Over the last few years, films by Sebastian Lelio, Lorenzo Vigas, Lucrecia Martel, Michel Franco, and Pablo Larraín have wowed audiences at many of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. They’ve won Oscars and Golden Lions, earned retrospectives and the esteem of the world cinema establishment. By many indications, Latin American cinema is booming. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at the Official Competition at Cannes, the world’s most prestigious film festival. In the last five years, only four films from the region (Aquarius, Chronic, Wild Tales, and Heli) have been invited to that most exclusive of cinephile programs — that’s fewer than the number of French films playing in this year’s competition lineup alone.
In fact, this year’s fest has no Latin American films vying for the Palme d’Or. Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma would have been in contention had it not been picked up by Netflix; the streaming giant refused to adhere to new fest rules stipulating a theatrical release of all titles in competition, thus leaving one of our most anticipated projects off the Croisette altogether.
Elsewhere, though, the French film fest will have several titles from countries like Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico playing at the various other programs, including premieres from Embrace of the Serpent‘s Ciro Guerra and I Promise You Anarchy‘s Julio Hernández Cordón as part of the Directors’ Fortnight selection. We’ve rounded up the admittedly short list of Latin American films playing the French fest which will be sure to be making waves in the next few months.
71st annual Cannes Film Festival runs 8 to 19 May, 2018
Pájaros de verano
Set in Colombia in the 1970s, right when the demand for marijuana is set to explode, Ciro Guerra’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated Embrace of the Serpent ditches the black and white aesthetic of his previous film for the colorful world of the Guajira desert. Yet again, though, he’s set his sights (alongside co-director and producer Cristina Gallego) on a story about the way Colombian history intersects with its indigenous population. Birds of Passage follows an Wayuu indigenous family who takes a leading role in the budding new drug trade, and discovers the perks of wealth and power, but with a violent and tragic downside.
O Grande Circo Místico
Directed by Brazilian filmmaker Cacá Diegues,The Great Mystic Circus is based on a poem in Jorge de Lima’s 1938 book A Túnica Inconsútil. The film tells the story of 5 generations of the same circus family. From the opening of the Great Mystic Circus in 1910 to the present day, we’re guided by Celavi, the master of ceremonies who never grows old. We follow the adventures and loves of the Knieps, from apogee to decadence, to the surprising finale, in a film in which reality and fantasy meet in a mystical universe.
Based on the true story of Carlos Eduardo Robledo Puch (aka “El ángel de la muerte”), Luis Ortega’s film tells the story of the most famous serial killer in Argentina’s history. El ángel kicks off the story when Carlitos (Lorenzo Ferro) meets Ramon at his new school. Wanting to impress his new friend, Carlitos will begin the path that’ll make him a thief and a murderer. With his baby face and his blond curls, the young killer became a celebrity when his exploits (which included over 40 thefts and 11 homicides) were exposed and he was captured.
After brutally beating an old lady to rob her, a thief hopes to atone and make it up to his latest victim. But his criminal past will haunt him still, keeping him from redeeming himself and starting a life anew.
Nuria and Fabio arrive at dawn with their mother Amparo at an unknown island on the border between Brazil, Colombia and Peru. They are fleeing armed conflicts in Colombia and learn that their father, who had allegedly been killed in a landslide caused by a mining company, is hiding in the stilt house where they come to live. Fearful of betraying this family secret, Nuria goes silent, whereas Fabio seems to have no problem with the matter. In the midst of this process, the family tries to receive compensation for the father’s death and to obtain a visa to emigrate to Brazil. By covering this story, they uncover others about the family’s past; people who have been involved in the armed conflicts of Colombia, which already lasts for over half a century. Gradually, they discover that the island where they are is populated by ghosts, who unite to interfere in the living’s destiny.
Cómprame un revólver
Julio Hernández Cordón’s Cómprame un revolver i set in an imagined not-so-distant future world where women are a disappearing species. That’s why its young protagonist, Huck (played by Matilde Hernandez, the director’s own daughter) wears a mask. If the armed guys who employ her dad to keep up a baseball field ever found out she’s a girl, she’d surely be taken away. That’s what happened to her older sister and her mother. Shot in dusty desert landscapes with an eye for an anarchic sense of whimsy (Mad Max meets Hook), this narco-dystopia is a fascinating riff on contemporary Mexican violence.
Muere, monstruo, muere
Rural police officer Cruz investigates the bizarre case of a headless woman’s body found in a remote region by the Andes Mountains. David, the husband of Cruz’s lover Francisca, becomes the prime suspect and is sent to a local mental hospital. David blames the crime to the inexplicable and brutal appearance of the “Monster.” Cruz stumbles on a mysterious theory involving geometric landscapes, mountain motorcyclists and a mantra stuck in his head: Murder Me, Monster.