By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire August 9, 2010 at 4:47AM
The Film Society of Lincoln's Center's upcoming 13th Latinbeat Film Festival will play host to sixteen films from eight different countries this year. Out of the selection, five will be making their U.S. premieres, including the festival's opener "Thursday Widows," from director Marcelo Piñeyro. Piñeyro will be in attendance, along with one the largest contingents of Latin American directors to visit New York, since the series began over a decade ago.
"Thursday Widows" is based on the best selling thriller by Argentine author Claudia Piñeiro, and depicts the seedy underbelly of four families living in an upscale gated community outside of Buenos Aires. Piñeyro has already premiered at Latinbeat in the past. Returning directors also include Enrique Piñeyro who will screen "El Rati Horror Show," and Matias Meyer with "The Cramp."
”No matter the subject or genre, the films in this year’s Latinbeat Film Festival seem to challenge our ideas of Latin American identity, allowing us to experience the vertigo of its constant renewal almost first hand,” said The Film Society’s Marcela Goglio on the lineup in a statement. “As democracies consolidate and societies try to come to terms with their turbulent pasts, a constant search for a new identity is palpable in the stories told on film; and whether fiction or documentary, many of this year’s films deal with abrasive historical issues that are still having an impact on Latin American people today, which gives the series a sense of urgency and excitement.”
In addition to the film screenings, Latinbeat will also host two special events. Women Leading the Latinbeat is a brunch event that will honor Latin American women filmmakers participating in this year's program. Latin-O-America, co-presented with Cinema Tropical, will feature a discussion with up-and-coming New York based Latino filmmakers, followed by a cocktail reception.
Below is the full lineup with synopses courtesy of the Latinbeat Film Festival:
"Thursday Widows" (Las viudas de los jueves)
Marcelo Piñeyro, Argentina, 2010; 126m U.S. Premiere
Based on the best-selling thriller by Argentine author Claudia Piñeiro, Pineyro’s newest film was a box office hit in Spain and Argentina this year. Widows unravels the web of deception, violence, corruption and alienation that underlies the glossy and apparently seamless lives of four families living in an upscale gated community outside Buenos Aires. Building on the suspense created by the discovery of a possible crime, the film unfolds in the explosive context of Argentina’s political and economic crisis of 2001. Featuring a stellar cast that includes Juan Diego Botto, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Ernesto Alterio, and Pablo Echarri.
"Back to Life" (Vuelve a la vida)
Carlos Hagerman, Mexico, 2010; 72m U.S. Premiere
The story of the legendary “Long Dog,” a fearless diver/fisherman from Acapulco, and his mythical shark hunt in the 70s, as told by several people who knew him intimately and witnessed the feat. Among them are four of his children (a stepson is the film’s cinematographer) and his glamorous wife, a top New York model. Backed by a catchy, nostalgic soundtrack that includes some great Acapulcan classics, these complex characters tell the story of a legend and his peculiar family, but also paint a nostalgic portrait of an idyllic Acapulco three decades ago.
Ruben Imaz, Mexico, 2009; 83m NY Premiere
A Basque painter mourning the loss of his beloved Mexican partner travels to Mexico, where he retraces the steps of her planned research trip to study giant squids (aka cephalopods). Embarking on an almost mystical quest, he heads to Guaymas, on the coastline along Sonora desert, where, embraced by the imposing starkly beautiful landscape, he is able to create a ritual to cope with his loss andfind peace by being at one with nature.
"Crab Trap" (El vuelco del cangrejo)
Oscar Ruiz Navia, Colombia, 2009; 95m NY Premiere
Skillfully combining documentary and fiction, Ruiz Nava’s first feature draws you into the languorous everyday life of La Barra, a remote jungle village on Colombia’s Pacific coast. Wandering into La Barra on his way to an unknown destination, Daniel gets a job with the community’s leader, Cerebro. Through his eyes we experience life in the community, his encounters with astute little Lucia, and how they are bullied by Paisa, a white outsider who wants to build a resort on their beach. The beautiful cinematography and gravity of characters create a strong sense of place.
