It can be tough to keep up with all the film festivals hitting New York at any given time. It can also get expensive. Which is why whenever a program like the Ícaro New York comes around showcasing Central American cinema with free screenings open to the public, we can’t overstate our excitement.
Now in its fifth year, the fest is taking over the Instituto Cervantes New York later this month for a week full of screenings from the region’s best and brightest. The number of films may be small, but there’s enough variety to remind you of the bountiful talent slowly emerging from these burgeoning film industries. Whether you want to catch an essayistic take on grief and loss set in Costa Rica, a road trip comedy making waves in Guatemala, a stark look at violence in El Salvador, or a weed-scented coming of age tale from Panama, Ícaro has you covered. Check out the films playing below and mark your calendars accordingly.
Ícaro New York runs September 20-23, 2016 at the Instituto Cervantes New York.
Nina y Laura
Blurring the lines between fiction and documentary while hewing closer to an essayistic style, Nina y Laura centers itself on mourning. The title couple have just lost their four-year-old son, Mateo. Having lived with Nina in Costa Rica, Laura heads back to Chile to find solace with her family, leaving her partner behind. Crushed by the immense loss that now surrounds her, Nina sets out to put her life back together in Crisóstomo’s ethereal ode to grief.
Josué is a young and successful businessman, son of a conservative — read classist — mother. Kenny is Josué’s cousin, a teenager who seems to be going through a rebellious phase that mainly consists of smoking a ton of weed. When Josué is appointed by the family as Kenny’s guide, responsible for steering him off the evil path of ganja, the situation becomes tricky, because secretly Josué also happens to be a big fan of the green stuff. With a simple, handheld camera and unpretentious cinematography, Kenke tells a story about first love, family dynamics, and a hypocritical society that suffers from double moral standards and other vices.
In this romantic drama, free-spirited Luciana and Pedro meet at a party. They don’t believe in traditional relationships or commitments, but they immediately give in to their intense chemistry; the only thing they abstain from is learning each other’s names and backgrounds. The film’s black-and-white format sits in stark contrast to the varying shades of their passion. When the pair takes a spontaneous trip to the to the gorgeous Rincón de la Vieja National Park together, we watch them go through a process of self-discovery as their relationship develops and frays.
El cuarto de los huesos
From the Institute of Legal Medicine, El cuarto de los huesos (The Room of Bones) follows several mothers from El Salvador who search for the remains of their children, who disappeared amidst violence in their country. The film is a look at the 20 or more bodies that are received at the morgue on a monthly basis and remain unclaimed – the story of DNA with no name, of bodies that became cadavers for belonging to a rival gang.
Don Cleo is a humble seller of Piñatas, who lives in a little town in El Salvador. He’s having a rather bad week: he’s just found an extortion letter at his house. Pay $500 in 72 hours or else. Don Cleo is very worried about that “or else” which he knows means death. On top of this a young man just showed up claiming to be his son, the woman he’s courting seems indifferent to his advances, and he can’t seem to find anyone who will help him. The Crow’s Nest, the first fiction film from El Salvador to be produced since 1969 and the first ever to see a worldwide release is rife with deadpan humor and a killer central performance which gives a look at the everyday life for a segment of the population of El Salvador who look North and yearn for the American Dream.
Otros 4 Litros
Their friend had only one wish: to have his ashes scattered in Lake Atitlán and for his three friends to drink up the other 4 litres of the film’s title. And so, dutiful friends they are, Chente, Linares, and Mijo embark on one of those rollicking road trips that you immediately know will lead to funny hijinks. First up: they run over someone on the road. A cop no less! But since this isn’t I Know What You Did Last Summer, the film treats that minor bump and the subsequent mid-life crises of its core trio with the kind of broad gags and slapstick humor that characterizes Rodolfo Espinosa’s go-for-broke cine.
Isabel En Invierno
Isabel is a young mother caught up in a struggle between her dreams, her responsibilities, and the search of her place in life.
La voz de Esperanza
This is the story of Esperanza, a girl from the Ometepe Island, a small Nicaraguan town. For months, the principal of the school she was attending abused her. At twelve she was pregnant and trying to hide from her mother. Thanks to the support of REMO (an ONG dedicated to support women in Ometepe) and her mom, her abuser was arrested. She became a mom when she was only 13 years old.