We hear a lot about how Hollywood dominates foreign box offices, so it’s always heartening when Tinseltown gets a little taste of its own medicine – and this week that medicine comes in the form of The Guadalajara International Film Festival’s annual border-crossing showcase FICG in LA. Granted, it’s hard to compare the heavy-handed tactics of US cultural imperialism with a choice selection of the best recent films out of Latin America, but it’s still nice to see Mexico’s illustrious film institution’s representing in the belly of the Hollywood beast.
After five successful editions, FICG in LA will be following more or less the same formula for its 2016 incarnation, with homages to outstanding representatives of Latin America’s diverse film industries, including directors Patricia Riggen and Hector Babenco, and Brazilian actress Alice Braga. In addition, 13 feature films will play at Hollywood’s iconic TCL Chinese Theatres alongside a collection of the best shorts from this year’s festival.
Among the must-see films on the docket this year, the US-Paraguayan coproduction Landfill Harmonic should tug on the old heartstrings in all the right ways with its inspirational story of a Paraguayan youth orchestra that makes its instruments out of garbage from a nearby landfill. The documentary follows the orchestra as it performs across the world after achieving viral fame online, until a natural disaster brings them back to their community.
On a very different note, the sci-fi drama La granja takes Puerto Rico’s economic crisis as the backdrop for a series of interconnecting stories à la Amores Perros. In this twisted take on a fictionalized Puerto Rico, drug addiction and economic depression are the order of the day. One vignette follows a middle aged ex-boxer who trains his ambitious son for a youth boxing championship while he struggles with a cockfighting debt; another follows a midwife desperate for her own child; and the last dramatizes a young girl’s attempts to win the attention of her drug-addicted older sister. In the fruitless pursuit of hope, all three characters are eventually pushed to the limits of desperation.
And finally, our aging charolastra life-partners Gael and Diego will be making an appearance in two very different films. Directed by Diego Luna, Mr. Pig stars Danny Glover and Maya Rudolph, and tells the multi-layered story of a dying farmer who steals across the U.S.-Mexico border with an undocumented pig in order to give him a life he could never have in the United States. With Rudolph playing Glover’s daughter, Luna digs into very personal themes of parent-child relationships, while also opening the door for interpretations related to immigration and US-Mexico relations.
For his part, Gael García Bernal takes on an uncharacteristically disagreeable role in the romantic comedy, Me estás matando, Susana. In this literary adaptation, Gael plays Eligio, a Mexican intellectual prone to bouts of rage as he tracks down his wife, Susana, a feminist author who absconds to the US for a literary fellowship without so much as a goodbye. Once they’ve reunited, their relationship dynamic is inverted, with Susana setting the rules of the game despite husband Eligio’s deep-seated macho tendencies.