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LatinoBuzz: WTF is Latino at Tribeca

LatinoBuzz: WTF is Latino at Tribeca

If you’ve
read my last two WTF is Latino posts on Sundance and SXSW, you know I do my best to embody a
manic optimist and find a silver lining when it comes to magnifying the limited
representation of Latino stories and writer/directors at mainstream film
festivals.  I do that by expanding and deconstructing the broad term,
hoping to educate myself and the masses on what ‘qualifies’ as Latino. However,
the relative dearth of Latinos and Latin America at this year’s 2013 Tribeca
Film Festival program has seriously challenged me to find a positive spin on
this woeful slate of brown in the world’s most celluloid famous, multi-culti
metropolis.  It is especially stupefying considering the number of
electrifying premiere film submissions there are to choose from at this moment.

I worked as
an Industry Coordinator for the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival under Director
of Programming David Kwok and Festival Director Nancy Schaefer.  Back then
Latin America was not only well represented in the program but Tribeca was at
the forefront of showing bourgeoning film renaissances taking place in
countries such as Panama, Peru and Colombia. No doubt this sensibility and
charge came from the legendary jet-setting of one such Peter Scarlet, the
cognoscente Artistic Director beloved by many Latin American festivals.
 At 8 years old, the Festival was fast outgrowing its post 9/11 birthmark
and has since stubbornly and desperately struggled to position itself as a
blank World Cinema festival.  This is a strategy I find puzzling, given it
is way out of league and under the heavy shadow cast from uptown by the auteur
and discovery art house Lincoln Film Society.  One would think it an ideal
and very NY synergy thing to do would be to carve out your own identity in
specializing in the kaleidoscopic, fertile microcosm of US immigrant
odyssey found in every corner from Manhattan to the five boroughs.  Not
only is there a lack of US Latino stories this year, nowhere to be found are films
from Latin America.  Seriously. Click on the online film guide’s search by country scroll down menu and visibly absent are Chile,
Mexico and Argentina – three of Latin America’s most renowned and heralded
world cinema incubators. The closest we get is one feature from Brazil by
veteran director, Bruno Baretto, and two shorts from Spain.  Its plain to
see that the Festival’s new Artistic Director, Fredric Boyer (who headed bougie
prestige fests, Cannes’ Directors Fortnight and then Locarno Film Festival) is
seriously ‘Euro-cizing’ the Triangle Below Canal.

So, what’s
my silver lining?  Well, its based on the Short Term 12 lesson I just
experienced at SXSW.  I did not target the indie film as a Latino film but
being familiar and a fan of Hawaiian filmmaker, Daniel Cretton’s work, I went
to see it and was immediately absorbed by the effortless kid-adult social
psychological narrative.  A detail that resonated with me was that one of
the main juvy instructors was a foster kid who was raised and adopted into a
big loving home by Mexican parents. He’s as white as they come, yet he cooks a
mean Mexican dish and expresses his emotions outwardly, attributes of Latino
culture that informed his personhood.  Maybe that’s how subtle, relative
yet impactful Latino culture is seeping into all of our lives.  Maybe my
barely passing grade on the Latino at Tribeca diagnosis is premature having not
seen all of the films.  Maybe where we least expect it, beyond cast and loglines,
there are films buried in here with deeper social undertones of brown
representation.  I’m willing to excavate.   All that big picture
stuff aside, I am quite excited about the six films (out of some 168) I
highlight here which offers a diverse albeit thin slice of Latino – whether its
the narrative’s themes, up and coming actors, and real life Americans  –
who knows how many times removed from their Latin roots – and how cool that
looks like.  

Without
further ado, here it is; WTF is Latino at Tribeca Film Festival.

