Now in its seventh year, Los Cabos International Film Festival continues to position itself as a hub for audiences, critics, filmmakers, and producers alike. Opening with Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite and closing with Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman, this year’s fest will be presenting over 40 movies in a span of five days. With galas honoring the likes of Lee, Adam Driver, and Terry Gilliam as well as panels, pitching workshops, and plenty of industry events that are building ties between Mexico, the United States and Canada with the rest of the world, the 2018 edition of the festival is not to be missed.
Moreover, in between their “Mexico Primero” section and the emphasis on international productions, there’s no shortage of great Mexican and Latin American premieres. Yes, audiences will get to experience Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma on the big screen, but look beyond that flashy screening and you’ll find plenty to catch. There are films about skater girls in New York City, wealthy socialites losing their fortune in Mexico, and even indigenous drug cartels in Colombia. And if you’re looking for A-list projects you’ll find movies featuring with the likes of Oscar Isaac, Raúl Castillo, Tessa Thompson, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Michelle Rodriguez, and even Benicio del Toro (in a retro screening of a 1998 cult classic).
We’ve rounded out all these titles and more so consider the list below you’re very own Latino and Latin American guide to the fest.
Los Cabos International Film Festival runs November 7–11, 2018.
We The Animals
Us three, brothers, kings inseparable. Manny, Joel, and Jonah tear their way through childhood. Their parents (Sheila Vand and Raul Castillo) have a volatile love that makes and unmakes the family many times over, leaving the boys fending for themselves. As their parents rip at one another, Manny and Joel ultimately harden and grow into versions of their father. With the triumvirate fractured, Jonah—the youngest, the dreamer—becomes increasingly aware of his desperate need to escape. Driven to the edge, Jonah embraces an imagined world all his own. With a screenplay by Dan Kitrosser and Jeremiah Zagar based on the celebrated Justin Torres novel, We the Animals is a visceral coming-of-age story propelled by strikingly layered performances from its astounding cast, elements of magical realism, and unbelievable animated sequence
Shy, 18-year-old Camille (played by Colombian-American newcomer Rachelle Vinberg) seeks out an all-girl skateboard crew in NYC, a subculture of sexually fluid, cool city kids whose lives revolve around social media and skateboarding. Camille, adopted into their gang, is quickly faced with the complexity of female friendship, loyalty pressures, and singular personalities. So much so she’ll rebel against her mother (Orange is the New Black’s Elizabeth Rodriguez). A breakout darling of the Sundance Film Festival, filmmaker Crystal Moselle (The Wolfpack) perfectly captures the female zeitgeist in her richly textured and atmospheric second feature.
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.
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.
Set on the Oaxacan coast, Andrea Bussman’s latest feature is one part mediation on myth and one part avant-garde ghost story. The film’s narrator encounters a number of people, all of them storytellers, who describe a past that refuses to go away. Ghosts and witches abound and almost every location has a secret history. The stories — populated by thieves, grifters, and unwary people who indulge in esoteric affairs — frequently include a handsome man who seduces almost everyone into making deals that invariably end in disappointment. He’s an emblem for our own incurable addiction to narrative and the meaning we want to impose on what we experience.
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.
Sorry to Bother You
Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a 30-something black telemarketer with self-esteem issues, discovers a magical selling power living inside of him. Suddenly he’s rising up the ranks to the elite team of his company, which sells heinous products and services. The upswing in Cassius’s career raises serious red flags with his brilliant girlfriend, Detroit (played by Panamanian-Mexican-American actress Tessa Thompson), a sign-twirling gallery artist who is secretly a part of a Banksy-style collective called Left Eye. But the unimaginable hits the fan when Cassius meets the company’s cocaine-snorting, orgy-hosting, obnoxious, and relentlessly optimistic CEO, Steve Lift (Armie Hammer).
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.
Las niñas bien
Sofia (Ilse Salas) and Fernando (Flavio Medina) have it all — money, status, beautiful houses, servants. Fernando has inherited all his wealth, acquired by his father with the help of his uncle Javier. At dinner one night, Javier announces he is stepping aside. There are a few dark clouds on the horizon: their American business associates have backed out of a deal, and the President of Mexico has just appeared on television with ominous news about the economy. Initially, their world remains untroubled. Sofia watches with slight hauteur as two new arrivistes, a young woman and her rather gauche husband, try to enter her social circle. But gradually cracks appear in Sofia and Fernando’s manicured lives, as the social and economic order starts to shift around them. Alejandra Márquez Abella captures all of the interplay with complete assurance. Her film is perfectly cast, beautifully framed, and carefully observed – décor, clothes, setting. Nothing is out of place in this insightful, quasi-tragic look at a time that has many parallels in the present
Clases de historia
Verónica, a middle-aged high school history teacher, leads a non eventful life: she has grownup children, grandchildren and a less than perfect marriage. This dynamic seems to be the only thing she can hold on to, as she battles a terminal illness. As she reluctantly accepts her fate, she meets Eva, an irreverent and misunderstood new student who unknowingly injects some life and enthusiasm back into her and provides her with the tools to deal with her destiny. Marcelino Islas’ third feature film portrays an unlikely and fascinating friendship between two women who manage to overcome stereotypes and relinquish prejudices, impeccably played by seasoned actress Verónica Langer and newcomer Renata Vaca.
