From Basquiat to Lucrecia Martel: Must-See Latino Movies at New York Film Festival

Lead Photo: 'Zama' still courtesy of TIFF
'Zama' still courtesy of TIFF
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In a sea of movie events in the Big Apple, the New York Film Festival has always stood out. One need only see the type of big names it can attract on any given year. For its 55th edition, moviegoers will be able to see new films by Todd Haynes, Richard Linklater, Hong Sang-soo, and Claire Denis, among others. They’ll get to see actors like Isabelle Huppert, Juliette Binoche, Steve Carrell, Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, and Laurence Fishburne grace the gorgeous screens at Lincoln Center, which boasts some of the best movie theaters a cinephile can dream of.

For those thinking these lists look particularly lacking in Latino and Latin American talent, know that you don’t have to look far. Argentine critical darling Lucrecia Martel is bringing her much-anticipated period drama, Zamato the fest. And for those wanting to hear the award-winning filmmaker talk about her career, you might want to attend the Director Dialogues she’s featured in during the fest.

Elsewhere, you’re likely to find Latino talent in the most unexpected places. They’re the breakout stars of French films about 90s AIDS activism; they’re playing crucial roles in both lavish period pieces set mostly in the American Museum of Natural History and plucky, grounded flicks about childhood set in Florida. And with NYFF55’s revivals bringing back a Cuban classic and an all-too timely Portuguese gem about Cape Verde’s colonial history, there’s no shortage of projects to check out at this lauded fest. And lest you don’t know where to start when figuring out what to catch, check out a list of films and events you should keep an eye out for.

The New York Film Festival runs September 28 – October 15, 2017.



Todd Haynes

In 1977, following the death of his single mother, Ben (Oakes Fegley) loses his hearing in a freak accident and makes his way from Minnesota to New York, hoping to learn about the father he has never met—there, he meets Jamie (Dominican actor Jaden Michael), who may yet help him uncover his family’s secrets. A half-century earlier, another deaf 12-year-old, Rose (Millicent Simmonds), flees her restrictive Hoboken home, captivated by the bustle and romance of the nearby big city. Each of these parallel adventures, unfolding largely without dialogue, is an exuberant love letter to a bygone era of New York. The mystery of how they ultimately converge, which involves Julianne Moore in a lovely dual role, provides the film’s emotional core. Adapted from a young-adult novel by Hugo author Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck is an all-ages enchantment, entirely true to director Todd Haynes’s sensibility: an intelligent, deeply personal, and lovingly intricate tribute to the power of obsession.

United States
Brian Selznick
John Sloss, Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon

The Florida Project

Sean Baker

A six-year-old girl (the remarkable Brooklynn Prince) and her two best friends (played by newcomers Valeria Cotto and Christopher Rivera) run wild on the grounds of a week-by-week motel complex on the edge of Orlando’s Disney World. Meanwhile, her mother (talented novice Bria Vinaite) desperately tries to cajole the motel manager (an ever-surprising Willem Dafoe) to turn a blind eye to the way she pays the rent. A film about but not for kids, Baker’s depiction of childhood on the margins has fierce energy, tenderness, and great beauty. After the ingenuity of his iPhone-shot 2015 breakout Tangerine, Baker reasserts his commitment to 35mm film with sun-blasted images that evoke a young girl’s vision of adventure and endurance beyond heartbreak.

United States
Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
Francesca Silvestri, Chris Bergoch, Kevin Chinoy, Andrew Duncan, Alex Saks, Sean Baker, Shih-Ching Tsou


Lucrecia Martel

This long-awaited adaptation of Antonio Di Benedetto’s 1956 classic of Latin American modernism transports us to a remote corner of 18th-century South America, where a servant of the Spanish crown slowly loses his grip on reality. Written and directed by Lucrecia Martel, the Argentine auteur behind The Holy Girl and The Headless Woman, Zama is that rarest of creative feats: a perfect coupling of literary source material and cinematic sensibility. Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Giménez Cacho) leads a suspended existence as a sort of upper-tier government clerk in what is now Paraguay. He has not seen his wife and children in years. His relationships with his fellow Europeans are strained due to competition and confusion, while his interactions with the settlement’s Black and Indigenous servants are addled by desire and hostility. Zama’s entire sense of purpose is tied up in the promise that he will soon be delivered to his rightful position in faraway Buenos Aires, but the waiting seems endless. As time passes, Zama’s paranoia and capacity for violence burgeons — while his circumstances become only more precarious.

Netherlands, Portugal, France, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, United States
Lucrecia Martel
Vania Catani, Santiago Gallelli, Benjamin Domenech


Robin Campillo

In the early 1990s, ACT UP—in France, as in the U.S.—was on the front lines of AIDS activism. Its members, mostly gay, HIV-positive men, stormed drug company and government offices in “Silence=Death” T-shirts, facing down complacent suits with the urgency of their struggle for life. Robin Campillo depicts their comradeship and tenacity in waking up the world to the disease that was killing them and movingly dramatizes the persistence of passionate love affairs even in dire circumstances. All the actors (including Argentine Nahuel Pérez Biscayart who plays half-Chilean and half-French ACT UP founder Sean Dalmazo) are splendid in this film, which not only celebrates the courage of ACT UP but also tacitly provides a model of resistance to the forces of destruction running rampant today.

