Edgar Ramírez. Jennifer Lopez. Gael García Bernal. Rosario Dawson. Raúl Castillo. Sônia Braga. Ricardo Darín. Cardi B. To list the many talented faces that will be seen in projects at the Toronto International Film Festival is enough to get one excited for the annual Canadian affair. With 245 features, 82 shorts, and 6 series (that’s 28,264 minutes of film), TIFF is without a doubt one of the biggest film festivals in the world. It’s encouraging to see the range of U.S. Latino and Latin American representation across the program this year. In addition to the stellar actors aforementioned, the festival will feature screenings from some of the most exciting filmmakers around, including Pablo Larraín, Fernando Meirelles, Federico Veiroj, Jayro Bustamante and Kleber Mendonça Filho. It’s worth noting, though, that no feature films from U.S. Latino directors made the cut this year.
Whether you’re headed to Toronto or simply want to survey what the storied fest has in store for cinephiles around the world, we’ve sorted through this year’s overwhelming roster and found everything that’s playing that stars Latino or Latin Americans. Whether you’re looking to see J.Lo show off what made her such a thrilling screen presence by playing a high-end stripper, are compelled to check out a documentary about immigrant veterans facing deportation, or are excited to see García Bernal in not one but two films, you’ll find what you’re looking for below.
The Toronto Film Festival runs from September 5 – 15, 2019.
At the end of the Cold War, Cuba experienced one of its worst socio-economic periods. Euphemistically called “Special Period in Time of Peace,” this era was marked by economic scarcity and a massive migration wave to the United States known as the balseros (rafters) crisis. The nadir occurred in August 1994, the few weeks depicted in Armando Capó’s debut film, August. This sensitive coming-of-age movie follows Carlos, a teenager living with his parents and senile grandmother in the rural coastal town of Gibara. Under the blazing summer sun, he spends time with friends and explores his sexual curiosity all while enduring precarious living conditions. Thankfully he has the support of his loved ones. As he witnesses illegal immigrants heading north in frail boats, he never imagines that, one day, his family will be affected by this diaspora. His life takes an unexpected turn defined by the rapidly shifting landscape of international politics.
Bacurau is a wild, weird, and politically charged revisionist Western. Set in the near future, the film follows Teresa (Bárbara Colen), who comes home to Bacurau, a village in Brazil’s semiarid sertão, to attend her mother’s funeral. Upon her arrival, Teresa immediately observes signs that Bacurau is in dire straits. Basic amenities are in short supply, cellphone coverage is fading, and the truck that brings potable water arrives riddled with bullet holes. It soon becomes apparent that the government has forsaken the village completely. Not only has Bacurau been literally erased from the map, but its citizens have also been sold as prey for a safari of bloodthirsty foreign hunters. Their leader is played by cult-cinema legend Udo Kier. As the killers close in, the villagers prepare a formidable organized resistance, with a locally sourced psychotropic drug as their secret weapon.
Gael García Bernal’s second feature as director is a rollicking story of working-class desperation. Turning to crime as a means of fleeing their Mexico City shantytown, the antiheroes of Chicuarotes bring a wildly entertaining mix of exuberance, invention, and audacity to their lawless pursuits. Chicuarotes is a colloquial term for denizens of San Gregorio Atlapulco, a low-income neighborhood still struggling to recover from the 2017 earthquake — and a place teenage friends Cagalera (Benny Emmanuel) and Moloteco (Gabriel Carbajal) will do anything to leave. The film opens to find the boys performing a clown act on a bus. When the pancake makeup and lazzi fail to yield rewards, they resort to demanding passengers’ valuables by force, using a gun belonging to Cagalera’s mother’s abusive boyfriend. Cagalera and Moloteco thereafter are determined to seek bigger, riskier paydays, first by robbing a lingerie store — which results in a remarkable incident of police abusing their authority — and later by kidnapping the son of a butcher, a scheme that leads to them being sought out by Chillamil (Daniel Giménez Cacho), a ruthless enforcer-for-hire, newly released from prison.
El diablo entre las piernas
Beatriz (Sylvia Pasquel) and the Old Man (Alejandro Suárez) have been together for decades. A retired homeopathic pharmacist, the Old Man now divides his time between their Mexico City home where he shuffles around in his housecoat, raging against Beatriz, and paying secret visits to his mistress. Beatriz, when not bearing the brunt of the Old Man’s tirades, sneaks out to take tango lessons and propositions her younger dance partner (Daniel Giménez Cacho). With their children grown up and abandoning the couple long ago, the only person left to witness the aging couple’s ever-escalating routine is Dinorah (Greta Cervantes), the young maid who will eventually take matters into her own hands. Shot in silvery black and white, and featuring Friedrich Hollaender’s wistful “Falling in Love Again” as its poignant refrain, Devil Between the Legs is arrestingly candid about geriatric sex.