In 1986, a priest, Juan Felipe de Jesús (Héctor Illanes), documents in dozens of videotapes the hard process of trying to reintroduce three wild children back into the Oaxacan society. His good intentions are interrupted by a tragic fire, which marks the destiny of Juan Felipe and the three little ones. Nowadays, several unknowns surround the case, and the people who witnessed the event still remain mysteriously silent. In his feature debut, Andrés Kaiser uses this event as an example to explore one of our hidden fears—the chaos and darkness that arise from the encounter with our most primitive essence.
Yo no soy guapo
The Sonidero movement echoes throughout the streets of Mexico City with waves of tropical rhythms, neon lights and dance moves. This tradition has taken root in the city’s popular neighborhoods and in time has ceased to be a mere excuse to come together, giving way to something much more powerful: it now constitutes an urban identity between neighborhoods, and the need to find happiness amidst a city that threatens to swallow them. Two brave and touching characters, La Cigarrita and El Duende fight to keep this tradition alive, opposing the government’s initiative to gentrify their neighborhoods. During the festivities that celebrate la Virgen de la Merced (The Virgin of Mercy) — one of the city’s most popular events — sonideros face a wall of anti-riot police. Director Joyce García, builds a deep and endearing relationship with her main characters, who share their life stories with disarming honesty. Yo no soy guapo depicts a cultural movement through the eyes of those who celebrate the simple act of surviving, and in doing so, reclaim their right to exist.
Claudia (Jenny RVC) is a young girl from Guadalajara who works as a seamstress, plays in a Christian band and looks after her nephews when her sister is out. One day, Claudia turns to her best friend Arturo (Jesuso López), and asks him to take her to the town of Chapala to see a doctor for an abortion. But fate interferes, and after a series of unexpected events, their friendship is pushed to the limit, allowing their true feelings to shine through. This nostalgic road movie marks the debut of Heriberto Acosta as a director and his protagonists as actors.
At Eternity’s Gate
In a cold street in Paris, painter Paul Gauguin (Oscar Isaac) recommends that his tormented friend Vincent van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) travels to the south of France to find sunshine. This compelling recommendation leads Van Gogh to Arles, where his creative energy and his emotional problems enter in constant conflict, triggering one of the most decisive and difficult stages of the artist’s life. The Dutchman’s passion for painting and engaging with the world through art, contrasts with the hostility of the local people, his financial problems and the complicated friendship he has with Gauguin. Julian Schanbel’s sensitivity and vision unfold with mastery, and register one of the most memorable performances by Willem Dafoe, undoubtedly one of the top actors of his generation.
Miguel “Bayoneta” Galíndez (Club de Cuervos’ Luis Gerardo Méndez) is a retired boxer from Tijuana, who through a roll of the dice ends up living in a small complex in Turuk, Finlandia. When he’s not at the gym working as a boxing trainer, he is hitting the bottle somewhere. But an impending need for redemption will lead him back onto the ring to fight one of his worst enemies: his past. This is Kyzza Terrazas’ third feature film, a powerful piece in which he collaborates with Luis Gerardo Méndez, one of the most regarded actors of his generation; in it, he successfully portrays the emotional turmoil of a tortured character living in the vast Scandinavian landscape and its merciless cold.
A 3 Minute Hug
How long is three minutes? That all depends on who you ask. Directed by acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Everardo González, A 3 Minute Hug offers a poignant look into a profound source of pain — not being able to embrace your loved ones. This Netflix Original documentary short produced by No Ficción follows what transpires over the course of a few special minutes — when families, some separated for over a decade, were able to reunite at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
A red convertible speeds across the Nevada desert, on the highway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas; on board, the reporter Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and his lawyer Dr. Gonzo (Benicio del Toro). Duke has been assigned to cover a motorcycle race in the desert; suddenly the drugs kick in and a swarm of bats attacks the vehicle, triggering Duke to hit the gas and driving hectically towards his destination. From then on, Duke and Dr. Gonzo never come down from their drug-induced mania and live in a constant haze filled with insane visions of reptiles and monsters, and news about Vietnam that foreshadow the demise of the American dream. Based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson, Terry Gilliam brings to life on the big screen, this obscure comedy about two addicts who deep down would much rather face their darkest nightmares, than live in their country’s current, decaying reality, in which a whole generation is sent to their death under the pretense that they are fighting for their homeland.
It’s 2017 in Bisbee, Arizona, an old copper-mining town just miles from the Mexican border. The town’s close-knit community prepares to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bisbee’s darkest hour: the infamous Bisbee Deportation of 1917, during which 1,200 striking miners were violently taken from their homes, banished to the middle of the desert, and left to die. Townspeople confront this violent, misunderstood past by staging dramatic recreations of the escalating strike. These dramatized scenes are based on subjective versions of the story and “directed,” in a sense, by residents with conflicting views of the event. Deeply personal segments torn from family history build toward a massive restaging of the deportation itself on the exact day of its 100th anniversary.