"The Cramp" (El calambre)
Matias Meyer, Mexico, 2010; 92m U.S. Premiere
Julien, a withdrawn young Frenchman, arrives at a remote fisherman village in Oaxaca, on Mexico’s lush, beautiful Pacific coast. He soon befriends Pablo, a local fisherman, who agrees to show him around. Their exploration of the coast, lagunas, and underwater becomes a contemplative inner quest that will give Julien’s relationship to himself and to the outside world a renewed sense of transcendence. Just as in his debut feature, Wadley (Latinbeat ’08), Meyer lovingly and respectfully documents a man’s relationship to the imposing and transformative natural world that surrounds him. But in this, his second feature, adapted from a story by Nobel Prize laureate Gao Xingjian, he takes the idea one step further by incorporating the powerful element of human connection to the mix.
"Eva y Lola"
Sabrina Farji, Argentina 2010; 96m U.S. Premiere
Eva (played by charismatic TV star Celeste Cid) and her best friend Lola (singer/actress Mariela “Emme” Vitale) are performers in a glittering punk cabaret act. Lola doesn’t know it, but she is an
“appropriated child,” born during the dictatorship while her mother was in captivity, and raised by her parents’ torturer, “The Bear,” a powerful military man. When the truth emerges after relentless searching by Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Eva—herself a daughter of disappeared parents—tries to convince Lola to accept a DNA test that would establish her true identity. Avoiding melodrama, director Sabrina Farji tackles a deeply complex psychological social and political issue with honesty, playfulness, and even humor. Featuring impeccable cinematography and sound design, with music by Liliana Felipe. Based on the real cases of Victoria Donda (now a congresswoman, the youngest ever to attain that post in Argentina) and Victoria Grigera (co-writer of the film).
"Extraordinary Stories" (Historias Extraordinarias)
Mariano Llinás, Argentina, 2009; 245m
Co-presented with Film Comment Selects
“Extraordinary is by no means an immodest moniker for this incredibly audacious first dramatic feature by Argentine director Mariano Llinás, which suggests a telenovela co-scripted by Thomas Pynchon and Jorge Louis Borges. The three primary story lines concern men known only as X, Z, and H, respectively, each of them minor bureaucratic functionaries in nondescript Patagonian towns, who find themselves tossed by circumstance into unexpectedly complicated adventures. The first man witnesses a murder (before committing one himself); the second scours the countryside for clues about his predecessor, an international man of mystery with a possible sideline in illegal wildlife trafficking; the third travels up river in search of the large stone ‘monoliths’ he has been hired to photograph. Each thread is a mini road-movie of a sort... Stories give way to other stories — some comic, some tragic, some romantic — which are themselves riddled with dreams and flashbacks, until we no longer care if we will ever reach the end, for so pleasurably intoxicating is the air of elaborate narrative gamesmanship. There is nary a dull moment here, or one devoid of visual or storytelling invention. This is a work of consistent astonishment.”—Scott Foundas, in LA Weekly
Efterpi Charalambidis, Venezuela, 2009; 105m
In modern-day Caracas, survival can sometimes be a matter of luck. In this hilarious and entertaining dramatic comedy, Libertador (loosely translated as Freedom Fighter) Morales is a motorcycle taxi driver and model citizen who quotes Simon Bolivar with conviction and stands out from his peers as a sort of Robin Hood on wheels. His thirst for justice leads him to bravely confront a gang of local thieves with the help of a homeless man, as he pursues the love of beautiful Daisy. Charalambidis’s first feature embraces Venezuela’s popular tradition of storytelling through an urban tale that denounces corruption and individualism, and upholds solidarity, community values and good citizenship when institutions fail. Selected as Venezuela’s candidate for the Academy Award for Best Foreign.
"My Life With Carlos" (Mi vida con Carlos)
German Berger, Chile, 2009; 83m NY Premiere
Presented in association with the Human Rights Watch Film Festival
Through photos, recordings, archival material, and the memories of brothers and mother (renowned human rights lawyer, Carmen Hertz), German Berger lovingly assembles the puzzle of who his father was, and explores the searing impact his disappearance by the Pinochet regime had on the life of his family. German was only a child when his father disappeared, and in the process of making the film, his own silhouetted memories are made more vivid as his relationship to his father takes on a new existence. This intensely personal, engaging, and elegantly crafted journey is paced like a thriller, with lyrical, gorgeous cinematography by Miguel Littin.
