Austin, Texas has no shortage of film festivals. After all, this is the city that’s host both to South by Southwest in the Spring and to Fantastic Fest in the Fall. But if you want a fest that features projects made “by and/or about Latinos or indigenous peoples of the Americas” you can’t do any better than Cine Las Americas International Film Festival. Now in its 19th year, the Texas program is showing 38 feature films, 60 short films, and 16 music videos, with over 24 countries represented.
Under its “New Releases” section you’ll find features we’ve been championing here at Remezcla, including Gabriel Lichtmann’s How to Win Enemies, Santiago Lozano Álvarez and Ángela Osorio Rojas’ Siembra, as well as Venice Film Festival winner Desde Allá and Los Cabos International Film Festival winner Te prometo anarquía. Consider those 19 films a cross section of the best cinema Latin America has to offer. That’s not to say that Cine Las America’s Competition slate (as well as it Hecho in Tejas lineup) are any less exciting. Tackling immigration, mental illness, rocket ships, and everything in between, the flicks playing in Austin will have something for everyone.
Don’t worry, we combed through the entire program and hand-picked 10 can’t-miss films from the fest, from autobiographical docs on Chilean government dynasties to a Babel-like feature set almost entirely in the New York City subway.
Cine Las Americas International Film Festival runs May 4 – 8, 2016 in Austin, TX.
Allende mi abuelo Allende
In this documentary, Marcia Tambutti Allende uses the medium to confront her family’s life-long silence around her abue’s legacy both as a politician and family man. Tambutti’s feature sticks more to the personal rather than delving into El Chicho’s social and political legacy. Formally, Allende is structured around a series of interventions, interviews, and archival materials that Tambutti uses to explore the nature of her family’s prolonged silence, and how it relates to the traumatic loss of their patriarch. The director reconstructs a personal history of a man who for many is a little more than an idealistic political icon, or an image of resistance in a country still recovering from decades of brutal dictatorship.
Filmed almost entirely in the Kaqchikel dialect spoken in Guatemala’s coffee-growing highlands, Ixcanul dramatizes the story of María, a young Mayan woman who is promised to the coffee plantation foreman, despite her desire for a lowly coffee cutter named Pepe. Dreaming of absconding with Pepe to a romanticized vision of the United States, María eventually has the encounter with modernity she so yearned for, but not for the reasons she had hoped. In addition to the impressive naturalistic performances from the film’s non-professional cast, Ixcanul’s visuals are extremely powerful, with radiant bronze skin tones, textured interiors, and the requisite breathtaking landscapes.
Te prometo anarquía
This is a tale of twisted adolescence, free love, and reprehensible crime that takes place on the streets of Mexico City. The feature follows a middle-class teen skateboard fanatic who carries on an illicit affair with the son of his family’s maid, who simultaneously carries on an affair with a young woman named Adri. In the tense shadow of this uncomfortable love triangle, the two spend their days skating, making love, doing drugs, and selling their blood on the black market, until the promise of easy cash finds them caught up in a shady scheme that goes way deeper than they could have ever expected.
Juanicas is an intimate portrait of Mexican immigrant family affected by mental illness. Using material shot over almost 10 years, filmmaker Karina Garcia Casanova documents her complex relationship with her mother and brother, both suffering from bipolar disorder. She starts filming when Juan, her brother returns to live in Canada after several years in Mexico. At first the camera provides a distance that helps them reconnect with each other, but soon old patterns returns. As her brother’s downward spiral unravels, the viewer is taken on a journey as heart-wrenching as it is illuminating
In this romantic drama, free-spirited Luciana and Pedro meet at a party. They don’t believe in traditional relationships or commitments, but they immediately give in to their intense chemistry; the only thing they abstain from is learning each other’s names and backgrounds. The film’s black-and-white format sits in stark contrast to the varying shades of their passion. When the pair takes a spontaneous trip to the to the gorgeous Rincón de la Vieja National Park together, we watch them go through a process of self-discovery as their relationship develops and frays.
Vera Egito’s film follows three best friends in their 30s: Julia, Micaela, and Diego. All three are navigating the dating world in São Paulo with mixed results: Julia is coping with a breakup, Diego’s partying is drawing him away from his boyfriend, while Micaela keeps trying to involve herself in the life of her actress girlfriend. Tapping into the modern trappings of romance in the 21st century, Egito’s feature captures the vulnerability and strength of her protagonists, testing the limits of their own sibling-like relationship.
Inspired by the cross-cutting narratives of Babel and Crash, Daniel Maldonado’s New York City-set drama takes place mostly in train stations and a cramped taxi cab in one night, as a young runaway teenage boy with Asperger’s navigates the subway, an anxious Chinese mother convinces an Ecuadorian taxi driver to help her get back home. Shot with gritty realism, H.O.M.E. forces viewers to further redefine what it means to call someplace “home.”
Shot in black and white, Siembra is a somber but hopeful look at the resilience of the Colombian people who have begun to glimpse a possible peaceful future in these past few years. The title (“to sow”) takes on a metaphorical sense when a displaced man, Turco, is tasked with needing to lay down his own recently murdered child, to return him to the ground. Trying to scrounge up enough money to afford the casket, battling petty bureaucracy to arrange the funeral, and looking for why his son was taken from him so soon, Turco takes us on a journey through Cali’s poverty-stricken communities in Colombia.
“This is what immigration reform looks like.” These words sum up precisely what Hilary Linder’s documentary is about. Focusing on a trio of DREAMERS whose families have been deported, Indivisible plunges into the very urgent political discussion going on the United States surrounding immigration. As Renata, Evelyn, and Antonio decide to petition for a special waiver that would allow them to leave the U.S to visit their families and legally return, they embody the way families have literally been broken up and apart by a system that is in dire need of reform.
Cómo ganar enemigos
Litchmann’s Woody Allen-esque dark comedy follows crime aficionado Lucas who finds himself the unfortunate target of a robbery: that beautiful woman who seduced him last night stole the money he’d just retrieved from the bank. Is he being paranoid or might the fateful encounter with the mystery lady have been a setup? As Lucas (Martin Slipak) bumbles his way through Buenos Aires trying to find out who might have framed him, we get to see the neuroses that make him such a black sheep in a family that’s enamored with his blustering big brother who’s about to be married.