Writer/director Cati Gonzalez hones her professional photography skills and brings them into the filmmaking arena with “Ekaj.” The avant-garde and visceral film depicts Ekaj (Jake Mestre) in an inhospitable city desperately trying to not only survive, but find love, sometimes in all the wrong places. Gonzalez boldly delves into the gritty streets of NY to reveal the underbelly of society that most of us overlook. With humanity, we see these characters in a different light, feeling their loss and uncertainty in their future of tomorrow.
Gonzalez has a uniquely artistic eye which shines in this film. It is with this that a sad and eye-opening portrayal of life is told in a raw and unforgiving way. Initially we aren’t sure about Ekaj or his “friends.” And while we may not be able to relate to his situation, scamming people to make it through the day, we do identify with his need for love. It’s a heartbreakingly dark tale as Ekaj helps a friend with AIDS whose condition is worsening and Ekaj finds himself in an unhealthy relationship. The humor, as dark as the situation at hand, punctuates the overall tone of the film giving us an authentic view of homelessness, mental illness, and the inequities of our society.
There’s an experimental feel to this film both in structure and style which is a daring choice for Gonzalez, but it works on many levels. While the story itself is more of a character study and slice of life, it’s certainly one that puts Gonzalez on your radar of upcoming and visionary filmmakers.