The Cinema Tropical Awards have spoken and have crowned the best Latin American film of 2018. Announced on Thursday, January 10 at a special ceremony at the 15th Floor Conference Center of The New York Times headquarters, the juried awards named Lucrecia Martel‘s dizzying colonial epic Zama the Best Film of the year. If you’re wondering why the Argentine production got in over that black-and-white Mexican movie hogging up all other awards (Roma), know that the sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated Alfonso Cuarón film is eligible for next year’s awards. Unlike other awards bodies, Cinema Tropical’s opts not to offer nominations in various categories, offering a shortlist of 25 films instead, which lumped in narrative films with documentaries and which this year ran the gamut from the eclectic to the bizarre.
Indeed, those two adjectives aptly describe the winners of the Best Director and Best First Film categories: the Brazilian werewolf horror pic Good Manners (directed by Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra), and the ravishing Chilean stop-motion The Wolf House (directed by the Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña), respectively. A fourth category, Best Documentary film, was given to Juliana Antunes‘s Baronesa, a stark portrait of two Brazilian women trying to survive in the favelas. Covering ample ground, these four films offer as diverse a portrait of the striking work being produced all over Latin America.
Now in its 10th year, the Cinema Tropical awards also handed out an award for Best US Latino Film. Chosen from a five-film shortlist, the jury (which included yours truly) crowned the harrowing and tearjerking prison doc The Sentence as the winner. The Rudy Valdez-directed movie about his sister’s prison sentence (and the mass incarceration epidemic) first made a splash back at Sundance 2018 before premiering on HBO late last year. Also cited for a special mention was Elan and Jonathan Bogarín‘s experimental documentary 306 Hollywood, a character portrait of the directors’ Jewish grandmother, whose death prompted the inquisitive duo to recreate and excavate her life through her possessions.
As in years past, audiences will be able to catch these award-winning films at the Cinema Tropical Film Festival. Hosted by the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, the weekend fest is a perfect chance to see the best of Latin American and Latino cinema has to offer.
Cinema Tropical Festival will take place February 2-4, 2019, at the Museum of the Moving Image.