Arguably the movie capital of the world, Los Angeles is never wanting for glitzy red carpets or eagerly awaited world premieres. But the annual AFI Fest packs in so many movie stars, world-class directors, and up-and-coming talents, that it reminds you why so many move out west to make it in Hollywood in the first place. This year the fest is showing such high-profile projects as Roma, The Opposite of Sex, The Favourite, and Everybody Knows alongside films starring the likes of Argentine-raised Viggo Mortensen, up-and-comer Rosa Salazar (soon to be seen in Alita), and on-screen vet Michelle Rodriguez.
As usual, the international offerings further cement AFI Fest as committed to championing cinema from around the globe. Across its various programs, the LA festival won’t just be showing Alfonso Cuarón‘s latest epic, but also spotlighting great work from other Latin American filmmakers. Everything from coming of age tales in dusty Chilean countrysides to working-class character studies from Mexico and Brazil. Moreover, their selection of shorts also feature films from Colombia (Dulce), Brazil (The Orphan), Mexico (The Meteorite) and Chile (The Summer of the Electric Lion). Be sure to check out our feature films selection below and nab tickets to these hotly anticipated titles finally landing on screens in sunny LA.
AFI Fest runs November 8-15, 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.
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.
Juan and Ester (director Carlos Reygadas and his wife, Natalia López) live on their remote cattle ranch with their children. It’s a very calm, private existence — one they both want to protect. The couple has until now enjoyed an open relationship but when Ester falls in love with an American horse trainer (Phil Burgers) who works in the area, she stops sharing details of her affair with Juan. He begins compulsively spying on his wife. The pain of not being in control forces him to question their relationship and he loses himself in turbid, jealous emotions. It’s fascinating when you realize that the director is effectively filming himself secretly watching his real wife’s affair. Gorgeously shot, the film ruminates on life at the ranch, the joy of seeing the children grow up outside, and the beauty and the mess our lives can so quickly become. Through this raw exploration of a couple at a moment of crisis, Reygadas creates a story that is somehow both quotidian yet epic in scope.
Todos lo saben
Laura (Penélope Cruz) has returned to Spain from Buenos Aires for her sister’s wedding. The mood in her bucolic hometown is festive, and many faces from the past are present for the nuptials, including Paco (Javier Bardem), a longtime friend of the family. But when Laura’s daughter goes missing late into the night of the celebration, and text messages arrive asking for ransom, the happy reunion takes a hard left turn into nightmarish territory. With Everybody Knows, Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi skillfully directs his most overtly suspenseful piece to date, keeping the screws turning while sacrificing none of the layered drama surrounding family and class for which he is known. Cruz and Bardem both turn in shattering performances, as Laura and Paco’s complex history slowly emerges in the midst of crisis. Joining the Oscar winners is Ricardo Darín, playing Laura’s Argentine husband.
The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy
This charming feature debut from recently rediscovered filmmaker Kathleen Collins (Losing Ground) follows three Puerto Rican brothers who, under the guidance of their deceased father, are enlisted to assist an eccentric elderly woman in restoring her crumbling Victorian home. When the brothers set out to accomplish this colossal task, the woman matter-of-factly announces her plans to host one last party before her own anticipated death. Adapting a series of short stories by Henry H. Roth, the debut announced Collins’ distinct visual aesthetic: unrestrained, delicate and ethereal. With a set of vibrant and engaging characters in her own hometown of Rockland County, it exudes sweetness and affection.
Eve (Gabriela Cartol) works long hours as a maid at a luxurious hotel in Mexico City. A young, single mother who travels far to get to her place of work, Eve has aspirations for the future and hopes that her diligence will get her a coveted spot as the cleaner on an executive floor. She enrolls in the hotel’s adult education program in her quest for a better life but quickly discovers that it’s not necessarily the most hard-working who get noticed for advancement. The Chambermaid, Lila Avilés’s striking debut, employs a quasi-documentary approach as it accompanies Eve on her daily routine. She quietly enters one indistinguishable guest room after another and we are struck by the intimacy behind the act of cleaning a stranger’s mess. The disparity between the guests and those working at the hotel — who often do not have hot water in their own homes — accurately reflects the reality in many Latin American countries.
Veronica (Viola Davis) lives an idyllic life in Chicago, ensconced in the loving arms of her partner, Rawlins (Liam Neeson), and in their luxurious condo. But Rawlins bought that cushy life robbing people. When a job with his gang goes fatally wrong, Veronica’s life falls to pieces. With a local crime lord (Brian Tyree Henry) and his muscle (Daniel Kaluuya) pressing her to pay Rawlins’s debt, Veronica sees only one option: round up the three other women who’ve slept for years next to these seasoned criminals, and make a plan to win their lives back. Adapted from a 1980s-era British TV series by McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, Widows crackles with intelligence. Veronica and the other three widows (Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, and Elizabeth Debicki) become linked by their money trouble, children, and the men that constrain them. A politician running for office on his family’s dynasty, Tom Mulligan (Colin Farrell) exerts a power both within and beyond the law. The result is a big, twisty, satisfying thriller.
In a transitional moment personally and professionally, Juliana knows all too well the value of having a steady gig as a member of Brazil’s working class. After relocating to bustling Contagem to take a municipal job with the endemics department, she and a colorful crew canvas the city’s favelas, eradicating mosquito nests while she awaits the arrival of her husband, whose constant and evolving excuses spell trouble. Yet as Juliana settles in and her new life as a single woman comes into focus, she learns to face her troubled past and to savor those rare, precious little bits of joy — a night spent with a new lover, a welcoming slice of cake from a lonely pensioner — in this rich and absorbing feature from writer/director André Novais Oliveira.