Latin Films at Sundance: Los Weirdos

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Cinephiles rejoice! The Sundance Film Festival is well under way in Salt Lake City. A week of movies and entertainment await those lucky enough to be in the city for the week. As for the rest of us, we’ll have to make due with trailers, interviews, and other stuff that will only make us suffer more as we wait for movies to find distributors.

Out of the many come a few who will be breakout stars. Last year featured standouts such as Waste Land (Brazil), The Man Next Door (Argentina), Undertow (Peru), and Southern District (Bolivia) among others. This year is no different, except for one thing that keeps popping up: people who just don’t fit in.

Yes, weirdos, misfits, losers, the down and out. These unsung heroes of the numerous republics in Latin America provide us with found humor, cautionary tales of avoiding the opposite sex, and now films. Sure, other directors have made films on people who are less than “proper,” but these films not only look at the unconventional nature of their lives, but are in themselves unconventional. Of all the films available right now, there are four that are just screaming to be seen in your dark, lonely stinky cinema (or bedroom).


dir. Jose Padilha [Brazil]

Brazil’s Jose Padilha of Bus 174 fame retuned last year with a sequel, Elite Squad 2, and the film has been a hit. Just as, if not more, violent than the original, Elite Squad 2 takes a look at the ruthless members of BOPE, a tactical police unit who fight a never-ending battle with street crime and corruption. Released during Lula’s last year in office, the film struck a chord with the public for obvious reasons: it has a shit load of guns and a healthy amount of blood. At the same time, the film betrays an uncertain moral compass. Everyone seems to either be in on the take or drifting away from what were once solid identities.

“But these guys aren’t weirdos,” one would say. Of course they are! Maligned by the press and looked on with fear and awe by the general public, these guys are forced to do battle with both criminals and sometimes with their own forces. Sure, they aren’t Batman, but the results are the same.


dir. Sebastian Silva & Pedro Peirano [Chile]

Sebastian Silva’s Old Cats is basically a lesbian couple who conspire to woo an old lady for profit. Sort of an octogenarian It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia without the dick jokes. Aside from Away From Her, when was the last time any compelling film was made about the twilight years? Silva had a good year in 2009 with The Maid, winning awards as well as good press. Early reviews have been supportive if not particularly glowing.

Old Cats features Catalina Saavedra, star of The Maid, as the old lady’s lesbian daughter’s lover, who by the way, goes by Hugo. But their sexual preference is not front and center. It’s their treachery toward the lesbian daughter’s own mother. But, like The Maid, Old Cats has a warm soul underneath the filth.


dir. Iria Gómez Concheiro [Mexico]

Mexico’s The Cinema Hold Up is gearing up to be one of the most unique films from Latin America, if not the entire festival. Rarely (if ever) have films geared for film festivals focused on both skateboarders and youth culture (yeah, sort of redundant, but I’m sticking by it!). This one not only focuses on that but refuses to take the conventional road and focuses more on friendship and the forces working against them. The film has already been sold to a distributor and the buzz surrounding this film is continuing to grow.

The four amigos (God, I’ve been waiting to use that in a sentence!) are a group of teens on the cusp of adulthood. Bereft of cash, they hatch a plan to rob, not a bank or a diner, but a movie theater. The film references the increasing lawlessness of the country. Ski masks and pistols are standard ware but the film’s real heart and soul lies with four teens willing but unable to progress, an indictment of the national experience to date. Or maybe we’re just reading way too much into this.


dir. Carlos Moreno [Colombia]

Finally, Colombia’s All Your Dead Ones has a lot of things going for it: lots of dead bodies, a farmer, and some of the biggest pussies to hold public office in Colombia. Like The Cinema Hold Up, this one has already been sold to a distributor. As for the plot, a farmer finds a pile of dead bodies in his field and naturally tells the cops. The government pretty much tells him to get bent and tries to intimidate him since he tells them on Election Day.

Alright, fine, so All Your Dead Ones doesn’t fall into the weirdo category, but when was the last time you saw a movie on a pile of dead bodies and milk it for laughs? Plus, how can you NOT like the pun in the title? Anyway, word on the mean streets of Sundance is that the film also has something to do with the brutal political and criminal strife in Colombia.


So, yes, these are the cream of the crop, the few, the proud, the subtitled. Maybe you’ve already seen them, maybe you’re going to hunt for RapidShare or MediaFire links (please don’t), or maybe you just don’t give a damn. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ll be playing with our cardboard cutout of Gael Garcia Bernal