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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Becoming Fifteen
by Betty Jo Tucker

Adam Taub’s remarkable documentary, La Quinceañera, astonished me with its sensitive and revealing depiction of the preparations for a young woman's fifteenth birthday celebration in Tijuana back in 2003. This film is done so well that I started to feel like a member of Ana Maria’s family! I found myself caring deeply about the lovely young lady and desperately hoping she would have a very special day, despite the financial burden involved and a lack of support from her father.       

Whether practicing a waltz for the celebration to be held after mass, talking about her feelings regarding the upcoming event, or being helped with hair and make-up, Ana Maria stole my heart. I began to think girls everywhere would benefit from such an elaborate fifteenth birthday celebration. In Mexico, it’s an important tradition, one that helps the Quinceanera (15-year-old) realize she’s not a little girl any longer. And working on plans for the event seems to bring families closer together.

How did Taub manage to successfully capture the real-life emotions and excitement of family members involved in this particular Quince Años celebration? Probably because the people in the movie trusted him to do them justice. “I first met the exceptional family that appears in this documentary in 1998, while volunteering in Tijuana with a spring break group,” Taub explains. “Because of housing difficulties our group encountered, Lili, her husband Toni, and their six children took us into their humble home and housed most of our 15-person group for the remaining 8 days of the work project. This was just the beginning of the generosity and love that I witnessed from them over the year... For such a short trip, I felt a surprisingly deep connection to the family and the community.”  

About two years later, Taub went back to Tijuana for more volunteer work and solidified his relationship with the family. He continued to visit them over the years and even attended three of the other daughter’s Quince Años celebrations. “Seeing this complex tradition, and the family’s spirit to throw these celebrations, despite the many challenges they faced, inspired me,” Taub says. Fortunately, that inspiration gave birth to this extraordinary portrait of a Mexican family’s love and devotion to each other.

(To find out more about La Quinceañera, which is available on DVD and has recently been accepted at two film festivals, visit the movie’s official website by clicking here.)

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