Every year Baja California plays host to industry leaders, filmmakers, cinephiles, and critics during the annual Los Cabos International Film Festival. With a mix of screenings, panels, talks, parties and master classes, the beachside fest has become a fast-growing celebration of global (and particularly North American) cinema. Its programs spotlight Mexican filmmakers (Mexico Primero), environmentally inclined projects (Green), and scary films (After Dark), among others, collectively creating a snapshot of the year in film for locals and visitors alike. This year Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman will open the fest. Produced by Gastón Pavlovich, the Mexican producer who was also behind Scorsese’s Silence, and lensed by Mexican cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, the epic drama speaks precisely to the kind of transnational collaborations the fest nurtures year in and year out.
In addition to screening works by up-and-coming filmmakers alongside the work of Noah Baumbach, Taika Waititi and Jim Jarmusch, the 2019 festival will be turning its focus on women breaking ground across the industry. Celebrated documentarian Tatiana Huezo, for example, will be getting the Spotlight treatment. Audiences will get to see her award-winning works El lugar más pequeño and Tempestad as well as getting a sneak peek at her latest project, Noche de Fuego, which is due out next year. Two other familiar faces will be seen at the sunny fest: A Fantastic Woman star Daniela Vega will be on hand to lead a conversation with Oscar nominee Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), who’s the spokesperson for the #MujeresFantásticas initiative and the recipient of this year’s inaugural Reconocimiento Mujeres Fantásticas. The festival’s initiative hopes to open up discussions about how to better create inclusive and diverse spaces within the film industry for women on both sides of the camera.
But if you’ll find yourself at this year’s edition of Los Cabos International Film Festival, and you’re eager to catch some of the best films starring Latinos, we have a list handy below. Whether you want to see Rosie Perez in a zombie flick, are curious about Alexa Demie‘s breakout feature film role, or want to see why Leonardo Ortizgris (Güeros, Museo) continues to be one of the most versatile actors of his generation, the fest has you covered.
Los Cabos International Film Festival runs November 13 – 17, 2019.
Mano de obra
In contemporary Mexico City, construction workers toil to complete an expensive home. Suddenly, one of the men, Claudio, falls from the upper floor to his death. Claudio’s brother Francisco, who worked alongside him, and his wife, Lupe, are devastated. Their grief shifts to fury when medical tests allegedly indicate there was alcohol in Claudio’s system. Claudio never drank. However, by claiming he was intoxicated on the job, the house’s owner evades responsibility and the need to pay Claudio’s widow. Disgusted by how life goes on in the wake of injustice, Francisco begins to look at his daily labor in a new light. The boss brings a plastic bag full of polo shirts to give out to the workers, like charity. They’d rather have their back pay. Francisco watches and waits for an opportune moment. This feature debut from writer-director David Zonana progresses like a quietly humming thriller, with each scene contributing to the film’s gathering power. As Francisco’s determination to win justice for his dead brother leads him to take surprising action, the meanings of worker and boss, workplace and home, shift decisively.
In Mexico City, the surprising death of Armida, a matriarch of a middle-class family, provokes a series of revelations that will confront the members of a family accustomed to living in isolation from one another. Described as a choral film with a sprawling ensemble that includes Ilse Salas (Las niñas bien), Luis Alberti (Eisenstein in Guanajuato), Leonardo Ortizgris (Museo) and Andrés Almeida (Tenemos la carne) among others, Matía Meyer’s project looks to examine what it means to “love” someone at a time when such an emotion feels like a fleeting luxury or a heartbreaking reality.
Club Internacional Aguerridos
Club Internacional Aguerridos bills itself as a false non-linear documentary filmed in the early 1990s. Its star and director are one and the same: Nicolas, a pseudo bourgeois filmmaker, who moves to the Escandón colony, to make his film. Nicolas begins filming aimlessly until he finds Omar, his dealer and future lover. He allows him to enter the neighborhood, and his C.I.A. (the Club Internacional Aguerridos which gives the film its title). In the end Nicolás ends up starring in his own movie, though perhaps not the one he initially set out to make.
Observar las Aves
Andrea Martínez Crowther’s Observar las aves is finely attuned to the leisurely activity its title suggests, birdwatching. A renowned writer with Alzheimer’s decides to film her descent into oblivion, taking her story into her own hands. Knowing that it will not be her who concludes the film, though, she puts herself at the mercy of a filmmaker. Their two voices weave an ode to the beautiful ephemerality of life. The Mexican-Canadian filmmaker, who shuttles between fiction and nonfiction filmmaking, finds here a way to marry the two to tell a tale about what it means to let oneself (and one’s vision of oneself) go.
