While films from Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina dominate headlines about the great age of Latin American cinema, the film industries in various Central American countries have just begun making waves. Just last year, Guatemala’s Ixcanul wowed critics and audiences alike while Costa Rica’s Viaje became the very first Central American movie to ever screen at the Tribeca Film Festival. Building on those successes, this year’s Costa Rica International Film Festival (known by its initials in Spanish CRFIC ) is primed to showcase an even more impressive selection of features from the region.
Presenting documentaries on El Salvador’s civil war, kids with Down Syndrome in Costa Rica, and the joys of everyday sounds, as well as dramas about trans sex workers, grieving nurses, and bickering couples, the San José-based fest boasts an eclectic selection that speaks to the region’s booming film industry. Since Central American cinema rarely gets shine, we chose to highlight all of region’s feature-length movies screening at CRFIC including the six films playing in the “Competencia Centroamericana de Largometraje.”
The Costa Rica Festival Internacional de Cine runs December 8-17, 2016.
CENTRAL AMERICAN FEATURES COMPETITION
La sombra del naranjo
Oscar Naranjo, once a towering and imposing presence in his family’s life, finds himself in need of care. His children and grandchildren, unable to provide it themselves, put him in a home.Co-director Oscar Herrera, one of Naranjo’s grandchildren, sets out to trace the many consequences that Naranjo’s absence, which ripples through the family in ways none could ever have envisioned. Pairing intimately personal interviews with touching archival footage, La sombra del naranjo is charming film about aging, loss, and grief.
Es hora de enamorarse
A group of students are putting on a show. They will be staging Panama’s children’s classic, “La Cucarachita mandinga.” But, lest you think that Guido Bilbao’s En hora de enamorarse is your regular putting-on-a-show documentary, know that the kids involved in this production are kids with Down Syndrome. While many doubt that the production’s chances (as we’re told in the film, there’s still a lot of social stigma associated with the condition), those behind it are intent on making it a success, even when it involves plenty of work—what drives them is the sheer joy that overcomes the kids as they practice their lines, their singing, and even their dancing routines. Truly, it’s a behind the scenes story as you’ve never seen one before.
After learning from her mother that her father — politician, former presidential candidate, and member of the National Peace Commission Rubén Zamora — had been captured and tortured for 33 days straight during El Salvador’s civil war, director Marcela Zamora set out to tell his story. It took her two years to breach the subject with him. Bringing to light his story as well as that of others who suffered equally horrible treatment during the war in candid interviews, Zamora has created a documentary that gives voice to those stories many would prefer to keep silent.
El sonido de las cosas
Dealing with grief can be a painful and solitary experience. That’s definitely the case for Claudia. She’s just lost her dear cousin and rather than face her absence, the young nurse walls herself off from the world. That is, until she runs into an old friend who’s in need of help. With a muted color palette and an equally restrained central performance El sonido de las cosas is a probing character study of what it means to lose those we are closest to.
Abrázame como antes
Blending the power of observational documentaries with the flourishes of fantasy that characterize those who live and perform at night, Abrázame como antes is a humane portrait of a number of streetwalkers in San José. Focused on a caring trans sex worker yearning to connect with those around her, Jürgen Ureña’s fiction film is suffused with the bright neon colors of nightclubs and the evocative sounds of the song that gives it its title.
La felicidad del sonido
What does the ocean really sound like? What we hear is a vibration in the air, a vibration no one sees. Sound is invisible, but it drives us; it makes us cry, laugh, remember and dance; it rattles our insides, it moves us. Through a series of outlandish characters, The Joy of Sound takes the viewer on a voyage of the senses, as it reflects on nature, communal life, solitude and silence. This black and white documentary is an ode to sound, that mysterious, invisible and intangible phenomenon that brings pleasure and togetherness – and sometimes irritation.
What better way to try and rekindle a waning relationship than a road trip? Better to be heading to the beach than to continue yelling at each other in front of a couple’s counselor. That’s precisely the set up of Hernan Jimenez’s sunny Entonces nosotros which obviously mines a relationship in crisis once Diego and Sofía hit the road. On the way they meet one of Sofía’s old friends, Malena, who’s outspoken and willing to cut through the tension between them, making what was supposed to be a peaceful getaway into an all out (and hilarious) romantic brawl.
To many Costa Ricans, the name Gorgojo conjures up happy memories. Adolfo Montero Arguedas, who found fame as the musician and comic “Gorgojo,” is the type of affable subject that makes a documentary sing. Just hearing his boisterous laughter and seeing his chubby cheeks alight when he smiles, you can see what made him such a magnetic presence. In wanting to see what had become of the once famous performer, director Ernesto Valverde ended up creating a touching documentary about what it means when the crowds thin, the debts mount, and one’s former glory disappears all too quickly.
Images of snow-capped mountains, foggy bodies of water, and sunlit forests are intercut with images of various faces and people. Together they impress upon viewers a fleeting vision of India, where director Elena Gutiérrez and her team has gathered these and many other images like it. What emerges is a mosaic travelogue, a fragmented video diary, maybe even a striking commentary about what it means to encounter and capture another culture with a camera.
El Calor Después de la Lluvia
Something in Juana (Milena Picado) has snapped. You can see it in her eyes. She’s carrying within her the weight of something and her hope is that a pilgrimage to La Negrita ( a miraculous figure of Mother Mary) during La Romería will help unburden her. But a chance encounter with her ex-boyfriend Gustavo (Luis Carlos Bogantes) will force her to face what it is she’s been running away from. Looking anew at the beautiful vistas around her, opening herself up to new acquaintances (the famed pilgrimage attracts over 2 million people, after all), and intent on moving forward, Juana hopes to recover and set herself free.