This SF Film Series Is a Chance to See Colombian Movies That Rarely Make it to US Theaters

Lead Photo: 'Los Hongs' still courtesy of Roxie Theater
'Los Hongs' still courtesy of Roxie Theater
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With high-profile films screening at some of the most well-regarded film festivals as well as an industry that’s producing close to 50 feature projects a year, it’s clear that Colombian cinema is hitting a new high. RoxCine, the Roxie’s year-round Spanish-language film program, over in San Francisco, has just announced that they’ll be celebrating those achievements. “Panorama Colombia” will be showcasing four features as well as a program of shorts. Combined, they hope to show an industry in full bloom, finding newer ways of telling homegrown stories in the South American country.

Proving just how adventurous yet regionally specific Colombian features have become is Rubén Mendoza‘s Señorita María, Skirting the Mountain (Señorita María, la falda de la montaña). This character study of a documentary follows 45 year-old María Luisa, who lives in the Andean mountains and speaks fondly about how much she loves wearing skirts. Because, as we soon learn, María Luisa was born male but has lived her life as a woman, even in spite of the disdain she elicits in her small Catholic town. A portrait of a woman weathering storms both literal and figurative, Mendoza’s doc is a reminder that dignity can be found anywhere.

Exploring much more familiar, yet for that no less exciting, territory is Santiago Caicedo‘s Virus TropicalAdapted from the graphic novel memoir by Colombian-Ecuadorian cartoonist Power Paola, this black and white animated coming of age film is a kind of Latina Persepolis. And just like that adult-geared animated classic, Caicedo’s feature is decidedly not for kids. It contains, after all, frank depictions of nudity, sex, childbirth, and recreational drug use as we follow young Paola’s life as the youngest of three girls growing up. Scored by a lo-fi Latin indie score and dealing with everything from friendships to romance, Virus Tropical is a welcome addition to the growing genre of female coming-of-age tales.

Delving into equally personal territory, Clare Weiskopf‘s Amazona tracks her own journey into the Amazon rainforest as she finds her mother there and confronts her about having left her children behind to live in the Colombian jungle. Carrying her first child and attuned to how documentary practices can be weapons for self-reflection, Weiskopf opens a fascinating dialogue about sacrifice, guilt and self-determination. With family photos and videos as well as stunningly shot images of the Amazon, this is as achingly personal a documentary as you’re bound to see.

And for those itching to get a sense of the urban landscapes of Colombia there’s Oscar Ruiz Navia‘s Los Hongos. Set in his native Cali, this fiction film follows friends Ras and Calvin as they criss-cross the city by skateboard and BMX looking for money to buy paint, an empty wall to fill, and something greater to be part of. Inspired by the Arab Spring, they set out to provide a contribution to a collective piece with a group of local street artists. So whether you’re looking for some feminist animated fare or some probing documentaries, you really can’t go wrong with RoxCine’s latest offerings which will likely make you want to book a ticket to Colombia as soon as you can.

Panorama Colombia runs at the Roxie Theater August 17-19, 2018.