The arrival of fall means it’s festival season. And while perhaps not as glamorous as Cannes nor as audience-friendly as Toronto, the New York Film Festival arrives this week as a carefully curated “best of the fests” festival with a number of high-profile premieres. It’s here where you’ll first see Ava DuVernay’s documentary on mass incarceration and where you’ll catch (count them) three different Kristen Stewart projects, including the Ang Lee-directed Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.

Most refreshingly, of course, is the amply represented Latino and Latin American contingent. In addition to a new restoration of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s Cuban film Memories of Underdevelopment as well as an inadvertent companion piece, Olatz López Garmendia’s documentary Patria o Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland or Death, there are a number of great features coming from south of the border that remind us just how strong the region’s cinema is.

In addition to Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta (an across-the-pond film we couldn’t not include in our must-watch list,) the New York Film Festival’s 54th edition is full of projects from established Latin American auteurs as well as up and comers who have already made waves in festivals around the world. Oh, and then there’s a documentary about arguably this century’s most buzzed-about Broadway musical that’s as much a celebration of American history as it is about Latino talent. Check out our top picks below and be sure to take advantage of one of the city’s most enviable cultural events of the fall.

New York Film Festival runs September 30-October 16, 2016

1

Aquarius

Director Kleber Mendonça Filho
Country France, Brazil
Production Year 2016
Synopsis

Clara (a luminous Sonia Braga) is the last resident of the Aquarius, an classic art deco building built in Recife’s upper-class Boa Viagem Avenue. Despite being offered a good deal for her apartment by developers, this spry 65-year old is not ready to part from the place she’s made her home and where she raised her children. The construction company, which is intent on building a New Aquarius, begins implementing increasingly aggressive methods to get the former music critic to sell. But all this drama creates for Clara is a renewed sense of vigor that pushes her to think back to her life lived and to embrace her her present-day vitality.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Country: France, Brazil
Writer: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Producer: Saïd Ben Saïd, Michel Merkt, Emilie Lesclaux
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 142
2

Hermia & Helena

Director Matías Piñeiro
Country Argentina, United States
Production Year 2016
Hermia and Helena 01
'Hermia & Helena.' Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber
Hermia and Helena 02
Courtesy of Kino Lorber
Hermia and Helena 03
Courtesy of Kino Lorber
Synopsis

Proving that he’s one of William Shakespeare’s most attentive contemporary readers, Matías Piñeiro’s Hermia & Helena sets its sights on the Bard’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, weaving in an episodic and fragmented tale of love lost and gained, and the wildly magical ways in which desire can shift around you. Set between a wintry New York City and a sun-dappled Buenos Aires, Piñeiro introduces us to Camila (Agustina Muñoz), an Argentinean playwright who’s earned a fellowship to go to the Big Apple to work on her Spanish translation of Shakespeare’s famous play. There, we witness Camila taking a page out of the Bard in her interactions with an old flame, a new one, and a mysterious visitor who keeps sending her postcards. Playful and heartfelt, the film is a testament to the joys of cross-cultural adaptation.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
Hermia and Helena
Director: Matías Piñeiro
Country: Argentina, United States
Writer: Matías Piñeiro
Producer: Andrew Adair, Jake Perlin, Melanie Schapiro, Graham Swon
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 87
3

Julieta

Director Pedro Almodóvar
Country Spain
Production Year 2016
Synopsis

A project that was long rumored to have been Pedro’s first English-language feature film — an adaptation of a trio of stories by Canadian author Alice Munro — Julieta was ultimately produced in Spanish, but it’s still a pitch-perfect translation of Munro’s meditations on motherhood. With Almodóvar’s signature bold colors and melodrama (if perhaps a bit light on the comedy we’ve come to expect from the Spanish auteur,) his latest is more Volver than I’m So Excited. A return to the world of women, Julieta follows the title character as she reminsces about her youthful and kinetic encounter with the man of her life, the child they bore together, and the estranged daughter she hasn’t seen now in years.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Country: Spain
Writer: Pedro Almodóvar
Producer: Esther García, Agustín Almodóvar
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 99
4

Neruda

Director Pablo Larrain
Country Chile, France, Spain, Argentina
Production Year 2016
Synopsis

