MoMA’s ‘Iberoamerican Images’ Showcases Latin American Film Co-Productions & Gael Garcia Bernal

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MoMA’s latest series: “Iberoamerican Images: The State of the Art,” a showcase of the Ibermedia‘s most recent films, will make you want to sing. Cue the West Side Story soundtrack, “I want to live in Iberoamérica, la la la la la iberoamérica..,” Ibermedia is a magical space cine-lovers will definitely want to inhabit, in which 20 Latin American countries, together with Spain, pool together resources, funds, and talent to create awesome co-productions. Once a means to produce and promote pan-Euro cinema and push back against Hollywood domination, co-productions allow national cinemas to grow in instances where their means are modest. Co-productions encourage creative collaboration, foster unique voices, and generally just get more pics on screen, which at the end of the day is what we cine amantes crave, right? So it’s fantastic to see Ibermedia growing from an organization of 7 to now 20 member countries, and to be wowed by the innovative film productions represented in this series. Featuring films from Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Panama, Colombia, Uruguay, Bolivia, Guatemala, Peru, and Chile, it’s an excellent, almost full-stop tour through some of today’s most vibrant Latin American cinema.

Thematically, the lasting legacy of US imperialism, moving from dictatorships to revolution and sometimes back again, the related economic devastation which propels many toward U.S. migration, and corruption plays again and again in Latin American history and cultural production — this film series is no different. What is different are the unique takes on these themes, seen through fresh eyes and in reinvigorated genres.

For starters, check out the visually stunning and thought-provoking doc Palabras mágicas: Para romper un encantamiento (Magic Words: Breaking a Spell), directed by Mercedes Moncada, which opens the MoMa series with a week-long run, and focuses on the Nicaraguan revolutionary ideals and what resulted in its wake. Keep that in the back of your head — it’s poetic, stealthily subversive approach to hard political truths is impossible to shake — while you check out another equally impressive offering: Lúcia Murat’s fiction film, A memória que me contam (Memories They Told Me) focusing on similar themes of life after revolutionary fires have fanned out and marvel at how these two manage through very different stylistic means to raise similar provocative issues and be narratively engrossing at the same time. Those two must-sees plus four more top picks listed below total a solid six, sending you on a cinematically rich, revelatory trip around — cue end credit music — la, la, la, la Iberoamérica…

Directed by: Pablo Larrain
Screens May 6, 9

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“Set during the 1988 Chilean referendum challenging the rule of President Augusto Pinochet, the fast-moving, entertaining (and Oscar-nominated) No concludes Pablo Larraín’s unofficial trilogy of films detailing life under the former dictator. Gael García Bernal plays René, a bright young ad man enlisted to boost the “No” campaign. To recreate the feel of the era (and seamlessly integrate actual ads and television reports), Larraín shot the film on U-matic magnetic tape.”

Palabras mágicas: para romper un encantamiento
(Magic Words: Breaking a Spell)
Directed by Mercedes Moncada
Screens May 1 – 7

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Magic Words is both sweeping and deeply personal, exploring 40 years of Nicaraguan history with a voice that is equally erudite, poetic, and indignant. Tracing the fraught Sandinista revolution throughout the 1980s and its aftermath, Moncada examines the impact of grand ideologies, politics, and lingering memories on communities and individuals, in many ways still left raw and reeling.”

A memória que me contam
(Memories They Told Me)
Directed by Lúcia Murat
Screens May 7, 11

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“Though the film is set in present-day Brazil, the past hangs palpably over Memories They Told Me. With their friend and former comrade Ana on her deathbed, a group of aging revolutionaries are reunited and forced to grapple with their former accomplishments, failures, and lingering resentments. Wary of self-aggrandizing nostalgia or romanticism, Murat offers an honest, complicated look at youthful idealism and the often uneasy overlap between the personal and the political.”

El mudo (The Mute)
Directed by Diego and Daniel Vega Vidal
Screens May 2, 8

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A famously incorruptible judge is at the heart of this black comedy; his no-nonsense throw the book at them style wins him a high conviction rate but no friends, and any one of his enemies may be the one who shot him in this dark, hilarious whodunit that’s a fresh take on cronyism and corruption, and the hell that the high road sometimes leads to.

La jaula de oro
Directed by Diego Quemada-Diaz
Screens May 8, 12

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Quemada-Diaz’s directorial debut at Cannes nabbed the award Un Certain Regard, and is an engrossing tale that follows three Guatemalan teens — played by compelling, convincing young non-professional actors–who compelled to migrate by very different situations, nonetheless bond together to attempt the long, perilous journey to the U.S. from Central America.

Melaza (Molasses)
Directed by Carlos Lechuga
Screens May 11, 14

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Any film a government doesn’t want you to see is of course a must-see, but beyond the controversy around the Cuban national film organization’s resistance to this film, Melaza is a stand-out on its own artistic merit–a dynamically shot and acted story of a vibrant young couple who fight to keep their lives, dignity, and relationship afloat after the closing of their town’s sugar mill.

Ibermedia Roundtable Discussion
Saturday, May 3 at 6:30pm
New York University’s King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center

A special panel discussion presented as part of MoMA’s film series “Iberoamérican Images: The State of the Art” which will discuss the vital role that the Ibermedia program has had in the revitalization of cinema in Latin America, Spain and Portugal, creating a unique model of co-production among the country members and launching the career of a new generation of filmmakers while also supporting the work of veteran directors.

– Juan Carlos Valdivia (Filmmaker)

– Mercedes Moncada Rodríguez (Filmmaker)

– Dylon Robbins (NYU)

– Elena Vilardell (Ibermedia)

– Manoel Rangel (Head of Ibermedia Board)

– Carlos Gutiérrez, Moderator (Cinema Tropical)

Iberoamerican Images: The State of the Art runs at MoMA from May 1 – 14.