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Pedro (DVD Review)

20 Jun, 2009 By: Billy Gil

Street 6/30/09
$24.95 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Alex Loynaz, Justina Machado.

MTV’s narrative film about the life of the late Pedro Zamora, the openly gay, HIV-positive member of the MTV show “The Real World,” who made it his life mission to educate the world about AIDS, has its TV-movie moments but is better than one might think it would be.

The film begins with Pedro falling ill in a hotel room and quickly flashes back and whirlwinds through his time on the third season of “The Real World” in San Francisco. It’s there that Zamora was able to speak about AIDS, an epidemic that was just beginning to be discussed in full.

As Zamora and his caring sister, Mily, Alex Loynaz and Justina Machado are well-cast. Machado (“Six Feet Under”) is sympathetic as the caring but occasionally misguided Mily, and handsome relative newcomer Loynaz gets the passionate Zamora exactly right, to those of us who watched him on “The Real World.” Their scenes together give the film its beating heart underneath the made-for-TV biopic veneer.

Pedro as a film doesn’t skimp on details. As a first-generation Cuban American, I appreciated the film’s attempt to get locations (Cuba, Miami), accents and culture correct, instead of using catchall Latin-American clichés. It’s less effective in the casting of the “Real World” members, who look a whole lot like their real-life counterparts, in ’90s torn jeans and flannel, but come off as wooden reciting lines from the original show.

Perhaps that is why the second half of the film focuses much more on Zamora’s background. There are powerful, dark moments here, as the film jumps between the past and the film’s present day of 1994.

Credit Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Milk) for delving into Zamora’s story and telling it fearlessly. Pedro serves as a reminder of the important work done by Zamora and occasionally inspires as it relates to the current struggles for AIDS awareness and gay rights.

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