In case you had forgotten about Central American cinema, 2015’s shaping up to be a good year to remember. Just last week, Guatemala made waves when they went ahead and submitted their first film for Oscar consideration in more than 20 years, and the buzz was more than justified; Ixcanul (Volcano) has already picked up important prizes at some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals and may very well be a contender for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Then there’s Costa Rica, whose film output seems to be growing by the day, with titles like Viaje and Dos Aguas representing in top-tier festivals the world over. Oh, and Panama, which closed out 2014 by submitting their first-ever film for Oscar consideration in the form of Abner Benaim’s Invasión.
Yeah, we could go on and on, but the real point of all this is that New York-area film nerds will have the opportunity to see what all this buzz is about when the fourth annual Ícaro New York takes over Gotham City next week. The groundbreaking Central American film festival based out of Guatemala City has been kind enough to come back to New York once again to regale local cinephiles with some of the best films the region has to offer, all free of charge. That’s right, over four days, Midtown’s Instituto Cervantes will briefly turn into the capital of one united Central American theater, showing twelve films from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Don’t worry if you’re a picky filmgoer – this year’s edition will feature touches of horror, romance, and eroticism, so there will be a little something for everyone.
Here’s a rundown of our top picks to help guide you through this exciting time.
Ícaro New York runs September 8 – 11, 2015 at the Instituto Cervantes in New York. All screenings are free.
A solitary cabin in the woods is a scary premise just about anywhere in the world, and 12 Segundos is no exception. A young executive assistant accompanies her boss to an isolated retreat and undertakes a desperate and terrifying search after he mysteriously disappears. Might it be the creepy hermit who wanders around with a ferocious dog? Or an otherwise tame rappeler who killed the man in a crime of passion? Winner of the 2015 Premio Netflix, 12 Segundos is a taut, suspenseful thriller with “crowd-pleaser” written all over it.
El Codo del Diablo
On December 19, 1948, five Costa Rican citizens and one Nicaraguan who were members of the local Communist Party were kidnapped by army officials and taken to a river bend — El Codo del Diablo — where they were summarily shot and dumped into the river. El Codo del Diablo approaches the history of the massacre through a variety of techniques, employing reenactments, interviews, and archival materials that are pieced together with a poetic eye and stylistic flair that offer up both a personal and historical vision of the events, and makes the incident more tangible than ever before.
Shot in English in Singapore, with an entirely Singaporean cast, Rosado Furia follows recently-fired stylist Sue through a moment of personal crisis. The fragmented narrative parallels the chaotic and emotionally unstable reality Sue lives, as she decides whether to follow her own desires or simply do what’s expected of her. Fragments of her past invade the present as she desperately looks for affection wherever she can find it, but nothing will be easily resolved.
A minimalist narrative about a director going through a period of creative crisis serves as a minimal throughline for an otherwise evocative series of images in which a complex game of stories-within-stories – much like the Russian dolls referenced in the film’s title – begins to emerge.
La pantalla desnuda
French director Florence Jaugey brings us a fable about love in the time of social media. Alex and Esperanza share an idyllic love affair that is thrown into disarray when Alex’s jealous friend Octavio discovers a sex tape on Alex’s phone. Seeing the opportunity to tear apart the young lovers, Octavio publishes the tape on social media and unleashes an unfortunate chain of events.