The New York Film Festival is celebrating its 50th birthday this year while at the same time saying goodbye to Richard Peña, who served as Program Director for the last 25 years. This year’s festival is packed with films from all over the world, bringing the best of the best from Cannes, Berlin, and other renowned festivals to a New York audience. Peña, who also teaches in the Film Department at Columbia University, has long championed Latin American cinema, in particular. After traveling in the region as a young undergrad he decided to focus his academic research on Latin America. Peña has gone on to not only spotlight Latino films in the classroom but also carved out a space, year after year, for Latino films to shine at the New York Film Festival. This year is no exception. Now in its second week, the fest has some exciting Latino premieres that will close out its 50th edition.
Aquí y Allá | Antonio Méndez Esparza (2012)
Mexico/Spain/USA | Spanish with English subtitles | Format: DCP | 110 minutes
Having won the top prize at the Critic’s Week sidebar at Cannes, this debut feature from Antonio Méndez Esparza looks at immigration from a different point of view–what happens when you go back? Pedro returns home to his family in Mexico after a stint working in New York. When he arrives he is surprised to see how different things look, how things have changed. He has little to say to his daughters and has to get to know his wife all over again. He feels detached, lonely, alienated. He feels distant from his family–and in parallel, the camera stays far away from the characters. In a series of long takes, conversations amongst family and friends are seen from a distance and the camera remains stationary. People walk in and out of scenes, have their backs turned to the camera, or are just too far away to see clearly. We rarely get a glimpse of those who talk and without close-ups of their faces–miss out on facial expressions and the nuances of the nonverbal. Just like Pedro–the audience, as a result of the camera work–has trouble emotionally connecting with the people on the screen.
Pablo Larraín (2012)
Chile/USA | Spanish with English subtitles | Format: DCP | 110 minutes
Pablo Larraín and Gael García Bernal in person at both screenings and at the SoHo Apple Store on Thursday, October 11 as part of NYFFLive.
“In 1988, in an effort to extend and legitimize its rule, the Chilean military junta announced it would hold a plebiscite to get the people’s permission to stay in power. Despite being given 15 minutes a day to plead its case on television, the anti-Pinochet opposition was divided and without a clear message. Enter Rene Saavedra, an ad man who, after a career pushing soft drinks and soap, sets out to sell Chileans on democracy and freedom.” Gael García Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Motorcycle Diaries) stars as Rene Saavedra. His performance is said to be the major reason behind the standing ovation it received at the Cannes Film Festival, its world premiere. It also was just announced as Chile’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.
El muerto y ser feliz | Javier Rebollo (2012)
Spain/Argentina/France | Spanish with English subtitles | Format: DCP | 94 minutes
“For his third feature, the gifted Spanish director Javier Rebollo (Woman Without Piano) has decamped to Argentina and created a literate, screwball road movie that Borges surely would have loved. The “dead man” of the title is Santos (veteran Spanish screen star José Sacristán), a cancer-stricken hired killer who flees his Buenos Aires hospital bed and sets off on one last assignment. It is a journey that takes him through an interior Argentina rarely glimpsed in movies, from the Cordoba resort town of La Cumbrecita (with its disproportionate—and disconcerting—population of elderly Germans) to the northern province of Santiago del Estero. Along the way, Santos finds himself joined by Alejandra (the wonderful Roxana Blanco), an attractive middle-aged woman who impulsively jumps into his vintage Ford Falcon at a gas station and soon thwarts him from his intended path.”
Films from Portugal are often excluded from a discussion of Latin American or Latino films. But, in the same way that we include Brazilian films even though they are in Portuguese and Spanish films because of the country’s colonial ties to the Americas–I personally think that films from Portugal should also qualify as Latin American or Latino. Maybe, I’ll just start calling them Ibero-American films.
Miguel Gomes (2012)
Portugal | Portuguese with English Subtitles | Format: 35mm | 118 minutes
“Shot in ephemeral black-and-white celluloid, Tabu is movie-as-dream—an evocation of irrational desires, extravagant coincidences, and cheesy nostalgia that nevertheless is grounded in serious feeling and beliefs, even anti-colonialist politics. There is a story, which is delightful to follow and in which the cart comes before the horse: the first half is set in contemporary Lisbon, the second, involving two of the same characters, in a Portuguese colony in the early 1960s. “Be My Baby” belted in Portuguese, a wandering crocodile, and a passionate, ill-advised coupling seen through gently moving mosquito netting make for addled movie magic.”
A Última Vez Que Vi Macau | João Pedro Rodrigues, João Rui Guerra da Mata (2012)
Portugal/France | Portuguese with English Subtitles | 85 minutes
“This stunning amalgam of playful film noir and Chris Marker–like cine-essay from João Pedro Rodrigues (To Die Like a Man, NYFF 2009) and João Rui Guerra da Mata explores the psychic pull of the titular former Portuguese colony. After a spectacular opening scene, in which actress Cindy Scrash lip-synchs, as tigers pace behind her, to Jane Russell’s “You Kill Me”—from Josef von Sternberg’s Macao (1952), a key reference here—the film shifts to da Mata’s off-screen recollections of growing up in this gambling haven in the South China Sea.”
The New York Film Festival, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, runs through October 14.
Written by Juan Caceres and Vanessa Erazo, LatinoBuzz is a weekly feature onSydneysBuzzthat highlights emerging and established Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of presenting a broad range of Latino voices. Follow@LatinoBuzzon twitter.