Film

Rockers, Rainforests & Residente: 8 Must-See Latino Movies at 2017 SXSW Film Festival

Lead Photo: Photo by Bernat Armangue, AP
Photo by Bernat Armangue, AP
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With as much absurdity we hear coming out the White House about a proposed multibillion dollar border wall being erected on the U.S.-Mexico border, it’s refreshing to see the eclectic 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival lineup break through all the rhetoric and fear-mongering and offer audiences a number of movies they might never have experienced without the global-friendly fest. While small-minded politicians might be attempting to separate cultures under the guise of protecting the country, even the highest walls can’t stop the cinematic arts from scaling over the divisiveness and enlightening and entertaining audiences with all types of genres from Mexico, Latin America and beyond.

Taking place March 10-18 in Austin, Texas, the SXSW Film Festival will screen everything from music documentaries to edge-of-your-seat thrillers from south of the border. With the second-highest Latino population in the U.S. at 10.4 million, this according to a 2014 Pew Research Center profile, SXSW is embracing these stories and sharing them with an ever-growing festival crowd looking to expand their view on the world and resist a government driven by division.

American and Latino directors, writers, actors and producers from both sides of the border can stand firm and fight for their voices to be heard through the art they create. It can start with a festival like SXSW.

The 2017 SXSW Film Festival runs March 10-18.

1

As I Walk Through the Valley

Ronnie Garza, Charlie Vela

An overview of the history of rock ‘n’ roll in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley for the last 40 years, the doc takes audiences inside the garages of rock bands whose transnational style is influence from both sides of the border, from American pop to traditional Ranchera music and Chicano sounds. The music born in this area and during this time inspired a new social movement and evolved into what would later be known as punk and hardcore rock. “We’re looking at everything that’s not Norteño, Conjunto [or] regional music that has been covered,” said co-director Ronnie Garza.

Synopsis By: Kiko Martinez
United States
Music, Documentary
Ronnie Garza, Charlie Vela
2017
81

2

Give Me Future

Austin Peters

2015 was a landmark year for electronic dancehall superband Major Lazer. After topping the EDM charts with their international hit single “Lean On,” the band continued its world tour, mounting elaborate shows not only in traditional destinations, but also in more challenging locations around the globe. Fueled by a dream of “making the world smaller by making the party bigger,” the group furthered their mission of peace through music with a free concert in the unlikeliest of venues — downtown Havana, Cuba, where no American band at the height of their fame had previously been allowed to perform. Without knowing whether anyone in the country even knew who they were, they hoped to reach a potential crowd of 50,000. After half a million exuberant fans showed up, music history was made on a massive scale. In what began as a concert film intended to document this groundbreaking event, director Austin Peters turns the camera on a burgeoning youth movement, fusing exhilarating performance footage with authentic stories of cultural and political shifts in a country on the precipice of change.

Cuba, United States
Documentary
Jack Turner, Jay Peterson
2016
85

3

Madre

Aaron Burns

Diana (Daniela Ramirez), a pregnant woman with an absent husband, is feeling overwhelmed taking care of her first-born child, Martin (Matias Bassi), who has developmental disabilities. Nearing her breaking point, she hires a Filipino nanny, Luz (Aida Jabolin), who, at first, turns out to be a blessing for the family, especially since Martin’s behavioral problems seem to improve while he is under Luz’s care. However, Diana begins to wonder if her new employee is using her status inside the family to turn Martin against her. Motherhood is at stake when another matriarch comes into the house and disturbs the domestic hierarchy.

Synopsis By: Kiko Martinez
Chile
Thriller
Aaron Burns
Nicolás López, Miguel Asensio Llamas
2016
95

4

Residente

Rene Perez Joglar

Intrigued by a DNA test Residente takes that reveals to him information about his ancestry, the 24-time Grammy Award-winning Puerto Rican rapper, founder of the alternative rap group Calle 13 and recipient of the Nobel Peace Summit Award, takes a trip around the world to learn about his family history and to record his new album. Directed by Residente – aka Rene Perez Joglar – himself, the doc tells his own story about how he started as a struggling art student to become a member of one of Latin America’s most influential rap groups as well as a social justice and a political activist.

Synopsis By: Kiko Martinez
Mongolia, Niger, Armenia, Burkina Faso, Georgia, Russia, China, United States
Documentary
Marc de Beaufort
2017
90

5

Bad Lucky Goat

Samir Oliveros

After accidentally hitting a goat with their father’s truck, two siblings, Corn and Rita (played by first-time actors), go on an adventure of a lifetime to try and fix the vehicle before they have to pick up a group of tourists staying at their family’s hotel. On their journey, they come across, a butcher, Rastafarian drum makers, and a witch doctor. The comedy, which was shot in the Creole language and on a small island in the Colombian Caribbean, is directed by Sami Oliveros, who raised the $60,000 he needed to make the film through a Kickstarter campaign.

Synopsis By: Kiko Martinez
Colombia
Comedy
Samir Oliveros
Andres Gomez
2017
76

6

Divinas divas

Leandra Leal

The documentary takes a look back at a dictator-ruled, 1960s Brazil when the “first generation” of transvestite artists took the stage to perform in a show called “Divinas Divas.” The show took place at a theater owned by director Leandra Leal’s grandfather Americo. Fifty years of the venue’s history through the eyes of these men, who dressed as women, is shared through archival footage and recent interviews, and explores the courage it took for them to find their own individual freedom through personal expression.

Synopsis By: Kiko Martinez
Brazil
Documentary
Carol Benjamin, Leandra Leal, Natara Ney, Lucas Paraizo
Carol Benjamin, Leandra Leal, Natara Ney, Rita Toledo
2016
109

7

Tormentero

Rubén Imaz

Romero Kantún (José Carlos Ruiz), an alcoholic and schizophrenic retired fisherman and forgotten local hero, lives a lonely life at home in Ciudad del Carmen. The only company he has are the familiar ghosts that remind him of the life he never lived. Romero, however, is not ready to give up and hopes to regain what he lost years ago. With the spirit of a 16th century Mayan goddess materializing and searching for a mate to continue the cycle of life, Romero must face his past and try to survive once again.

Synopsis By: Kiko Martinez
Dominican Republic, Colombia, Mexico
Fantasy, Romance, Drama
Fernando del Razo, Rubén Imaz
Gerylee Polanco, Rubén Imaz, Laura Amelia Guzmán, Israel Cárdenas, Julio Bárcenas, Oscar Ruiz Navia
2017
80

8

Bosque de niebla

Mónica Álvarez Franco

First-time feature documentarian Mónica Álvarez Franco tells the story of the cloud forest, also known as the bosque mesófilo de montaña, a type of rainforest considered to be one of the most beautiful places in all of Mexico. It is also one that is at the most risk as an ecosystem, which has diminished because of coffee cultivation, cattle grazing and an increase in human population. It is up to the people of the small town of Veracruz to protect the habitat, while also trying to restructure their own culture through food, education and their relationship with nature.

Synopsis By: Kiko Martinez
Mexico
Mónica Álvarez Franco
Carlos Sosa, Laura Imperiale
2016
90