These Are the Latin American Movies Playing This Year’s Cannes Film Festival

Lead Photo: 'Gabriel e a montanha' Courtesy of Critics' Week/Cannes Film Festival
'Gabriel e a montanha' Courtesy of Critics' Week/Cannes Film Festival
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If you looked at the official competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Latin American cinema had been shut out of what’s arguably the most prestigious festival in the world. But the fact that no titles from Latin American auteurs made this year’s cut for the fest’s official selection is actually not that surprising. For the past several years, the official competition at Cannes has seldom found space to celebrate cinema from the region with films like Aquarius, Heli, Wild Tales, and Chronic being outliers in this regard. Thankfully, many of the other sections at the festival, as well as the Critics Week parallel fest have plenty of Latin American features to check out.

Take the Un Certain Regard section. There you’ll find films from Argentina, Chile, and Mexico repping the region. There’s Santiago Mitre‘s La cordillera (The Summit) which stars Ricardo Darín as Hernán Blanco, the Argentine president, a casting choice that should immediately get you excited about this political drama set during a summit for Latin American presidents in Chile, where the region’s geopolitical strategies and alliances are in discussion. When a family crisis happens while he’s set to make a pivotal choice that could change his political standing, president Blanco will have to face the biggest decision of his life. Then there’s also the Chilean-Argentine coproduction La novia del desierto (The Desert Bride), directed by Cecilia Atan and Valeria Pivato. Starring Chilean Paulina García (Gloria, Narcos, Little Men), the film follows Teresa, an older woman who after losing her job as a live-in maid in Buenos Aires opts to take a job in the distant town of San Juan. But when she loses her bag during her journey in the desert, she’s left to fend for herself while meeting a traveling salesman called El Gringo (Claudio Rissi) who may be the only to help her in this time of need.

‘La cordillera’ Courtesy of Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2017
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Returning to Cannes is Mexican director Michel Franco. After the warm reception his past films have gathered at the fest (with After Lucia and Chronic both taking awards in their respective years), Franco is unveiling his latest, Las hijas de abril (April’s Daughter)The family drama centers on Valeria, a 17 year-old living in Puerto Vallarta with her half-sister Clara. Despite Valeria’s decision not to tell her estranged mother that she’s pregnant, Clara brings Abril back into their lives – a choice that proves why they might’ve been better off without her in the first place.

Over at the Directors’ Fortnight section, Colombian helmer Natalia Santa will be presenting La defensa del dragón (The Dragon Defense), her debut feature. The Bogotá-set film centers on three old friends who spend their days between Lasker, the legendary chess club, The Caribbean Casino, and La Normanda, a traditional coffee shop in the Colombian capital. In between chess matches and poker games, Samuel, Joaquín and Marcos must come to terms with their lives’ failures which they have kept at bay long enough.

‘Los perros’ Courtesy of Critics Week, Cannes 2017
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Not far behind in terms of Latin American content is Critics’ Week (Semaine de la critique) which is celebrating its 56th year of showcasing first and second films in its lineup at the seaside fest. There, attendees will get a chance to catch Venezuelan Gustavo Rondón Córdova‘s La familiaabout a father and son who go on the run after a violent altercation on the streets of Caracas leaves a young boy seriously injured. They’ll have time to check out Marcela Said‘s Los perrosan exploration of privilege and Chile’s upper class through an adulterous relationship between a middle-aged woman and her riding teacher, a former colonel suspected of human rights violations. Because it wouldn’t be a film fest without a requisite Brazilian flick, critics should keep an eye out for Gabriel e a montanha (Gabriel and the Mountain) by Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa. This globe-trotting adventure follows Gabriel, a young Brazilian who decides to travel the world for a year before beginning his studies at a prestigious American university.

And if all of those projects don’t sound enticing enough, the 70th edition of the famed French film festival is opening its doors to virtual reality for the first time with the unveiling of Alejandro González Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezki‘s latest collaboration. The seven-minute immersive virtual reality documentary called Carne y Arena chronicles the lives of a number of immigrants and refugees crossing the border into the United States. The minds and eyes behind The Revenant and Birdman tackling timely issues in a boundary-pushing technology? Trust we’ll keep an eye on it.

The 70th annual Cannes Film Festival runs from May 17-28, 2017.