Robin Campillo, Philippe Mangeot
Hugues Charbonneau

Casa de Lava

Pedro Costa

Cape Verde’s colonial histories and displaced emigrants have been central to many of Costa’s films, but his rarely seen second feature is the only one thus far to have been shot on the archipelago. Leão (Isaach de Bankolé), the comatose laborer whose removal to his home at Fogo jump-starts the film, is a clear precursor to Costa’s now iconic Ventura, with whom he shares a profession and a past. But the fierce, unblinking attention the film gives to the colonists is the revelation: Edith Scob as an aging Portuguese woman who has made the island her ill-fitting home; Pedro Hestnes as her son; and Inês de Medeiros as the Lisbon nurse who accompanies Leão. Inspired by Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie, this is one of Costa’s most direct reckonings with Portugal’s colonial legacy.

Pedro Costa
Paulo Branco


Humberto Solás

A key work of Cuban cinema, the first feature from director Humberto Solás is a trio of stories about women named Lucía, each in a different register: “Lucía 1895” (featuring Raquel Revuelta, the “Voice of Cuba” in I Am Cuba) is inspired by Visconti’s Senso; “Lucía 1933” (with Eslinda Núñez, from Memories of Underdevelopment) is closer to Hollywood melodrama of the forties; and “Lucía 196_”, made in the spirit of the revolutionary moment, is a broadly drawn tale of a woman (Adela Legrá) under the thumb of her domineering husband. “One of the few films, Left or Right, to deal with women on the same plane and in the same breath as major historical events,” wrote Molly Haskell in 1974. Lucía is also a vivid visual experience, shot in glorious black and white by Jorge Herrero.

Nelson Rodríguez, Humberto Solás, Julio García Espinosa
Raúl Canosa, Camilo Vives


Alison McAlpine

The first feature from Alison McAlpine is a dialogue with the heavens—in this case, the heavens above the Andes and the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, where the sky “is more urgent than the land.” McAlpine keeps the vast galaxies above and beyond in a delicate balance with the earthbound world of people, gently alighting on the desert- and mountain-dwelling astronomers, fishermen, miners, and cowboys who live their lives with reverence and awe for the skies. Cielo itself is an act of reverence and awe, and its sense of wonder ranges from the intimate and human to the vast and inhuman.

Canada, Chile

El mar la mar

Joshua Bonnetta, J.P. Sniadecki

The first collaboration between film and sound artist Bonnetta and filmmaker/anthropologist Sniadecki is a lyrical and highly topical film in which the Sonoran Desert, among the deadliest routes taken by those crossing from Mexico to the United States, is depicted a place of dramatic beauty and merciless danger. Haunting 16mm images of the unforgiving landscape and the human traces within it are supplemented with an intricate soundtrack of interwoven sounds and oral testimonies. Urgent yet never didactic, El mar la mar allows this symbolically fraught terrain to take shape in vivid sensory detail, and in so doing, suggests new possibilities for the political documentary.

United States
Joshua Bonnetta, J.P. Sniadecki

Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Sara Driver

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artistic flame burned intensely before his death at age 27 in 1988. His recognition has only increased since then. He was memorialized in Julian Schnabel’s film Basquiat and recently set the auction record for an American artist with his Untitled graffiti painting of a skull. Filmmaker Sara Driver brings a fresh perspective to the life of this mercurial figure during his formative years, when he was a homeless teenager in New York City. His story is told through the memories of people who knew him personally, including rapper Fab 5 Freddy, filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, and graffiti artist Lee Quiñones.  Through his friends’ interviews and archival footage, the young Basquiat comes across as magnetic and ambitious. His friend Felice Rosser puts his career in perspective: “In a world where Black people are not celebrated, he did it; he blew the roof off that sucker.”

United States
Rachel Dengiz, Sara Driver


HBO Directors Dialogues: Lucrecia Martel

Lucrecia Martel
Lucrecia Martels attends MIU MIU presents Lucrecia Martel’s “Muta” on July 19, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Entertainment

October 1 at 3 p.m.

Join Lucrecia Martel for a discussion of her films and her remarkable latest Zama, an adaptation of a classic Argentinean novel, set in the late 18th century.

VR and the Future of Virtual Production by Lucasfilm

With Jose Perez, Rachel Rose, Nick Rasmussen

From the depths of earth’s oceans to galaxies far, far away, VR allows us to be anyone, go anywhere, and see anything. Lucasfilm and its visual effects division, Industrial Light & Magic, have harnessed the power of this medium to create a new Virtual Production toolset, allowing filmmakers to build and scout a virtual set, manipulate props, puppeteer characters and vehicles, even compose shots to create virtual storyboards.


‘The Last Light’ still courtesy of Angelita Mendoza

The Last Light
Angelita Mendoza, USA/Mexico, 2017, 11m
The innocence and the developing evils of youth collide when two children’s paths cross in an abandoned house.

Juan Pablo Arias Muñoz, Chile, 2017, 21m
While on a hunting trip with his father, a teenage boy must contend with multiple monsters.

The Last Light and Hombre are playing in Shorts Program 2: Genre Stories.

All Over the Place
Mariana Sanguinetti, Argentina, 2017, 10m
While moving out of the apartment she shared with her ex-boyfriend, Jimena reflects on closure and the future in a stream-of-consciousness message on his answering machine.

All Over the Place is playing in Shorts Program 1: Narrative.