WORLD NARRATIVE COMPETITION

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors directed by Sam Fleischner and
written by Rose Lichter-Marck, Micah Bloomberg

Logline: When autistic teen Ricky is scolded for
skipping class, he escapes into the subway for a days-long odyssey among the
subway’s disparate denizens. Meanwhile, his mother wages an escalating search
effort above ground. Based on a true story and set in Far Rockaway, Queens, in
the days leading up to Hurricane Sandy, these parallel stories of mother and
son take the viewer on a touching journey of community and connection in and
below New York City.  Cast Andrea Suarez, Jesus Valez, Azul
Rodriguez, Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Marsha Stephanie Blake

Sam
Fleischner’s first film,
Wah Do Dem was about a broken hearted hipster who
goes on a cruise and gets stuck in the dangerous wild of Jamaica – just as
President Obama is being sworn into office for the first time.  The
filmmaking felt so fresh, real, tense and engrossing.  Just like you were
on the adventure with him.  Sam and his co-director Ben Chase won the
$50,000 Target Filmmaker Award for Best Narrative at the 2009 Los Angeles Film
Festival.  I’m so happy he is premiering this NY based film which features
a Latino cast including Tenoch Huerta (Dias de Gracia), and half of the film is
spoken in Spanish.   No, Sam is not a Latino but a native New Yorker and I
love his take and thematic weaving in this story. His statement and inspiration
behind the film demonstrates his sensibility and vision, surpassing and waiving
any requirement or notion that says you have to be Latino to tell authentic
Latino stories.  This is what Sam was able to tell me over email:

“I am
not Latino but this story is inspired by true events that happened to a Mexican
family. I was attracted to the parallel between people on the autism
spectrum and people living as illegal immigrants in the US.
 Both instances are people wading through systems that aren’t designed for
them, interesting to think about the term ‘alien’. “

NARRATIVE SPOTLIGHT

The Pretty One, written and directed by Jenee LaMarque

Logline:
 Audrey has all of the qualities that her twin sister Laurel wishes she
possessed: confidence, style, independence. When tragedy strikes, Laurel has
the opportunity to reinvent herself. In a complex performance, Zoe Kazan
poignantly captures Laurel’s complex mix of loss and awakening, especially as
she begins a new relationship with her neighbor (Jake Johnson). Jenée LaMarque’s
first feature film is a quirky, lovely tale of identity and the eternal bond
between two sisters. Cast Zoe Kazan, Jake Johnson, John
Carroll Lynch, Shae D’lyn, Frankie Shaw, Ron Livingston

I first met
Jenee with her edgy girls short film Spoonful, a ridiculous real life scenario
in which friends help out their lactating friend, which played the 2012
Sundance Film Festival.  She was also kind enough to email me amid the
crunch of finishing her first feature for its world premiere.  I’m so
grateful she responded because she truly personifies what I’m trying to convey
about Latino identity (its American and expansive and our creativity relates to
it vastly different ways).   She says, “As for my Latina origin: my
dad is Mexican, born and raised in Chino, CA.  His mother’s family is
Mexican and has been in CA for a long time.  His father’s family is from
Mexico City…we have a French last name, presumably because of the French who
came to Mexico during the 19th century but I really don’t know anything about
my French-Mexican origins.  My grandfather came to CA during WWII with the
Bracero program.  My Mom is Danish, Norwegian and French.  I do
identify as Mexican, as Latina, but I also identify as American and as white.
 I really wish that I had more of a connection to my Mexican heritage but
unfortunately, my dad didn’t speak Spanish to us growing up (even thought
he’s fluent) and he really identifies as American.  It’s funny,
because I’m mixed, I don’t feel I’m fully one thing or another, I feel like my
identity is sort of slippery because of it.  I think that my mixed
heritage plays a central role in my voice as a storyteller; one of the themes
of The Pretty One is identity (a struggle with identity) and I also find myself
drawn to this theme again in again in my other work. “

DOCUMENTARY SPOTLIGHT

The Motivation by Adam Bhala Lough

Logline: Go
inside the lives and training regimes of eight of the world’s gutsiest
professional skateboarders. These fearless stars face unique obstacles on the
way to the Street League Championship and the coveted title of best street
skateboarder in the world. Adam Bhala Lough, creator of the independent hit
Bomb the System (TFF 2003), directs this fresh, energetic documentary search
for that elusive quality that separates winners from the pack.

