Events like the Ecuadorian Film Festival in New York hope to showcase their country’s thriving cinema industry while also hoping to attract and nurture a local community of faithful moviegoers. Such a fest is as much about the movies it shows as about the message it sends. “In a time when it seems there is no space for us immigrants, when we seem to be only interested in our individual screen in front of us,” says Christian Ponce, the Festival’s co-director, “we love to be able to bring people together and share an experience, and somehow visit a different reality trough a movie.”
Its most high-profile project will no doubt be La mala noche. Gabriela Calvache’s film was just recently unveiled as Ecuador’s submission for the newly-named “Best International Feature Film” category at this year’s Oscars (what used to be the Best Foreign Language Film). Following a sex worker named Dana (Noëlle Schönwald), this urban drama is all about the lengths a woman will go to finally set herself free from a situation that has shackled her. Calvache, who’s spoken candidly about how her film was inspired by true events and the real life experience of people she met, deals openly with sex work and the gendered power imbalances women face in contemporary society, all wrapped up in an edge-of-your-seat pulse-pounding thriller.
For Huahua, Ecuadorian Kichwa filmmaker Joshi Espinosa Anguayana turns his lens on a young indigenous couple as they learn they’re expecting a baby. Getting them to talk candidly on camera about how they self-identify and showing audiences their everyday interactions, Espinosa Anguayana builds a documentary portrait of what it means to navigate identities like “indígena” and “mestizo” in a world that sees a giant gulf between the two.
Hasta el fin de Delfín, Fernando Mieles’ documentary (which, like Huahua features both in Spanish and Kichwa), tracks viral sensation Delfín, a humble Ecuadorian musician who first shot to fame (or infamy, depending who you ask) when he uploaded a clip to YouTube of his song “Twin Towers.” This was in 2006 and, for obvious reasons, sparked a controversy that still follows him to this day. After more than a decade of being a punchline and never quite breaking out, Delfín continues to deal with how to translate his viral fame into something more tangible, even as he still works a day job and dreams of bigger and better things.
On the opposite end of music docs is Estación Polar. David Holguín Wagner promises to offer “a visual and sound portrait of an era, of a generation, and of one of the most emblematic Ecuadorian bands.” His documentary takes audiences on a journey alongside the indie rock band Mamá Vudú. Taking us back to the ’90s, when rock took over the music scene across Latin America and when its in-your-face-attitude excited an entire generation, this electric documentary captures an oral history of a band that may finally be getting its due. As a tie-in, the film fest will wrap up with a live performance by Mamá Vudú, so go ahead and book your tickets now.
The Ecuadorian Film Festival in New York runs from October 18 — 20, 2019.