Quiubo, hermanooo. A magical chiva full of celluloid, HD Cams and DCPs has pulled into Tribeca Cinemas. In other words, the Colombian Festival New York is back in town dealing in what is quickly becoming the country’s premiere export: high drama.
This year’s films include works that explore the country’s complex political history in ways that further perfect the genre of historical fiction. There are slapstick comedies, a tribute to Gabo and two offerings in my favorite category: the music documentary. The programmers also take the opportunity to dive into the vaults and select two little known gems from the past to be presented alongside the most recent releases coming out of the country.
All the films are extremely well produced and full of unique stories kindled by the images of people and places that, unless you’re cashing in those frequent flyer miles or you’re riding on the back of a superhero (otherwise known as the cape-donning stewardesses for Avianca), you won’t be able to see anywhere else.
Here are the six films I think you should check out at this year’s festival based on my know-it-allness. The festival runs from Tuesday March 24 to Sunday March 29.
Also worth checking out: the Colombo-French production Gente de bien, which stars one of Colombia’s great actresses Alejandra Borrero, and La inquisición de Camilo Saenz, a U.S.-Colombian co-production that will be making its world premiere at the festival.
As part of the festival’s retrospective they will be screening La gente del universal, a super stylized black comedy about a private detective agency more adept at inciting infidelity than apprehending it. The cast includes the magnificent Jennifer Steffens. It’s also one of my favorite movies.
The shorts program includes last year’s Palm D’or winner Leidi, and the found footage doc Cesó la horrible noche which consists of recently discovered home movies shot during el Bogotazo.
Porro hecho en Colombia
A music documentary by acclaimed Colombian singer Adriana Lucia, who takes us through the people and music of her hometown in Cordoba, Colombia, the birthplace of porro (big band cumbia or carnival music) as well as fertile ground for other styles like cumbia and champeta. This one is required viewing for any self-respecting music lover. A celebration of Colombia’s Caribbean culture, you’ll probably want to wear comfy dancing shoes to this screening.
Dos mujeres y una vaca
This clever slice of mountain-life follows two women (and a cow) as they travel from one remote village to another in order to find someone who can read a letter to them. There are moments of wry humor, extreme danger and female bonding as they travel along verdant ranges that promise an eventual bump into a violence that looms large. It is the perfect selection for the festival’s opening night.
Todos se van
This film is what happens when you arm a masterful filmmaker with the work of one of Latin America’s literary talents. Based on the acclaimed autobiography of the same title by Cuban writer Wendy Guerra, Todos se van is a mesmerizing story of family and freedom. Beautifully acted, somberly shot and deftly orchestrated by Colombian director Sergio Cabrera, the film marks his return to the screen after a ten-year absence.
Las malas lenguas
Bogota’s yupi culture is exposed for its hypocrisies, entitlement and bigotry. Las malas lenguas boldly deconstructs Colombia’s upper class in direct opposition to the majority of popular media that idealizes it. Manuela is beautiful and privileged, but her secret love for her best-friend Adriana threatens to alienate her from everything she knows.
Buenaventura no me dejes más
Internationally recognized salsero Yuri Buenaventura was a down on his luck musician until he covered the Jacques Brel classic “Ne me quitte pas.” The doc follows Yuri from his humble beginnings in Buenaventura to his days collecting change in the Paris metro to visits with his spiritual guide to headlining sold-out shows in Tunisia.
Infierno o paraiso
Shot over the course of ten years, this documentary covers the life of Jose, one the residents in Bogota’s Cartucho, a neighborhood in the city’s center known for its high concentration of homeless crack addicts. When an urban renewal project is enacted and El Cartucho obliterated, Jose is faced with the daunting task of creating a new life for himself.