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Foreign Film Friday: La Llamada (Holy Camp!) review


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When Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo (or The Javis, as we call them in Spain) decided to turn their musical Holy Camp! (in Spain, La Llamada, which actually means The Calling) into a movie, they didn’t even imagine how big it was going to be. 

Image courtesy of Netflix

These two very young directors are now enjoying their success with many nominations and awards (like the Goya Award for Best Original Song), and their film has become one of the most celebrated Spanish movies ever.

The story is quite daring for a country as pre-eminently catholic as Spain. Holy Camp! follows María (Macarena García) and Susana (Anna Castillo), two teenagers that have attended the catholic summer camp La Brújula since they were little. Grounded from going out on an excursion with the rest of the girls, both have to spend the weekend in the camp with Milagros (Belén Cuesta), a kind-hearted young nun that has seen them grow up over the years, and Mother Bernarda (Gracia Olayo), the new summer camp coordinator. Throughout the weekend, both girls go through major life changes. While Susana starts developing confusing feelings for Milagros, María receives visits from God, who sings Whitney Houston songs to her.

This musical comedy, starring Richard Collins-Moore in the unusual role of God, explores two topics that are kind of taboo not only in Spain, but also in many places around the world. Firstly, there’s the issue of homosexuality, spontaneously portrayed in the film through a love story between a nun that regrets her devotion to God and a teenager who is starting to discover her own identity. Homosexuality is not often seen on-screen, but, when it is, male gay couples steal the limelight, pushing lesbianism into the background. The movie brings lesbianism to the spotlight through these two endearing and daring characters with such naturalness. As it should be.

Secondly, the film gets into the topic of religion, challeging the standard and standing up for a new way to live the faith. When María tries to communicate with God, Bernarda tells her that she has to read a passage from the Bible. But, when she does, it doesn’t work, because a prayer is not what God wants from her, to Bernarda’s surprise. The Javis have dared to critisice the strict ways of the Church with humor, good vibes and, most importantly, with respect.

Holy Camp! is, above all, a comedy. The film will make you burst into laughter with its witty dialogue and its funny scenes. It will make you sing, dance, and smile all the way through, as well as suffer with the protagonists while they try to figure out what they really want in life. All the actresses give outstanding performances, and the chemistry between them simply turns it into magic. That, alongside the music and the beautiful scenery and cinematography, make Holy Camp! a perfect package that you will defnitely enjoy.

The film is an ode to diversity, to inclusivity, and to fighting for what you want even if it goes against social conventions. Leaving the convent, being a lesbian, or being a teenager who wants to become a nun are not easy things to fight for. But the Javis (who are gay as well) are clear about it. Their movie is, precisely, a call for freedom to do and be whatever you want, in sex, in religion and in life.

Holy Camp! is now available on Netflix everywhere.

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