It’s finally April, which means a month’s worth of showers will soon be bringing May flowers, and New York’s only festival dedicated entirely to Latin American film is coming back for its 16th edition. We’re talking about the Havana Film Festival New York, which for over a decade and a half has been bringing the best in Cuban cinema to audiences on the Beast Coast, along with an official competition showcasing some of the hottest Latin American films on the international festival circuit.
This year, HFFNY will feature a little something for everyone, with retrospectives on the cinematic adventures of Gabriel García Márquez, a celebration of Cuban musical documentaries, and even a special program for children (or those of us who are still kids at heart.) In all, there are eleven countries represented in this year’s edition, with documentaries, narrative features, shorts, and even a handful of panels for the curious cinephiles/cinenerds among us. As a special treat for Gloria Trevi fans, the closing night film is her biopic Gloria followed by an after-party.
Withs screenings spread across four boroughs, New Yorkers won’t have to travel too far to get a piece of the action. Here’s a rundown of some Remezcla-certified films for you to keep an eye on.
The Havana Film Festival New York runs April 9 – 17, 2015. Visit hffny.com for tickets and showtimes.
Three female co-workers from a Centro Habana hair salon head out for a night out on the town after cashing their paychecks. As the trio moves from a dress shop, to a restaurant and finally to a cavernous nightclub where a DJ donning an evil clown mask spins electronic music, their bonds grow stronger as revelry gives way to deep personal revelations. Venice is one of a handful of films that has kicked open the door for Cuban independent cinema on the international stage, and its gritty, low-budget aesthetic reflects that spirit.
Natural Disasters is a low-budget, over-the-top classroom farce that echoes Chile’s recent student uprisings. A group of high school students is whipped into a revolutionary fervor when their beloved teacher, Raquel, is unexpectedly forced into early retirement. Doors are barricaded, fire extinguishers are discharged and a general state of pandemonium ensues. Featuring a cast of archetypal characters including “The teacher with theatrical inclinations” and “The dictatorial school principal”, it a film both deeply Chilean and broadly universal in its sendup of high school culture.
Set in a semi-fictional world where the global economy has collapsed and Mexico is racked by street protests, Flavia is a rebellious adolescent with artistic inclinations, left homeless and adrift after she is evicted from her apartment. Necessity leads her to strike up a tenuous and conflictive relationship with her elderly neighbor, Martin: a tailor forced into early retirement and strapped for cash. After Flavia sets up shop in Martin’s pristine apartment, their friendship blossoms when Flavia invites protesters camped outside into Martin’s house to use the bathroom each day. Together they begin to rediscover the sense meaning that had long been missing from their lives.
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.
Tú y yo
An observational portrayal of the relationship between a white, 70-year-old widow and her black live-in maid. Bonds of friendship and the complex power dynamics embedded within them are revealed through the daily travails of the two women as they struggle to keep the house in order. The film’s static, one-take style allows conversations to unfold with candor and without interrupting the comic verbal polyrhythms of caribbean bochinche. Ultimately, You and Me’s understated approach seems to get at the contradictory heart of a society renowned for its warmth and openness, but racked by deep divisions of class and race.