Decolonize Sci-Fi: This Film Series Showcases Utopian & Dystopian Tales Set in Latin America

Lead Photo: 'La región salvaje' Courtesy of Los Cabos Film Festival
'La región salvaje' Courtesy of Los Cabos Film Festival
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What does the future look like outside of Hollywood’s dizzying takes on dystopia like Mad Max: Fury Road and The Hunger Games? Well, Cinema Tropical and the Museum of the Moving Image will be offering some examples in the next few months as part of “Uchronias and Dystopian Futures: Latin American Science Fiction Cinema of the 21st Century.” The film program will be presented in conjunction with the exhibition Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas at Queens Museum. The eight feature films and one short film come from Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Cuba, and Mexico, among others and offer a decolonial perspective on Latin American science fiction cinema these past two decades.

They range in tone from the fresh comedy of César Caro’s Third World (Tercer mundo) which tells three parallel storylines — a Chilean scientist engaged in a secret NASA mission; an indigenous Bolivian woman whose grandfather transmits knowledge to her about pre-Hispanic cultures with extraterrestrial contacts; and a group of Costa Rican friends — to the video art experimentation of Daniel Molero’s Videofilia (y otros síndromes virales), a Peruvian film that follows a slacker who’s obsessed with conspiracy theories, Mayan prophecies of the end of the world, and amateur porn.

As with all timely and thoughtful sci-fi, many of these films tackle real-life socio-cultural conditions throughout the continent. Such is the case in The Project of the Century (La obra del siglo) by Carlos Machado, a fictional film that includes archival footage and is set near the ruins of a Soviet-backed nuclear power plant in Cuba. Similarly, Adirley Queirós’s White Out, Black In (Braco sai, preto fica) combines docufiction and Afrofuturism in portraying two victims of police brutality who’ve had to build their own prosthetic limbs to survive in Ceilândia, a satellite city established by the Brazilian government to prevent the poor from settling in the capital of Brasília.

Elsewhere, the program also features Oscar Campo’s heady riff on contagion and cloning, I’m Another (Yo soy otro), Marcos Machado Loria’s UFOs in Zacapa (Ovnis en Zacapa), all about fake news and alien encounters, and festival favorite The Untamed (La región salvaje). Amat Escalante’s eerie take on a love triangle may be the only film you’ll see that features an extraterrestrial octopus whose phallic tentacles feed on the pleasure it produces in humans. Together, these eclectic films offer a unique focus on the present while reimagining the future.

Uchronias and Dystopian Futures: Latin American Science Fiction Cinema of the 21st Century runs April 14 – July 21, 2019.