsessed with beauty and dresses and pictures, but for Junior it is not a normal interest.

His mother does not approve of his constant grooming and takes it to be a sign of his homosexuality. Twice she takes him to the doctor to find out if he is developing "normally," later coming out and asking the doctor straightforwardly if he is gay. When the doctor suggests he needs a stronger male influence at home (the mother is widowed), she brings home her boss and has sex with him, forcing Junior to watch them through his open bedroom door. Junior rolls over in his bed in an attempt to look away.

The treatment of Junior's "abnormal" obsession with his hair is placed at the spotlight of the movie, amid other far worse aspects of society and life around him. In the apartments, the children face many dangers; La Niña even says at one point in the movie that she fears they will be raped, with Junior telling her not to worry about that because "you have to be pretty to be raped" to which she responds, "then you have nothing to lose." This also demonstrates the double standards for beauty and sexuality facing Venezuelan society. The movie is also set against the backdrop of the announcement that Hugo Chavez is dying, signifying the end of an era in Venezuela and uncertainty for the future. Amid all these problems, the issue of Junior's hair and his sexuality is still the main focus of the film.



  1. ^ "Bad Hair". TIFF. Archived from the original on 31 August 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  2. ^ "Toronto Adds 75+ Titles To 2013 Edition". Indiewire. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  3. ^ "In 'Pelo Malo,' boy's hair issues spark tensions with mother". Los Angeles Times. 22 January 2015. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 4 December 2017.

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