Last year Latin American films garnered an impressive haul of
awards from some of the most important film festivals around including Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, and Venice. “The Second
Mother, “ “The Club,” “From Afar, “ “Land and Shade, “ “600 Miles,” and “Ixcanul,
“ were some of the works that demonstrated the aesthetic quality and thematic
diversity the region’s cinema currently boasts. But while critics and festival
juries clearly appreciate the risk-taking stance of Latin American filmmakers,
Hollywood awards groups rarely follow suit. The industry is willing to honor
Latino talent – like the Academy Awards did last year – but not so much Latino
Argentina is the only Latin American country to have ever
won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Mexico, Brazil, Peru,
Chile, Nicaragua, and Cuba have been nominated but have failed to take the
coveted statuette home. Success in other categories has been even more unusual
with films like the Spanish animated feature set in Cuba “Chico & Rita” or
last year’s Oscar nominated documentary short “The Reaper” being two of the
very few examples.
For the 88th edition of the prestigious ceremony,
seven films, which are either by Latin American directors or that tell stories
centered in Latin America, are in the running to represent the cultural
heritage, political concerns, and the everyday lives of its people in unconventional
ways that range from animation to heart-racing documentaries. Whatever the final results may be, the caliber of Latin American achievements in film to grace the screen in the past 12 months is undeniable.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“Embrace of the Serpent” (Colombia)
Dir. Ciro Guerra
Strikingly beautiful and laced with poetic mysticism, Ciro Guerra’s most accomplished work to date follows the journey of two European explores at particular times in history as they are guided through the Amazon by Karamakate, an imposing local shaman man who is wary of their intentions.
Dir. Paddy Breathnach
Jesus, a young gay man in Havana, only finds relief from his daily
struggles when he transforms into a drag performer in front of an eager
audience, but when his macho father returns after decades away his
dreams are jeopardized. This Irish production set in Cuba is a
delightful work that thrives on authenticity and emotionally layered
performances. Although the film is represented the European country, the
passionate narrative is authentically Cuban and captures the essence of
the isolated island with admirable sincerity.
The most awarded animated feature to open in U.S. theaters this year is a Brazilian wonder that ditches dialogue entirely for a storytelling approach that’s purely visual, whimsical, and even heartbreaking. Through the eyes of a playful young boy searching for his father, Alê Abreu’s musical odyssey conveys sophisticated notions about social justice, the voracious appetite of capitalism, and the yoke of oppression. Abreu’s animated masterpiece could become the first Latin American animated feature to be nominated in the category.
READ MORE: How “Boy and the World” Director Alê Abreu Handcrafted His Heartfelt & Dazzling Animated Masterpiece
Cartel Land” (U.S./ Mexico)
Dir. Matthew Heineman
Matthew Heineman‘s film is indeed a gruesome and riveting account of how the narco violence has kept entire towns in the Mexican state of Michoacán hostage, and how a group of civilians, the “Autodefensas,” took matters into their own hands and became a reactive rogue institution that had, initially, no ties to the federal government. “Cartel Land” bravely tackles this overwhelming matter with compassion for the victims and as much objectivity as possible towards the political questions it raises. Though it can’t possibly give us definitive answers, it’s a great vehicle to raise awareness and demand action.
A respected Mexican barber with strong views about the
atrocities committed by organized crime finds himself in a difficult position
when is forced to decide whether to eliminate part of the problem or stick to
his profession. Intimate in scope, yet decisive in its moral questioning of the
situation, Gareth Dunnet Alcocer ‘s short offers two
memorable performances and a brutally honest conclusion.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
“Bear Story” (Chile)
Using the touching story of a bear who is ripped away from
his family to forcefully work at a circus as a metaphor to revisit one of
Chilean history’s darkest chapters, this gorgeous 3D animated short showcases
incredible textural detail and visual storytelling of the most powerful and
Dir. Raúl de la Fuente
A group of Bolivian women working in the Potosi mines share
the harrowing struggles they must endure to make a living and survive under
incredibly harsh conditions. Constantly being sexually harassed by the male miners,
living perpetually scared of being raped or killed, and dealing with the
demanding physical labor, make their accounts both heroic and tragic.