The longest-running film festival in the Americas is here. Running through May 7, the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival will showcase more than 100 narrative, documentary, and short films. In the words of Rachel Rosen, director of programming, SF houses a festival dedicated to its eclectic audiences, “We program with the goal of bringing what’s the best out in the world,” said Rosen. “And we want to represent the people who live in San Francisco.”
The festival, organized by the San Francisco Film Society, will host dozens of guests, including actor Richard Gere; Douglas Trumbull, responsible for the special effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner; Guillermo del Toro, who will receive an award for his career and present his film The Devil’s Backbone (2001); and filmmakers Martin Rejtman from Argentina; Arturo González Villaseñor from México; Eryk Rocha from Brazil; and Juan Francisco Olea from Chile among many others.
Representing the Americas this year are movies from Brazil, Dominican Republic, Chile, Argentina, México, Spain and Perú. Here’s a rundown of the Latino titles.
The San Francisco International Film Festival runs through May 7, 2015. For tickets and showtimes visit festival.sffs.org.
Llévate mis amores
A sensitive portrait of a group of women known as Las Patronas, who every day over the course of 20 years have prepared food for the Mexican and Central American migrants who pass through their town destined for the United States on the infamous freight train, La Bestia. Carrying out their labor with a sense of duty and a deep love for the anonymous stowaways who every day receive their offerings quite literally with open arms, Las Patronas find meaning through service in spite of their own difficult realities. Llévate mis amores (All of Me) enters into the well-worn territory of immigration-themed cinema with a fresh perspective and deep sense of humanity.
Dólares de arena
The Dominican feature Dólares de arena (Sand Dollars), by husband-wife directing duo Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas, features none other than Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Charlie and a brilliant actress in her own right) as an elderly French tourist who falls in love with a young Dominican woman and makes plans to move her back to France. Not your typical story of tropical romance told through the eyes of a white foreigner, this film is equally interested in exploring the predicament of the young Dominican woman, played by Yanet Mojica, and the shady power dynamics that may be at work.
Unemployed schoolteacher Luis (Luis Bermejo) will do anything to fulfill the wish of his dying daughter Alicia (Lucia Pollan) and buy her an expensive dress inspired by her favorite Japanese anime series. When he turns to blackmail to get the money, his life and the life of a mentally ill woman (Bárbara Lennie) he cons are thrown into disrepair. This is director Calros Vermut’s follow-up to his 2011 cult Spanish film Diamond Flash, which also tells the story of a desperate parent. The film was nominated for six Goya Awards this year, earning one for Best Actress (Lennie). Director Pedro Almodóvar praised Vermut’s work as “la gran revelación del cine español en lo que va de siglo.”
Domingo, our protagonist, is a simple family man who might strain against the trappings of his average life if he were actually aware of them. One unhappy accident changes everything: he murders his secretary after mistaking her for a burglar. Domingo realizes he feels more guilt over his lack of remorse than for causing her death, and this sends him on a violent, self-destructive path in a desperate attempt to get back to “normal.”
Paranormal phenomena are the base of the narrative that ventures into the fantasy and experimental genres. A woman who carries a doll down the street believing it is a baby, another woman who grows a belly and who oozes milk but is not pregnant, an otherworldly black horse that appears and disappears… are all strange, creepy events that unfold after an astronomical event in the cold and snowy landscape of upstate New York.
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.
Que horas ela volta?
Regina Casé is impressive in the role of a live-in maid, Val, who works for a wealthy family in São Paulo. The arrival of Val’s daughter, whom she has not seen for years, creates a revolution in the household. She calls the boss Bárbara, instead of Dona Bárbara, while both the husband and son fall in love with her. “You’re born knowing what you can and cannot do,” Val reprimands her daughter. She confronts her by putting into question her servitude. The film raises class issues and examines generational gaps. Director Anna Muylaert, who has worked as a film critic and reporter, drafted a thoughtful script and put care into directing the actors, with a big payoff. Que horas ela volta? (The Second Mother) was Brazil’s submission for the 88th Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
It had been over ten years since director Martín Rejtman — Rapado (1992), Silvia Prieto (1999), Los Guantes Mágicos (2003) — made a fiction film. Dispassionate and laconic in style, bordering on the humorous, and with a similar aesthetic to that of Mexican Fernando Eimbcke, Two Shots Fired relies on frontal shots and a cool color palette. It was filmed in Buenos Aires and Miramar, as it follows an ensemble of characters who talk a lot, come and go in their lives without a clear goal. A naturalistic, existentialist slice of life reminiscent of French auteur Eric Rohmer, with plenty of action and precise editing.
Dark and cold, NN (No Name) follows the tortuous work of a group of forensic investigators who exhume human remains of the disappeared during the bloody years of repression in Peru in the 80s and 90s. The film focuses on the emotional repercussions that both the investigators and the families go through in finding and identifying the bodies. Director Héctor Gálvez fictionalizes the facts with a lot of emotion, shows them in chiaroscuro, and says it with whispers broken by tears. The film was written by Gálvez, who collaborated with the Commission of Human Rights of Peru and The Institute for Democracy and Human Rights.