From Sexual Frenzies to Fugitive Poets: Don’t Miss These Latin American Movies at LA’s Top Film Fest

Lead Photo: 'Neruda' Courtesy of NYFF
'Neruda' Courtesy of NYFF
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Los Angeles may not have a name-brand film festival, but it’s a name-brand town; so even if you haven’t heard AFI Fest, you can assume that an institution as prestigious as the American Film Institute would bring nothing but the best in cinematic quality to the global capital of film production. In fact, for 30 years tinseltown’s top film fest has been bringing Hollywood’s iconic theaters some of the most exciting and cutting edge work from around the world. And of course, the the festival doesn’t have to struggle much to attract world class talent like Pedro Almodóvar, Bernardo Bertolucci, and AFI alum David Lynch to lend their vision as Guest Artistic Directors.

This year’s edition will be bringing dozens of films from countries like Kenya, Ukraine, Belgium, and Brazil over to the TLC Chinese Theatres, the Egyptian Theatre, and the Hollywood Roosevelt from November 10-17. With eight features representing from Latin America, there should be plenty to keep Latin cinenerds happy, with a few titles that have already been cleaning up on the international festival circuit. For starters, Pablo Larraín’s Neruda comes just ahead of his much-anticipated English-language debut Jackie, which premieres nationwide in December.

This playful take on the biopic genre is a highly imaginative retelling of the cat-and-mouse game that unfolded between Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and the government agents that pursued him in the 1940s. Featuring all of the hallmarks of Larraín’s unique filmography, including powerful period visuals and a wry sense of humor, Neruda seems to be playing with the very idea of a biopic, showing Gael García Bernal’s Oscar Peluchoneau as he fights to be protagonist of his own story.

From Mexico, Maquinaria Panamericana lands in LA after making waves on the international festival circuit. Taking place in a fictional construction company named Maquinaria Panamericana, director Joaquín del Paso‘s feature debut presents us with a workplace run by a decent, caring man named Don Alejandro. For decades Don Alejandro has run his business like a family, and his employees return the favor with their enthusiasm and hard work. When Don Alejandro suddenly dies, his faithful workers come to learn that he has been paying their wages out of pocket for years, and their whole lives are about to change for the worse.

And finally, Mexican auteur Amat Escalante’s latest masterpiece La región salvaje (The Untamed) spins a surreal story of marital disfunction, a mysterious murder, and a sexual frenzy-inducing extraterrestrial life form. The film kicks off by exploring the complicated home life of Ale and her macho husband Ángel, who is carrying on an affair with Ale’s brother, Fabián. When Fabián is invited on a country jaunt by a female patient, he is turns up dead – the victim of an apparent sexual assault. From there, Escalante takes his latest into increasingly bizarre and inexplicable territory that seems to take cues from his close friend and mentor, Carlos Reygadas.

Check out the full program here.