"Cuchillo de palo" (108)
Renate Costa, Paraguay/Spain, 2010; 93m NY Premiere
Costa returns to her native Paraguay 21 years after Stroessner’s fall and delves into the story of her uncle Rodolfo, a persecuted gay man found dead in his home during the dictatorship. In trying to unravel the reasons of his death, what emerges is an intensely personal and poignant portrait of a man who dreamed of becoming a dancer in a country mired in oppression. (“108” refers to Stroessner’s lists of persecuted homosexuals.) But it is also a clear-eyed and incisive depiction of Paraguayan society, both during those years and now, when self-censorship and repression remain to an alarming degree. Costa’s style is direct but also lyrical, conveying the sense of a quiet, reflexive journey into the culture of a country not often explored on screen.
"Optical Illusions" (Ilusiones Opticas)
Cristian Jimenez, Chile, 2010; 105m NY Premiere
Juan is able to see again after a lifetime of blindness, but this only seems to have made his life worse. Rafa, a security guard at the local mall falls in love with a wealthy shoplifting customer and Manuela, his sister, works in a dreary office but dreams of breast implants to improve her life. Jimenez’s delightful satirical comedy turns inside out the perceptions of a parade of quirky but endearing interconnected characters, poking fun at our own assumptions of reality.
Hector Galvez, Peru, 2009; 91m NY Premiere
One month after their buddy “Che Loco” was killed by a rival gang, five teenage friends from a marginal neighborhood outside Lima meet to remember him and make vows for a better future. In his debut
feature, Galvez captures with poignant realism the disheartening conditions of violence, poverty, and thwarted opportunities that sabotage their aspirations. But he also imbues his characters and story with a disarming freshness and vitality that deeply engage the spectator as they strive to transcend their limitations.
Nicolás Pereda, Mexico/Canada/France, 2009; 90m NY Premiere
Two young amateur movers navigate the populated streets of Mexico City in their dilapidated truck, infiltrating the intimate lives of oddball husbands, wives, mothers and sons of all classes and ages who
inhabit tight quarters in this complicated bustling city. As they witness (and participate in) family brawls, romantic heartbreaks, separations, their own family lives come to a head after an unexpected discovery. Though still very young, Pereda is an incredibly prolific rising member of Mexico’s new generation of filmmakers (he has made 5 films in the last three years), and his impressive third feature, winner of Best Mexican Feature at the Guadalajara Film Festival, is a compelling portrait of family relations in urban Mexico today.
"The Rati Horror Show" (El Rati Horror Show)
Enrique Piñeyro, Argentina, 2010; 95m U.S.Premiere
“Unpredictable actor-writer-director Enrique Pineyro turns his editing suite into an audio-visual complex to defend convicted murderer Fernando Carrera in the quirkily provocative The Rati Horror Show.
One of the few filmmakers who can claim to have effected social change with a movie (namely his brilliant narrative debut, Whisky Romeo Zulu, which reformed Argentine aeronautic law), Pineyro uses cinematically charged evidence to press his argument that Carrera is a victim of gross judicial malfeasance. Whether it all will be enough to set Carrera free (he remains behind bars, though his case is on appeal) is anyone's guess. But if it works, Pineyro's efforts to change the world by making movies will be an amazing two-for-two. The Rati in pic's title is the Argentine Spanish slang equivalent of the derogatory ‘pig’ for police in English.”—
Florence Jauguey; Nicaragua, 2009; 91m NY Premiere
Nicaragua’s first full-length feature in 20 years, La Yuma tells the story of a young woman who dreams of transcending her bleak life in the slums of Managua by becoming a boxer. Looking beyond the meager possibilities that seem available to her (and ignoring the advice of her gang-member friends), she finds solace and hope in her training and falls in love with a middle-class journalism student. In Jauguey’s words, “the strength, the astuteness and determination of the main character, reflect the feelings of a population that faces up adversity and inequality.” With an extraordinary performance by Alma Blanco as Yuma, Jaugey’s film allows us the rare opportunity to get a glimpse of everyday life in this Central American
Various directors, Argentina, 2010; 80m NY Premiere A selection of 9 shorts out of 25 commissioned by Secretaría de Cultura Presidencia de la Nación in Argentina to celebrate the country’s bicentennial this year, featuring works by some of the most celebrated Argentine filmmakers: Mercedes, Marcos Carnevale; Guillermina P, Ines de Oliveira Cezar; The Voice (La Voz) Sabrina Farji; Lovable People (Gente Querible), Leonardo Favio; Posadas, Sandra Gugliotta; Chasqui, Nestor Montalbano; Las voces y los silencios, Carlos Sorin; The Spy (El Espía), Juan Stagnaro; Fallas de origen, Juan Tarattuto.