It’s been a tough ride for Latin American film festivals over the last few years, with big-name events like the New York International Latino Film Festival and the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival unexpectedly closing up shop and leaving the country’s two biggest Latino markets with no festival to call their own. But in the midst of a prolonged financial crisis and shifting markets, a few festivals have managed to hold their own, and some have even managed to join their ranks and thrive.
The Cine+Mas San Francisco Latino Film Festival is one example of a successful community initiative that has managed to weather the hard times, despite being founded only six short years ago. Filling a void left by the International Latino Film Festival – San Francisco Bay Area when it closed its doors back in 2008, Cine+Mas has brought quality programming to the entire Bay Area over seven editions, with screenings in San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, and Oakland.
Dominican road movies, sweaty salsa spectacles, unconventional drug war docs, and a Cuban box-office sensation are just a few of the films Bay Area audiences can look forward to this week. Here are a few of our own personal favorites.
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.
Eco de la montaña
Though his work has traveled from mountain peaks in Mexico to subways in Paris, Santos de la Torre lives in relative obscurity among his native Wixáritari (or Huichol) people. Director Nicolás Echevarría contrasts the spirituality of de la Torre’s work with the more earthly concerns of the modern world barging-not-creeping into the Huichol’s homeland. Echo of the Mountain is a tale as complex as the artist’s intricately beaded murals for which he is best known.
El Patrón, radiografia de un crimen
Documentary maker Sebastián Schindel called on his cinema vérité roots while working on his fiction film debut, The Boss: Anatomy of a Crime. He spent years researching the meat business in Argentina and was inspired by a real-life murder. The resulting drama is not hard to swallow, especially in its examination of the almost feudal relationship between farmhand and landowner.
Kingdom of Shadows
This powerful documentary follows three people grappling with the hard choices and destructive consequences of the U.S.-Mexico drug war. Filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz weaves together the seemingly disconnected stories of an activist nun in deeply scarred Monterrey, Mexico, a U.S. Federal Agent on the border, and a former Texas smuggler to reveal the human side of an often-misunderstood conflict that has resulted in the “disappearance” of more than 23,000 people in Mexico — a growing human rights crisis that has only recently made international headlines.
American DREAMers tells the story behind the Campaign for an American DREAM (CAD), a group of six undocumented youth and an ally who risk their freedom when they publicly come out as undocumented and walk 3,000 miles to the nation’s capital to organize for immigrant rights. They are college students, young professionals, activists, and community leaders. Follow their journey as they come out of the shadows, share their stories, empower communities, and put everything on the line to fight in what they believe is their civil rights movement.
Following a straight down-the-line rom-com formula, Ciudad Delirio finds a young, single, and sufficiently handsome doctor named Javier falling hopelessly head over heels for a sultry Colombian salsera while visiting her country on a professional conference. A few highly choreographed dance numbers later, and Javier learns about letting go and following his intuition just in time to head back to Madre España. But even back in Spain, Javier’s heart continues beating to the seductive rhythms of the clave, and before too long, he’s following his intuitions back to Colombia in the name of true love. Call it Love Actually meets Nuestra Cosa Latina.
A young, Afro-Costa Rican boy from the country’s long-neglected Caribbean coastal region makes a difficult choice with the best of intentions: he decides to get his hands dirty in the region’s growing drug trade in order to send his little brother to a soccer academy and help his family make ends meet. The boy quickly finds himself over his head and his entire family is soon mixed up in the violent aftermath. Director Patricia Velásquez shot this ambitious feature using non-actors and incorporating real life stories from the region to keep things authentic.
Chava is a problematic child from a broken home in Havana’s hardscrabble Centro Habana neighborhood, but one cherished teacher understands the boy’s true potential and gives him the special attention he needs to thrive. When his teacher falls ill and is replaced by a young, by-the-book educator, Chava finds himself caught up in the machinery of a cold and impersonal educational system that treats him as little more than a problem to be dealt with.
O menino e o mundo
This modern-day fable follows the adventures of a young boy who leaves his small village after the death of his father only to find himself immersed in a chaotic and often confusing modern world filled with strange creatures, fantastic machines and giant, impersonal monuments to human progress. Filled with idiosyncratic plays on perspective and employing a variety of techniques — including collages pasted alongside the thick, waxy lines of Crayola crayons — O menino e o mundo feels like stepping into the imagination of a child set to a joyous samba soundtrack. The film was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2016 Academy Awards.
La voz en off
La voz en off (Voice Over) follows a summer in the life of Sofía, who lives in the southern Chilean port city of Valdivia. A recently-separated mother and vegetarian, Sofía takes a year-long vow of abstinence from all forms of communications media — cell phone, Internet, even books — in order to “purify” herself after the unfortunate breakup of her marriage. After deciding to set up her home as a studio to do voice-over work, Sofía finds herself spending a lot of time at her parents’ crowded and chaotic house, along with her grandmother and sister Ana.