Those looking for a straight-up biopic of famed Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, have come to the wrong film. In its place, Pablo Larraín has crafted a meta-poetic treatise on fiction and politics. Ostensibly, we’re being told the story (in first person voiceover narration) of how police officer Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) is trying to capture Neruda (Luis Gnecco), now a wanted man by the state. But with a dreamlike, fragmented shooting style that disorients you from line to line, Larraín is as interested in evoking Neruda’s artistry as he is in crafting a thrilling chase through late ’40s Chilean landscapes.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Pablo Larrain
Country: Chile, France, Spain, Argentina
Writer: Guillermo Calderón
Producer: Renan Artukmac, Peter Danner, Jeff Skoll, Fernanda Del Nido, Juan Pablo García, Alex Zito, Gastón Rothschild, Ignacio Rey, Axel Kuschevatzky, Juan de Dios Larraín
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 107
5

Kékszakállú

Director Gastón Solnicki
Country Argentina
Production Year 2016
Synopsis

Obliquely inspired by Bela Bartok’s sole opera, Kékszakállú is an elliptical take on the Bluebeard tale transposed into a social critique of contemporary Argentina. Solnicki looks at the country’s economic malaise and class differences through unconventional portraits of several women in Buenos Aires and Punta del Este that’s as bewitching as it sounds.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Gastón Solnicki
Country: Argentina
Writer: Gastón Solnicki
Producer: Gastón Solnicki, Iván Eibuszyc
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 72
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6

Todo lo demás

Director Natalia Almada
Country Mexico
Production Year 2016
Adriana Barraza in Todo lo demás
Adriana Barraza as Doña Flor in 'Todo lo demás.' Courtesy of Cinema Tropical
Adriana Barraza in Todo lo demás
'Todo lo demás' still courtesy of New York Film Festival
Adriana Barraza in Todo lo demás
'Todo lo demás' still courtesy of New York Film Festival
Synopsis

How do you set about discovering yourself at sixty-three? This is the question that documentarian Natalia Almada asks us in her first fiction film. With a powerful central performance by Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza, Todo lo demás follows Doña Flor, who mourns the death of her cat as she tries to take solace in the one daily activity that’s always soothed her: swimming. Examining this one seemingly invisible life (at least, that’s how Doña Flor feels at her job as a government clerk,) Almada shows deep empathy for her main character, etching an unforgettable poetic portrait of one women finding herself anew.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
Everything Else
Director: Natalia Almada
Country: Mexico
Genre: Drama
Writer: Natalia Almada
Producer: Dave Cerf, Alejandro de Icaza, Natalia Almada
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 90
7

Hamilton’s America

Director Alex Horwitz
Country United States
Production Year 2016
Hamilton America 05
President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda for the PBS documentary "Hamilton's America" in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 14, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy) This photograph is provided by THE WHITE HOUSE as a courtesy and may be printed by the subject(s) in the photograph for personal use only. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not otherwise be reproduced, disseminated or broadcast, without the written permission of the White House Photo Office. This photograph may not be used in any commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.
Synopsis

You saw the Grammy performance. Then the Tonys sweep. You know the Broadway Cast recording by heart. You’ve read Hamilton: The Revolution more times than you can count. Perhaps you’ve even been lucky enough to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton on Broadway. But if you still want to feel like you’re in the room where it happens, then you won’t want to miss Hamilton’s America. Presented as part of THIRTEEN’s Great Performances, Alex Horwitz’s documentary follows Miranda, his collaborators, and key members of the original cast as they track the evolution of this Broadway blockbuster from its 2009 White House performance to the sold-out run on the Great White Way, along with the historical events the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical has revitalized.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Alex Horwitz
Country: United States
Producer: Nicole Pusateri
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 84
8

El auge del humano

Director Eduardo Williams
Country Portugal, Brazil, Argentina
Production Year 1984
Synopsis

Structured as three different sections (shot in Argentina, Mozambique, and the Philippines,) Teddy Williams’ experimental film quite literally tracks our current global culture. From the story of a bored young man in Buenos Aires who loses his job at a supermarket, Williams’ film then travels across the globe to follow a group of African teenagers in Maputo who are seen engaging in cybersex for money, and then to an electronics factory in Bohol after tracking a young woman eager to charge her phone in the middle of the jungle. With a fluid camera and an immediacy that speaks to a current discussions on leisure and labor, El auge del humano captures the isolation that comes from being and feeling disconnected.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
The Human Surge
Director: Eduardo Williams
Country: Portugal, Brazil, Argentina
Writer: Eduardo Williams
Producer: Jerónimo Quevedo, Victoria Marotta, Violeta Bava, Rosa Martínez Rivero, Rodrigo Teixeira
Production Year: 1984
Running Time: 60