The Sundance Film Festival is indie film heaven. Last year alone they screened over 140 feature films and 60 shorts, including the Oscar-nominated doc Cartel Land, the Kid Cudi film James White, Anna Muylaert’s The Second Mother, and Sebastián Silva’s Nasty Baby. Indeed, these latter films should remind us that the Park City film festival has long been a great launching pad for Latino talent. After all, that’s where we first fell in love with Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi), America Ferrera (Real Women Have Curves), Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace) and Emily Rios (Quinceañera) among others.
This year’s crop includes new films from indie superstars Kelly Reichardt, Kenneth Lonergan and Whit Stillman, but as usual, the festival is screening a large number of Latin American films that should be on all of our radars. From dark motherhood comedies out of Argentina to Mexican docs about aging prostitutes, there’s something for everyone hoping to get a taste for the ever-burgeoning Latin American cinema scene. Oh, and did we mention Diego Luna’s directorial follow-up to Cesar Chavez is titled Mr. Pig and stars Danny Glover, Maya Rudolph and… a pig?
To keep you covered, we’ve narrowed the list of Latin American films you should be on the lookout for below. And remember, if you want to check out what the Remezcla team is enjoying while at the festival, be sure to follow our own Film Editor Vanessa, as well as two of our writers, Monica & Carlos, who will be in Park City trying to catch as many of these films as they can and sharing their thoughts on social media throughout.
The Sundance Film Festival runs January 21-31
El abrazo de la serpiente
Colombia’s first ever Oscar nominated film in the Foreign Language category is getting a prime spot ahead of its February 17th release date in Sundance’s Spotlight series.
There’s no reason to think things will end well for the natives of the pristine Amazon in this Colombian drama from Ciro Guerra (La Sombra del Caminante). The movie comprises two stories of two journeys along one river, in search of a healing plant, and centers on an age-old theme: nothing gold can stay. Colonialism finds its way into even the most remote places on this planet, and leaves catastrophe in its wake. The film was even shot in black and white, leaving no room for shades of gray, moral or otherwise. The film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Academy Awards.
La ciénaga: Entre el mar y la tierra
Twenty-eight-year-old Alberto lives on a swampy marsh adjacent to the Caribbean Sea, which he dreams of one day visiting. But Alberto is afflicted with a neurological disorder that confines him to his bed, and his mother, Rosa, lovingly protects and takes care of him. Alberto’s wry humor and creativity help them muster the strength to endure, and he enjoys the company of his neighbor Giselle, who showers Alberto with affection. But the life he imagines with his would-be sweetheart feels just as close-yet-out-of-reach as the sea he looks upon. As he slips into anguish, Rosa confronts her past in order to lift her son’s burden and make his dreams attainable.
Mi Amiga del Parque
Dubbed a “worrying comedy” (“una comedia preocupante”), Katz’s film centers on the budding friendship between Liz and Rosa, two women who bond over their newborn babies. But what begins like a lighthearted take on motherhood and female friendship soon takes a turn towards noir territory. Playing the fiery Rosa, Katz taps into the unraveling that greets new mothers while weaving an increasingly dangerous tale of betrayal and suspicion that threatens to rupture the quaint if fragile life Liz (Julieta Zylberberg) had built for herself while she cared for Nicanor while her husband is away shooting a documentary.
Aquí no ha pasado nada
Reminding us that “affluenza” is not an entirely American concept, Fernández’s film is a fictionalized version of a true story that rocked Chilean headlines in 2014 when Martín Larraín the son of an ex-senator ran over a man and went scot-free while two other people in the vehicle were prosecuted. In Much Ado About Nothing, the film focuses on Vicente (Agustín Silva), a friend of the “Larraín” character in the film whose indifference to the incident paint a scathing picture of the privileged youth in Chile.
Plaza de la soledad
Maya Goded’s documentary is twenty years in the making. That’s how long she’s known the five women that make up her tender portrait of ageing prostitutes in Mexico City’s neighborhood of La Merced. It’s a topic the photographer-turned-filmmaker is intimately familiar with as it was the subject of her 2006 photography book by the same name. Imbuing these women with the same humanity that she brought out in her photos, Plaza de la soledad paints a lively if wistful look at these women’s lives all the while asking necessary questions about female sexuality, friendship, and the emotional inner lives of these oft-forgotten women.
When Two Worlds Collide
In this tense and immersive tour de force, audiences are taken directly into the line of fire between powerful, opposing Peruvian leaders who will stop at nothing to keep their respective goals intact. On the one side is President Alan Garcia, who, eager to enter the world stage, begins aggressively extracting oil, minerals and gas from untouched Indigenous Amazonian land. He is quickly met with fierce opposition from Indigenous leader Alberto Pizango, whose impassioned speeches against Garcia’s destructive actions prove a powerful rallying cry to throngs of his supporters. When Garcia continues to ignore their pleas, a tense war of words erupts into deadly violence.
Eubanks (Danny Glover), an old-school pig farmer from Georgia on the brink of losing his family farm, sets off on a road trip with Howard, his beloved and very large pig. As they make their way across the border to Mexico to find “Howie” a new home, Eubanks’ drinking and deteriorating health begin to take a toll, derailing their plans. His estranged daughter, Eunice (Maya Rudolph), is forced to join them on their adventure. Driven by strong convictions and stubbornness in his old ways, Eubanks attempts to make peace through his devotion to Howie and desire to mend his broken relationships.
Directed by Paddy Breathnach and written by Mark O’Halloran, this Cuban-set film was actually Ireland’s submission for this year’s Foreign Language Oscar race, which opens wide later this Spring.
Jesus has spent most of his young adult life styling wigs at a drag club in Havana, longing for a purpose other than the pennies he scrapes together in the shadows of his surroundings. When Jesus is offered the chance to perform amongst the other queens, the cruel winds of fate bring his estranged, abusive father back into his life after 15 years. What unfolds is a bittersweet story of pain, regret, and reconciliation. As the two men’s lives violently collide, they are forced to grapple with their conflicting views.
Teenage buddies Cisco, Boobie, Junior, and Patty Cake skateboard the streets of Cleveland, Ohio, dreaming of getting discovered by a sponsor and skating their way out of poverty. That is, until the boys discover a bag full of pills in the back of a stolen car. Cisco’s entrepreneurial instincts take over, and in a flash their lives get better. But no one counted on having to come face to face with the cold, calulating, and notorious drug queenpin, “Momma,” who runs the toughest gang in town.