Not many people would associate the seven small countries of Central America with film production. In fact, few know that the region even makes films, let alone international festival hits like Julio Hernández Cordón’s Marimbas del infierno from Guatemala, or Tatiana Huezo’s El lugar más pequeño from El Salvador. While Central America still has a long way to go before catching up with Mexico’s unprecedented 126 annual films, production has been growing at a slow but steady rate over the last few years, with more and more quality films making it onto the international circuit than ever before.

In addition to the groundbreaking, Guatemala-based regional film school Casa Comal, a large part of Central American cinema’s presence on the global stage is thanks to Guatemala’s Festival Ícaro, which will be going into its 17th edition later this month. Featuring both a Latin American competition and awards for locally-oriented productions from Panama all the way to Belmopan, Ícaro follows up each edition with showcases throughout the world.

Coming to New York for the third consecutive year in collaboration with the Instituto Cervantes, Havana Film Festival in New York, and Casa Comal — New York filmgoers will be given a privileged window into the fascinating films coming out of the region from September 9 – 12 at Ícaro New York.

Here are our top 5 film picks to whet your appetite.

Puerto Padre
Director: Gustavo Fallas
Country: Costa Rica
Year: 2013

As a teenage orphan from Chira Island searches for his godfather on the mainland, his innocent memory of childhood is gradually replaced by an unsettling reality upon learning the truth about his origins.

El Xendra
Director: Juan Carlos Fanconi
Country: Honduras
Year: 2012

El Xendra tells the story of four Central American scientists that have the mission of investigating a paranormal event that occurred in Honduras after the supposed end of the world that was to take place on the 21st of December 2012. One of the scientists receives a message from beings of another world, which leads them to search for an extraterrestrial city, hidden under the jungle of that region, which in this case is the mythical White City. Based on facts about contacting extraterrestrials that were received by two Peruvians, Sixto Paz and Ricardo González.

Fe (Faith)
Director: Alejo Crisóstomo
Country: Guatemala
Year: 2012

An evangelical priest is forced to question the true reason why God has placed him on earth. With this in mind, the priest is invited to give a religious service in the state prison of Guatemala City, where he meets Beto, a young fisherman accused of killing a thirteen-year-old girl. The priest sees in Beto a chance to redeem himself and once Beto is released from prison, the priest decides to help him. The priest gives Beto a job and shelter in the church, causing his family and congregation to turn against him. Convinced of Beto’s innocence and affirmed only in his faith, the priest decides to help him at all costs. Until one day, an unexpected crime occurs in the surroundings of the church.

Justice for my Sister
Director: Kimberly Bautista
Country: Guatemala, U.S.A.
Year: 2013

Adela, 27, left home for work one day and never returned. Her ex‐boyfriend beat her until she was unrecognizable and left her at the side of the road. Her story is all too familiar in Guatemala, where 6,000 women have been murdered in the last decade. Only 2% of those killers have been sentenced. Adela’s sister Rebeca, 34, is determined to see that Adela’s killer is held accountable. She makes tortillas at home and sells them in order to raise her five children, as well as the three children Adela left behind. Completely transformed by her struggle, Rebeca emerges as a feminist leader in her rural community with a message for others: justice is possible.

El silencio de Neto (Neto’s Silence)
Director: Luis Argueta
Country: Guatemala
Year: 1994

The Silence of Neto, the strong directorial debut by Luis Argueta, is also the first feature film ever made in Guatemala. It tells the poignant story of a Guatemalan boy coming of age at a crucial moment in his country’s history. In 1954, the year Neto turns eleven, a CIA‐sponsored invasion overthrows the democratically elected government of his country. Through the eyes of young Neto, the viewer is given an insider’s look at the diverse people of Guatemala, and the historical events in the mid‐1950s, including a coup, that have shaped their destiny.

20th Anniversary Screening: Director Luis Argueta present for Q&A. Reception to follow.

Running September 9 -12 at the Instituto Cervantes in Manhattan, all Ícaro New York screenings are free.