SXSW 2021: ‘Nuevo Rico’ is a Bombastic Short

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Nuevo Rico

Nuevo Rico is an animated short directed by Kristian Mercado Figueroa, a Puerto Rican filmmaker living in Spanish Harlem whose music-driven short film Pa’lante won the SXSW Jury Award 2019. The short is written by Juan Arroyo and Mercado Figueroa, with Angélica Agélviz credited for storyboard art and character design.

In Nuevo Rico, Barbie and Vico are a brother and sister who are so close to each other that they make music together. But, while they’re moved by their home in Nuevo Rico and the way the music makes it come alive, they want something more. They want to reach the height of Reggaetón stardom. Then, the two stumble upon a celestial secret that changes their lives forever and propels them to their dream. But like with everything, it comes with a large price. They lose themselves, but they soon discover that their newfound fame comes at a high price, and ultimately they have to find a way out.

The short’s strength comes in its music. While I mean the literal music in the film, I also mean the way that Mercado Figueroa has highlighted the Black and indigenous Taíno and Yoruba roots of the music. It’s spiritual. Additionally, that spirituality is imbued in the island of Nuevo Rico and lost when the twins reach stardom and leave for Miami.

Mercado Figueroa’s Nuevo Rico looks at ideas of home, identity, and familial bonds in a quick 16-minutes that leave the viewer feeling both enamored and intrigued with the world he’s presenting. To top it off, the mix of different animation styles starts of confusing at first but fits the flow of the story and the revelations that happen throughout. But my favorite of the animation is the 2D visuals for Barbie and Vico. They’re vibrant and memorable, and if I could, I would use Barbie’s image as my profile picture on all of my social media.

Overall, with 16-minutes, Neuvo Rico is a great watch and an even greater listen with a bombastic score and visual style that will stick with you.