This
skateboarding shred competish doc about the sheer intensity and will to defy
the terror of cracked bones  features some of the youngest, most
successfully branded and competitive skaters in the game like Nyjah
Huston (Puerto Rican father), Paul Rodriguez known as P-Rod, and Chaz Ortiz.  I can’t wait to
meet these guys and get to know them.  Adam is good like that.  His
last film, The Carter, about autodidactic and auto-real voiced rapper Lil Wayne
impressed me for its gloss and floss but also by its covert way of infiltrating
the hyped up insular world and mind of a subculture pop king.  His flashy
aesthetic and sneak transparency is bound to capture the badass jaw dropping
leaps and outrageous rail tricks along with distilling the high intensity
pressure and rush of winning in The Motivation.

MIDNIGHT

Frankenstein’s Army (Netherlands, Czech Republic) directed
by Richard Raaphorst and written by Miguel Tejada Flores

Logline: In
the waning days of World War II, a team of Russian soldiers finds itself on a
mysterious mission to the lab of one Dr. Victor Frankenstein. They unearth a
terrifying Nazi plan to resurrect fallen soldiers as an army of unstoppable
freaks and are soon trapped in a veritable haunted house of cobbled-together
monstrosities. Frankenstein’s Army is the wild steampunk Nazi found-footage
zombie mad scientist film you’ve always wanted.

Veteran
Hollywood screenwriter, Miguel Tejada Flores has written such horror reboots as
Beyond Reanimator and family classics as The Lion King but notably this is the
guy who gets story credit for Revenge of the Nerds back in ’84.  His next
film is the upcoming I Brake for Gringos starring Camilla Belle directed by
Mexican filmmaker Fernando Lebrija.  A frequent mentor over the years at
 NALIP’s screenwriting and producing labs, it sounds like this guy is
accessible and interested in nurturing the younger generation of Latino talent.
 A California native, his family is from Bolivia.  Read his wordpress
blog
here

V/H/S/2 – Eduardo Sanchez is one of the seven
filmmakers of the second found footage horror anthology which has screened at
Sundance, SXSW and now Tribeca (that might be a record),  and most
famously directed The Blair Witch Project.  Cuban born filmmaker.

SHORT FILM COMPETITION

Close Your Eyes written and directed by Sonia Malfa

Logline:
Thirteen-year-old Imani Cortes is a gifted photographer longing to experience
her first kiss. She has a crush on a quiet artist, Junito, with whom she has a
natural connection, but she also faces an enormous challenge: she is slowly
losing her sight to retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic eye disease. Will Imani let
her disease stop her or be the path to independence? Cast Kimberly
Lora, Julian Fernandez-Kemp, Sara Contreras, Victor Cruz, Rhina Valentina, Mia
Ysabel

I’m looking
forward to seeing this short set in Spanish Harlem.  I don’t know much
about the filmmaker except that she raised 10k off Kickstarter for this, her
directorial debut. And she looks Boricua.  Check out her
website which shows a number of her photos
and videos that show off her ‘eye’.  

The Tribeca
Film Festival starts April 17-28.  Ticket info here

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Comments

The Motivation

thanks for the shoutout see you at the fest!

The Motivation

thanks for the shoutout see you at the fest!

The Motivation

thanks for the shoutout see you at the fest!

The Motivation

thanks for the shoutout see you at the fest!

The Motivation

thanks for the shoutout see you at the fest!

The Motivation

thanks for the shoutout see you at the fest!

The Motivation

thanks for the shoutout see you at the fest!

The Motivation

thanks for the shoutout see you at the fest!

Marisol

Interesting Christine Davila, but a the we might get a slight foot or onclusion in a film at this pint is not enough. It is 2013 we already got that (I am Lucy is an exmaple) I am very disappointed in Tribeca specially considering that new York wouldn't be New York without Latinos. The history of Latinos in New York isn't recent it dates back to the 1890's. Another place where there is only one latino project (which ironically included comes via Canada) is in The Tribeca All Access Program: http://www.indiewire.com/article/10th-annual-tribeca-all-access-program-announces-11-new-projects. The irony is that its is a program for underepresented groups in the industry. I guess that according to Tribeca we are not underepresented.

Michael

Great article Christine! Michael

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