Film

Watch the Best Latin American Films of the Year in New York This Weekend

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Latin American cinema is having a well-deserved moment in the spotlight. Not that it’s a passing fad, but you can’t deny the fact that we are being spoiled with the many great films coming from Colombia, Chile, Argentina Mexico, Brazil, and many other countries down south. In case you need to be doing some catching up on 2015’s strong slate of films, Cinema Tropical has followed up its awards announcement with the lineup for their annual film festival which celebrates the best features from the region.

The titles that will screen at the Museum of the Moving Image this weekend show precisely the variety and quality that made 2015 such a banner year for Latin American films. Whether you’re looking for another reason to swoon over Argentine-born Viggo Mortensen, who stars in the Western Jauja, or want to finally catch the critically-acclaimed Ixcanul which has been wowing audiences with its contemporary story about a young Mayan girl that was shot mostly in the Kaqchikel language, the Cinema Tropical Festival definitely has something for you.

Oh, and did we mention that RuPaul’s Drag Race fans can can catch season six contestant April Carrión in the Puerto Rico-set documentary Mala Mala? Like we said, something for everyone! Check out the full lineup below.

The Cinema Tropical Festival runs at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens February 26 – 28, 2016.

1

Jauja

Lisandro Alonso

Winner Best Fiction Film – Cinema Tropical Awards

Lisandro Alonso is of one of the most original and daring filmmakers currently working in Latin America. His films are characterized by long takes, slow development, minimal script, little dialogue and almost no musical score. In the line of Carlos Reygadas Silent Light and Albert Serra’s Quixotic/Honor Cavalleria, and with echoes of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring — Jauja is a journey, as in many of his movies, for both the viewer and the main character who embark on an external and internal quest to achieve meaning. Shot in the Patagonia, the film is composed of meticulously framed shots that capture a breathtaking landscape. The format of the image is very unusual, completely square. The result is magical and sublime.

Synopsis By: Iñaki Fernández de Retana
Argentina
Fabián Casas, Lisandro Alonso
Sylvie Pialat, Helle Ulsteen, Rémi Burah, Andy Kleinman, Viggo Mortensen, Ilse Hughan, Jaime Romandia
2014
101

2

Invasión

Abner Benaim

Winner, Best Documentary – Cinema Tropical Awards

In this documentary, filmmaker Abner Benaim takes audiences back in history to December 1989 when 30,000 U.S. troops invaded Panama because then President George H.W. Bush wanted dictator General Manuel Noriega out of power and to keep control of the Panama Canal, an area the U.S. used heavily for shipping cargo. The invasion’s code name was “Operation Just Cause.” In the doc, Benaim interviews civilians, military personnel, politicians, and even gets to speak to former General Noriega to get his take on the incident 15 years later. Was the invasion by the U.S. justifiable, or was there more to the politics of the time than most people think?

Synopsis By: Kiko Martinez
Panama, Argentina
Documentary
Abner Benaim
Alejandro Israel, Abner Benaim, Gema Juarez Allen
2014
64

3

Ixcanul

Jayro Bustamante

Winner, Best First Film – Cinema Tropical Awards

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.

Synopsis By: Andrew S. Vargas
Guatemala
Drama
Jayro Bustamante
Pilar Peredo, Marina Peralta, Jayro Bustamante, Edgard Tenembaum
2015
93

4

Mala Mala

Antonio Santini, Dan Sickles

Winner Best U.S. Latino Film – Cinema Tropical Awards. Opening night screening includes Q&A with filmmakers and reception.

The makers of Mala Mala hit the streets and clubs of Puerto Rico to film a joyous and often raucous look at the lives of trans women (mostly performers) in San Juan. Though they travel the road to transition differently, they are united in their fight for equality. The trans spokeswomen engage in street-level activism and march in support of an anti-LGBTQ discrimination legislation. But the film is careful not to define its subjects by their struggle, so there’s plenty of glitter and double-stick tape to go along with the blood, sweat, and tears.

Synopsis By: Danette Chavez
United States
Documentary
Antonio Santini, Dan Sickles
Antonio Santini, Dan Sickles, Christine Vachon
2014
87

5

Videofilia (y otros síndromes virales)

Juan Daniel Fernández

Nominated, Best First Film – Cinema Tropical Awards

Fernández’s film is a psychedelic and hallucinogenic trip into the world of a group of young men and women in the suburbs of Lima. When Luz meets Junior online, she finds someone she can connect with. Junior, who’s obsessed with Mayan prophecies of the end of the world and online porn, eventually meets up with Luz in person kicking off a series of dystopian sequences that suggest the world as we see it may soon be coming to an end. The film mirrors the increasingly warped vision of the world through Luz and Junior’s eyes, with its pixelated and video-based visuals, offering the viewer a chance to experience this apocalyptic image of the modern world.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
Peru, United States
Science Fiction
Juan Daniel Fernández
Liliana Albornoz, Nicolas Carrasco, Muki Sabogal
2015
102

6

El incendio

Juan Schnitman

Nominated, Best First Film – Cinema Tropical Awards

Schnitman’s debut feature, the winner of the Best Film Award at the Transylvania Film Festival, is a tense marital thriller set in Argentina. When Lucía and Marcelo withdraw a hundred thousand dollars in cash to pay for their new house they don’t realize that upon learning their real estate agent can’t meet them until the following day their relationship will face their greatest challenge yet. “Relax,” Marcelo tells Lucía, “today’s just another day.” But the increasingly claustrophobic and exasperating apartment they share that’s all packed up only makes small disagreements and suspicions grow greater as the day wears on.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
Argentina
Drama
Agustina Liendo
Bárbara Francisco, Fernando Brom, Diego Dubcovsky
2015
95