Those keeping an eye on the movies coming out of Costa Rica, Panama, and Guatemala, among others, know that the region south of Mexico is starting to produce an exciting roster of films. To celebrate such a burgeoning film industry, the Central American International Film Festival (CAIFF) is holding its 3rd grand annual film festival in Los Angeles next month. The weekend affair is designed to showcase up and coming talent and to show Hollywood where the next big things are coming from.
Salvadoran Oscar Torres, the writer behind Instructions Not Included, gushed about the program’s push to highlight his fellow filmmakers. “This is one of the most important steps that Central Americans have taken for cinema,” he shared, “and to initiate this festival that has already step foot in El Salvador and in Los Angeles and to start the University Tour is a wonderful idea because you will be able to expand on what we as Central Americans are about.”
Kicking off the fest’s weekend showings, which include 27 Central American-made films, art exhibition, workshops, and performances, is Abrázame como antes, the neon-tinged Costa Rican drama about a trans sex worker who takes in a thief in her house when he hurts his ankle. Scored with the lush romantic lyrics that its title suggests and existing as a sort of dreamscape of a film, Jurgen Ureña‘s touching tale has been wowing audiences in the festival circuit for months, lauded in particular for the way it authentically portrays its trans characters.
On Saturday, following a slew of shorts (including a “rural social documentary”) dealing with El Salvador’s Civil War, U.S. immigration from Guatemala, and the effects of the region’s violent conflicts, CAIFF will screen Rafael Tres‘ music-infused Welcome 2 My World. Following a young man who hopes to turn his obsession (and talent!) for electronic music into a full-fledged career, this Guatemalan synth-film is sure to get you eager to head to your nearest all-night banger. With cinematography that alternates between colorful late night club moods and sun-dappled early mornings, this is an ode to the power of this most modern music.
The fest closes out its weekend with Torres’ own Bravetown. The film is set in a small Army town that prides itself on the men who serve but who rarely grapples with the devastating consequences of losing all too many to conflicts abroad. When a reckless young man (Lucas Till) is sent to live with his estranged father (Josh Duhamel) after an accidental drug overdose, he’ll find that his cold indifference to the world may finally be thawing. With supporting turns by Maria Bello and Laura Dern, this is the kind of aw-shucks, earnest project that swings between spirited high school dance team sequences to intense family melodrama scenes in star-spangled porches.
The 3rd Annual Central American International Film Festival in Los Angeles runs November 3 – 5, 2017.