This Film Series Is Bringing Latin America’s Queer Cinema to Phoenix’s Latino Neighborhoods

Lead Photo: 'Una mujer fantastica' (A Fantastic Woman). Courtesy of Sony Classics
'Una mujer fantastica' (A Fantastic Woman). Courtesy of Sony Classics
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Queer Latinx films have been making waves (and winning Oscars) for the past couple of years. Unfortunately, unless you live on the coasts or in select cities where such arthouse fare is common, chances are you’ve missed out on some groundbreaking cinema. That’s partly what fuels Trans Queer Pueblo’s ¡Wáchale! FilmFest. Bringing new releases and classic hits from across Latin America to historically Latinx neighborhoods in Phoenix, the free festival hopes to offer its local communities a stellar selection of queer projects.

The fest kicked off with a screening of Chavela. The music documentary on the legendary icon of Mexican music follows the cigar-smoking, tequila-downing rebel who broke barriers in the industry and made a name in the business by being herself. With interviews with the likes of Pedro Almodóvar as well as archival footage from her life with her partners, Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi’s doc is a tribute to a queer trailblazer.

Going further South, the fest will be showing two Chile-set films in September which paint of portrait of the country as it is and the country as it was. Sebastian Lelio‘s A Fantastic Woman is a touching character study of a trans woman who finds her life turned upside down when her older lover dies. The contemporary drama puts a human touch on the issues afflicting the trans community in Santiago, whereas Patricio Guzmán‘s Nostalgia for the Light looks back at the country’s storied post-Pinochet history. The documentary is about two different searches conducted in the Chilean Atacama Desert: one by astronomers looking for answers about the history of the cosmos, and one by women looking for the remains of loved ones killed by Pinochet’s regime. Guzmán’s film will be shown as a special screening to mark the 45th anniversary of the 1973 US-backed coup d’etat against the government of Salvador Allende in Chile.

The fest concludes in October with Arturo Ripstein‘s Hell Without Limits (El lugar sin límites) and Felipe Cazals’ Canoa: A Shameful Memory (Canoa: memoria de un hecho vergonzoso). The former, a classic from 1978, shows us what happens when the return of Pancho to a small Mexican town stirs up discord between La Manuela — an aging trans woman who runs a weathered brothel — and her daughter, La Japonesita. Newly restored by the Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE), this lush melodrama is a reminder that queer stories aren’t just a 21st-century invention. Canoa, which will be screened just in time for Halloween, is a horror take on a real-life story. When a group of University students find themselves in the town of La Malinche during a hike, they’ll have to confront the priest who’s raising a lynch mob as he suspects them of being communists. As Trans Queer Pueblo notes, the events of this 1976 film “cast light on a political horror that we remember on its 50th anniversary – the October 1968 Massacre of Tlatelolco, which left more than 200 student protesters dead.”

¡Wáchale! FilmFest runs August 14 – October 27, 2018. Remember: it’s free!