As Hollywood readies itself to celebrate the most celebrated films of the year at the (mostly Latino-less) Oscars, New Yorkers can head to the Museum of the Moving Image to catch an entire lineup of excellent Latin American films that have won plenty of accolades themselves. After announcing the winners of the 7th annual Cinema Tropical Awards, the New York-based organization is once again partnering with MoMI for the 2017 edition the Cinema Tropical Festival.
Here’s your chance to see some of the most buzzed about films from last year, including Tatiana Huezo’s haunting documentary Tempestad and Nelson Carlo de los Santos’ mixed-genre flick Santa Teresa & Other Stories, both of which comment on the violence against women epidemic in Mexico. Better yet, both directors will be present at their respective screenings for audience Q&As in case you want some one-on-one time with these up and comer Latin American filmmakers. But really, all six films (hailing from Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil) are worth checking out. Find the full list of winners below.
Cinema Tropical Festival takes place February 24-26, 2017 at Museum of the Moving Image in New York
La calle de la amargura
Cinema Tropical Award Winner: Best Director, Fiction
Arturo Ripstein’s latest film is set in the seedy streets of El Defectuoso. Shot in lurid black and white, the film feels Lynchian in spirit focusing on the low life characters that populate Mexico’s capital. Aptly titled, the film follows two prostitutes who hope to solve their personal and financial problems by drugging and robbing two dwarf twins who work as professional luchadores.
Cinema Tropical Award Winner: Best Documentary
Focused on the violence and impunity that afflicts Mexico, the film is driven by the voices of two women, Miriam and Adela. As we listen to their stories, director Tatiana Huezo offers us beautiful images of the cross-country journey that Miriam took after being released from a cartel-run prison, where she’d been held for her alleged involvement in human trafficking. After no evidence of her participation in trafficking was found, Miriam was eventually let go, becoming instead a public scapegoat for an increasingly common problem in Mexico. Interwoven with the harrowing tale of Miriam’s stay in this torturous environment is the story of Adela, a circus clown, who’s been searching for her abducted daughter who went missing over 10 years ago. Evocative of Terrence Malick, but infused with a staunchly politicized message, Tempestad is both lyrical and political.
Cinema Tropical Award Winner: Best Film
Boi neon follows Iremar (Juliano Cazarré), a handsome cowboy who dreams of becoming a fashion designer and spends his free time dreaming up ever more fabulous outfits to create. But don’t let that simple description fool you. Gabriel Mascaro’s character study, shot with a watchful eye that borrows its visual grammar from nonfiction filmmaking (aided by his work with nonprofessional actors), is a road trip film set in the northeast Brazilian countryside. But it is also an explosion of gender, class, and sexuality, flamboyantly portraying its lustful characters with quiet (and borderline queer) compassion and culminating with one of the most indelible sex scenes put on screen in recent memory.
Santa Teresa y otras historias
Very loosely based on Roberto Bolaño’s mammoth of a novel, 2666, Dominican ﬁlmmaker Nelson Carlo de los Santos has crafted a film that blends genres and sensibilities. Part fiction, part nonfiction, and driven by an essayistic purpose, Santa Teresa & Other Stories is set in the fictional town of Santa Teresa (a stand-in for Ciudad Juárez). There, we follow researcher Juan de Dios Martínez who’s intent on investigating the violence that afflicts the town. As he digs deeper into the abuses perpetrated on women and workers in Santa Teresa, the film splinters off into experimental territory, creating an audiovisual portrait of a border town ravaged by the effects of the war on drugs.
Cinema Tropical Award Winner: Best US Latino Film
In this mockumentary film, Bernard Britto asks us to follow an unnamed director and narrator (played by The Daily Show‘s Wyatt Cenac) as he embarks on what he thinks is the next Snowden-like bombshell. He’s been in contact with a woman called Jacqueline who alleges to have intel on a secret plot to assassinate an Arab politician. The whistleblower hopes to share her story and asks Cenac’s director to fly to Argentina where she’s in hiding. Recruiting two youngish interns as his production crew, he then sets out to tell Jacqueline’s story, but the more he films her, the more troubling the story becomes. Is she really blowing the lid on what could be a disastrous international plot, or is she merely leading them on to validate her own paranoid fake-news-driven worldview? Shot in of rural Argentina and equally happy to catch its subjects enjoying the poolside sun as it is trying to be the next Citizenfour, Jacqueline (Argentine) is the type of heady meta-mockumentary sure to get you questioning everything you just saw and everything you read.
Plaza de la soledad
Cinema Tropical Award Winner: Best Director, Documentary
Maya Goded’s documentary is twenty years in the making. That’s how long she’s known the five women that make up her tender portrait of ageing prostitutes in Mexico City’s neighborhood of La Merced. It’s a topic the photographer-turned-filmmaker is intimately familiar with as it was the subject of her 2006 photography book by the same name. Imbuing these women with the same humanity that she brought out in her photos, Plaza de la soledad paints a lively if wistful look at these women’s lives all the while asking necessary questions about female sexuality, friendship, and the emotional inner lives of these oft-forgotten women.