After unveiling the winners for the 8th annual Cinema Tropical awards, the New York City-based nonprofit has teamed up yet again with the Museum of the Moving Image to showcase the lauded films. For a full weekend, the Cinema Tropical Festival takes over the cinephile mecca in Astoria, Queens to offer audiences a chance to see the best and brightest of last year’s Latin American cinema.
On Friday, Jorge Thielen Armand, director of La soledad will be on hand to introduce and partake in a Q&A following his Best First Film project. Co-presented with the Venezuelan Film Festival in New York (VEFFNY), La soledad offers a blend of fiction and documentary as it tells the story of a young father who discovers that the dilapidated mansion he squats will soon be demolished and who embarks on a hunt for a treasure that’s rumored to be on the property. With lush cinematography and an intimate approach to its characters, this doc is a triumphant debut.
Don’t miss opening night of @CinemaTropical Festival with Best First Film award winner LA SOLEDAD w/ director @tarmand_ in person. A young father in Venezuela searches for a cursed treasure to save his family from homelessness. Friday, 7PM https://t.co/Ek8ZkPLaJK pic.twitter.com/jASZmUEOLG
— Museum of the Moving Image (@MovingImageNYC) January 28, 2018
Also present for a post-screening Q&A is Cecilia Aldarondo. Her very personal documentary, about the story of her late uncle, Memories of a Penitent Heart won Best U.S. Film. Framed like a kind of family album being shared with viewers, Aldarondo’s documentary has her uncovering why it is her relatives have always shied away from talking openly about her uncle Miguel (or Michael, as he was known when he left Puerto Rico for New York City). As she soon learns, his sexuality had made him a pariah in the family though eventually he reunited with his mother at the hospital in New York before passing away, a place at which he’d also spent time with his live-in boyfriend. A mystery film wrapped in a homemade package, it’s an intimate look at how religion and homophobia can tear families apart, and how love and understanding can bring them back together.
Affonso Uchoa and João Dumans’ Araby and Eduardo Williams’ The Human Surge which took top honors (Best Film and Best Director respectively) will remind viewers of the continued robust cinema landscape in Brazil and Argentina. The former functions as a Marxist look at the industrial workforce in Brazil, telling a series of stories of an aluminum factory worker called Cristiano as he roams and cavorts his way through the world. Showcasing both barren industrial wastelands, urban landscapes and natural wonders, Araby is an emotional and intellectual road trip.
In contrast, The Human Surge favors a more international approach to its storytelling. Moving from Buenos Aires to Mozambique, and featuring dialogue in Spanish, Portuguese and Cebuano, Williams’ ambitious film weaves together disparate storylines (involving a webcam and an ant colony; interested in both cities and jungles) to frame itself as a film for and about this current moment.
Elsewhere, the fest will also showcase Lissette Orozco’s Adriana’s Pact. Much like Aldarondo’s film, Orozco’s documentary is an intimate look at a painful chapter in her family’s history: The Adriana in the title was the director’s favorite aunt, who’d eventually settled in Australia but who was arrested in 2007 when visiting her relatives in Chile. The reason for her arrest? Having worked for dictator Pinochet’s notorious secret police, DINA. As Orozco tries to wrestle with the chance of that being true we see teary Skype sessions, grainy archival footage and plenty of historical pics that help her uncover what may have happened.
Cinema Tropical Festival screens February 2-4, 2018 at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York.