On Tuesday night, Cine Tropical launched its month-long series, “Subversive Churches and Mundane Icons.” The series, curated by Juan Daniel F. Molero, seeks to explore Catholicism and religion in Latin America, and the intersections, and differences between different Latin countries. To that end, the first night of the series was a great success.
The night began with El Monte de Gabriel (Gabriel’s Mount) by Christopher Murray. Set in Chile, the protagonist ascends a mountain to speak to God. As the director said via skype after the screening, he set out to create an “atmospheric movie,” in which we get to follow Gabriel as he leaves his mundane daily life, in search of something to fill the emptiness. Though to what extent Gabriel finds meaning to fill his emptiness is left up to the viewer.The next movie, Carta del Apostol San Juaneco a la ciudad del mal (Letter from the Apostle Saint Juaneco to the City of Evil) by Aldo Salvini shifted the mood, and pace considerably. In this short, the main character, who calls himself San Juaneco comes across a fugitive from Lima in the outskirts of the city. Convinced that he must rid the man of demons to found the City of Good, he ties the fugitive to a cross. As Juan Daniel pointed out to me after the screening, in certain Andean cultures in Peru, the word demon and saint are the same.
The night ended with Luis Bunuel’s classic Simon del desierto, the story of an ascetic who sits atop a column in the middle of the desert to be closer to God. During his time there, the devil, in the form of a voluptuous and flirtatious woman, comes to tempt him.
As Juan Daniel said, watching these movies together–all which had to do with asceticism and saintly figures–the differences between the different countries, and the rural versus the urban, come to mind. When I asked him why he decided to curate this series, he said, “I’m going through a period of questioning myself” and that his current influences include Nathaniel Dorsky’s Devotional Cinema, which argues that mindful watching of film can be a transcendent experience.
Whether you are interested in film as a transcendent experience, religion in Latin culture, or just want to watch a mix of Latin movies for free, consider going to Tropical Tuesdays at Casa Mezcal’s Obra Negra. If you do, say hello over a beer. I’ll be the petite, bespectacled Asian woman holding a purple spiral notebook that says REMEZCLA.