El Deseo de Ana
Emilio Santoyo’s feature film debut, El deseo de Ana centers on a family rocked by an unlikely visitor. The titular young woman, Ana (Laura Agorreca), lives with her son Mateo (Ian Garcia Monterrubio) in a middle class department in Mexico City. Together they live a rather monotonous life. But their family routine takes a turn when Juan (David Calderón León) comes to visit them after several years of absence. The reunion unleashes memories and secrets of the past that Ana will have to confront to finally seek the tranquility she has been denied for so long.
La Paloma y el Lobo
Aiming to capture an all-too painful reality for many in his native Mexico, filmmaker Carlos Lenin depicts a national trauma within the confines of a young couple, one that speaks to the allegorical world he creates in his feature film debut. Paloma (Paloma Petra) and Lobo (Armando Hernández) have been displaced by the violence that’s swept their town. In order to survive, the two cling to one another and the love they have for each other. Driven by thirst, fear and nostalgia, Paloma is intent on going back home. But Lobo lives haunted by a memory that keeps him from ever wanting to return.
La fiera y la fiesta
Fading actress Vera V. (played by screen royalty Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of Charlie Chaplin) gathers with the remnants of her 70’s social circle to shoot her last film: an unfinished script left behind by cherished friend Jean Louis Jorge, a celebrated Dominican writer. The Caribbean production is lavish, the musical numbers grand. But odd forces threaten the shoot. Vera turns to her ghosts for answers. With a cast that also features Udo Kier, the latest film from husband and wife directing duo Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán (Sambá, Dólares de arena) promises yet another worthy entry in their budding DR-set film canon.
Shattered by the unexpected news of their irreversible break-up, an aspiring orchestra conductor is puzzled by his girlfriend’s mysterious and seemingly inexplicable. That’s when Eric meets Fabiana, a bartender whom he very quickly strikes up a relationship with. Driven by their passion, the young woman moves into Eric’s isolated house where she’ll soon find herself finding out secrets her new lover is intent on burying. Directed by Jorge Michel Grau, this titillating thriller is a remake of the 2011 Colombian film La cara oculta.
Trey Edward Shults’ follow-up to his electric Krisha traces the journey of a suburban African-American family, led by a well-intentioned but domineering father (Sterling K. Brown) as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of an unimaginable tragedy. Said tragedy is brought about when star wrestler Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) finds his world imploding when his girlfriend Alexis (Euphoria‘s Alexa Demie, whose mother is of Mexican descent) drops a bombshell on his lap that may derail the future their families have dreamed for the young high school sweethearts. Rounding out the cast are Lucas Hedges, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Vivi Pineda and celebrated Latino character actor Clifton Collins Jr.
El lugar más pequeño
Highlighting the resilience of the human spirit, El Salvador-born filmmaker, Tatiana Huezo, explores the aftermath of the devastating civil war in the Central American country through the experiences of five families that returned to their village, Cinquera, over a decade after its destruction. Huezo’s documentary chronicles their journey and traces a harrowing history they’re only now able to articulate. Their testimonies are simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting. Despite the tragedy, the survivors choose to rebuild and move forward, while never forgetting those who died in the conflict. Memory is their most powerful weapon for a peaceful future and El lugar más pequeño is proof positive of the way storytelling can be both a way to look back and to move forward.
Focused on the violence and impunity that afflicts Mexico, the film is driven by the voices of two women, Miriam and Adela. As we listen to their stories, director Tatiana Huezo offers us beautiful images of the cross-country journey that Miriam took after being released from a cartel-run prison, where she’d been held for her alleged involvement in human trafficking. After no evidence of her participation in trafficking was found, Miriam was eventually let go, becoming instead a public scapegoat for an increasingly common problem in Mexico. Interwoven with the harrowing tale of Miriam’s stay in this torturous environment is the story of Adela, a circus clown, who’s been searching for her abducted daughter who went missing over 10 years ago. Evocative of Terrence Malick, but infused with a staunchly politicized message, Tempestad is both lyrical and political.
The Dead Don’t Die
Jim Jarmusch offers his very idiosyncratic take on the zombie film with The Dead Don’t Die, a deadpan comedy about the undead. Speaking to everything from climate change to our current technophilia, his zany flick centers on a pair of bumbling police officers in the peaceful town of Centerville (played by Adam Driver and Bill Murray) who are tasked with keeping a zombie outbreak under control while all hell breaks loose around them. Boasting “the greatest cast ever disassembled” the film features the likes of Rosie Perez, Selena Gomez, Tilda Swinton, and Chloë Sevigny, all providing levity to Jarmusch’s delightfully offbeat offering.