In a city that is not wanting for film festivals, the New York Film Festival stands out by being a cinephile’s dream. Often boasting award-winning titles from Cannes, Venice, and Toronto, its 30-film main slate is the kind that makes you want to spend endless days cooped up in an Upper West Side movie theater. This year is no exception. For starters, its centerpiece film is the Golden Lion-winning Roma. Alfonso Cuarón’s drama may have had to skip Cannes given that it’s a Netflix release, but it charmed its way to win the big prize at the Venice Film Festival and after a brief stop at the Toronto Film Festival, his black-and-white period drama will wow audiences in the Big Apple.
But Cuarón is not the only Latin American filmmaker showing his work at this year’s NYFF. Sure, the list below may not be as expansive as the one at Sundance earlier this year or as diverse as this year’s Toronto Film Fest slate, but when you learn one of these is 807 minutes long (that’s over 13 hours!) and that the fest will be showing a classic Mexican drama as well as a 1964 Soviet-Cuban co-production, you realize there’s actually plenty of Latin American fare to enjoy. Plus, there’s Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Moonlight that features performances from Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal, and US-born Latina Emily Rios.
The New York Film Festival runs September 28 – October 14, 2018.
Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) works as a live-in maid and nanny for an upper-middle-class family in Mexico City’s Roma district. When the family patriarch departs for an unusually protracted business trip, his wife Sofia (Marina de Tavira) is left at home. Inhabiting a role somewhere between family member and employee, Cleo helps Sofia and the kids through a period of difficulty, just as she is dumped by her self-absorbed boyfriend when he discovers she is pregnant. As both women face the possibility of single motherhood, it’s obvious that their disparate levels of social status will differently impact their possible futures. Roma subtly explores these ethnic and class divisions with a potent sense of emotional intimacy and historical acuteness.
La Flor is the ultimate film fleuve: a decade of production, four actors, three continents, six chapters, 14 hours. A remarkable and mad-capped feat of — and statement about — narrative, Mariano Llinás’ film is a singular achievement in Latin American cinema and one of the year’s most compulsively watchable and exuberantly epic films. A film of interlocking and disparate episodes (with helpful instructions provided onscreen by the filmmaker), La Flor is propelled by the charisma and dexterous talent of its four leads — Elisa Carricajo, Valeria Correa, Pilar Gamboa, and Laura Paredes — who reinvent themselves in each of the film’s chapters, each wonderously realized and taking up a completely different genre and style. They variously play scientists in a mock B-movie about cursed mummies, inhabit the world of pop music in a telenovela-esque melodrama, embody actors playing Canadian Mounties in one of the film’s many meta-diversions, jet set as spies in an international espionage thriller, and more.
The new film from Argentine director Gastón Solnicki (whose Buenos Aires-set Kékszakállú was a breakout critical hit) is a tribute to his great friend Hans Hurch, one-time film critic and assistant to Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, and director of the Vienna International Film Festival from 1997 to his unexpected death from a heart attack last July at the age of 64. Solnicki pays tribute to Hurch by creating a cinematic form for his own mourning. He doesn’t simply visit his friend’s old haunts, he responds rhythmically, in images and sounds, to Hurch’s recorded voice delivering admonitions and gentle warnings during the editing of an earlier film. Introduzione all’Oscuro is truly a work of the cinema, and a moving communion with a friend whose presence is felt in the memory of the places, the people, the coffee, and the films he loved.
Tarde para morir joven
It is the summer of 1990. As Chile returns to democracy after 17 years of dictatorship, a small network of previously urban families have decided to return to rural living, constructing their new community at the foot of the Andes. While the adults busy themselves with such essentials as electricity and plumbing, the children run free on a vast playground of woods and rivers. Sixteen-year-old Sofia, meanwhile, struggles with challenges of a more internal nature. Her father is withdrawn, while her mother, a popular musician, is largely absent, though she promises to visit the encampment for its imminent New Year’s Eve celebrations. Clearly adored by Lucas, a sensitive boy her age, Sofia has her sights set on Ignacio, a charismatic young man with a motorbike on which Sofia dreams of being swept off to some place far from this. With its sun-kissed images and magnificent ensemble cast, Too Late to Die Young immerses us in this experiment in communal renewal.
The first collaboration of many between renowned Mexican director Emilio “el Indio” Fernández and Félix, Enamorada features Félix in the role of a wealthy young daughter from one of Cholula’s most elite families. When Mexican revolutionaries come to shake up the status quo, Félix’s character, headstrong Beatriz Peñafiel, feels nothing but revulsion toward the revolutionaries who challenge her way of life and thought. But the revolutionary leader José Juan Reyes, played by Pedro Armendáriz, falls hard for Beatriz and fights hard to win her. She fights right back, and Félix lets loose a funnier, feisty style in this film which takes The Taming of the Shrew as a classical comedic inspiration.
Mikhail Kalatozov’s wildly mobile, hallucinatory film was initially rejected by both Cuban and Soviet officials for excessive naiveté and an insufficiently revolutionary spirit, and went largely disregarded and almost unknown for nearly 30 years. That all changed in the early nineties—a remarkable era in film culture, chock full of rediscoveries—when Tom Luddy programmed it at the Telluride Film Festival, and Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola co-presented a Milestone Films release. I Am Cuba is a one-of-a-kind film experience, a visually mind-bending bolt from the historical blue.
If Beale Street Could Talk
Tish (KiKi Layne) is only 19 but she’s been forced to grow up fast. She’s pregnant by Fonny, the man she loves. But Fonny is going to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. As the film begins, Tish must break the news to her family, and his. Tish’s mother, played with heartbreaking depth by Regina King, soon must decide how far she will go to secure her daughter’s future. As Fonny, Toronto’s own Stephan James gives a career-best performance of both grit and grace as a young man deeply in love but furious at what has befallen him. From the Oscar-winning director of Moonlight, this adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel by the same name also stars Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal and Emily Rios.