Set in the scenic seaport city of Valparaíso, the latest from Pablo Larraín reunites the visionary Chilean auteur with Mexican superstar Gael García Bernal (No, Neruda) for an incendiary drama about art, desire, and family. Ema (Mariana di Girolamo) is a talented young dancer whose roots lie in the carnal reggaeton grooves she and her friends perform to in the city streets, but she’s forged a career as part of a more cerebral modern-dance ensemble helmed by her husband, choreographer Gastón (García Bernal). As the film opens, the couple is reeling from a terrible crisis: their adopted 12-year-old son Polo has set fire to their home, severely burning the face of Ema’s sister in the process. With her child taken from her and her marriage crumbling, Ema sets out on a strange, secretive, and risky quest to reset her life.
Read Remezcla’s review.
La odisea de los giles
The year is 2001, and Argentina is hitting the lowest point in its great depression. His glory days far behind him, retired soccer star Fermín (Ricardo Darín) now runs a service station in a sleepy provincial town. Hoping to pull his family and their community out of decline, Fermín seeks to convert some abandoned grain silos into a viable storage facility. He convinces friends to invest in the cooperative, but is railroaded by a conniving bank manager into placing their cash into a savings account just as the banks are about to be frozen by the government, rendering their money useless and their plans quashed. For a time things seem only to get worse, until rumors spread of a secret depository containing the cooperative’s pilfered cash and much, much more. With Fermín as their Robin Hood-esque leader, the group conspires to infiltrate the cache, but it’s going to take some serious resolve, a little inspiration, and a lot of luck to pull off this honest-person heist.
Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Cardi B, Keke Palmer, and Julia Stiles lead a dazzling cast in one of the most groundbreaking mainstream movies of the year. Starting from Jessica Pressler’s magazine article about exotic dancers turning the tables on their thirsty clients, director Lorene Scafaria delivers an intoxicating cocktail of crime, sex, and money. That’s just the sizzle. The meat of Hustlers is its exploration of how a man’s power shapes a woman’s work — until it doesn’t. Destiny (Wu) is still learning on the job — what to wear, how to lap dance, how to sell a fantasy of sexual availability to the men who flow into her club from their own daily hustle on Wall Street. Ramona (Lopez) is the undisputed queen dancer at the club. A former centerfold model, she’s entirely levelheaded about her expertise in whipping men into a wallet-emptying frenzy. But the money rolling in comes crashing to a halt with the financial crisis of 2008. As the mood in New York gets darker and each dollar earned more desperate, Ramona, Destiny, and their strip-club sisters cook up a new hustle — more dangerous, more lucrative, and most definitely more illegal.
On the morning after his 85th birthday party, wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombrey is found dead on his estate. Famed Southern detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is enlisted on the case and suspects foul play. Everyone is a suspect. As the reading of the will draws closer and the investigation heats up, Harlan’s money-grubbing family begins to be revealed as far more conniving and competitive than they first appear. When Marta (Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas), Thrombrey’s South American caregiver, finds herself entangled in the mystery, it becomes clear that no secrets are safe within the household — not even her own. With an ensemble cast that also includes Raúl Castillo, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon and Toni Collette, Knives Out is a propulsive mystery, mixing elements of Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie.
The story of La Llorona (The Weeping Woman), concerns a Medea-like figure who drowns her children after being abandoned by her husband. She’s thereafter condemned to wander the earth, bringing misfortune to all who cross her path. A perennial myth in Latin American culture, La Llorona has appeared in countless works of music, literature, and cinema — but she’s never been re-imagined with the level of trenchancy found in the latest work from writer-director Jayro Bustamante. Transplanting the ancient tale to a contemporary Guatemala still struggling to find justice for the victims of its Civil War, La Llorona is a horror story whose deepest chills are generated by real-life atrocities. Once a fearsome commanding officer, General Enrique Monteverde is now an elderly man in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Decades after the Civil War, Monteverde is belatedly brought to trial and found guilty of genocide, but his conviction is swiftly overturned on judicial technicalities. Accompanied by his wife and daughter — as well as their faithful housekeeper and her mysterious new subordinate — Monteverde is brought home. While demonstrators clamor daily for retribution outside the walls of his property, Monteverde begins to hear and see strange things transpiring within his home during the wee hours.
Lina de Lima
A delightful renovation of the musical comedy and a timely examination of the realities of migrant labor, the inventive debut fiction feature from Chilean director María Paz González tackles heavy themes with a light touch and a saucy sense of humor. It’s been 10 years since Lina left her home country of Peru to work in Chile as a housekeeper to a wealthy family. The job has provided Lina with sufficient earnings to live frugally and have enough left over to send money back home to her son Junior, who’s grown from a small child to an adolescent in her absence. Now, with Christmas just around the corner, Lina is finally preparing to return to Lima for a belated visit. The thing is, Junior seems more concerned about getting an authentic soccer jersey than reuniting with his mother. Simultaneously, Lina’s bank account is in danger of getting drained when her employer’s newly installed pool is unexpectedly damaged under her watch. As the resourceful heroine navigates a scenario full of pitfalls and disappointments, González’s largely observational approach to storytelling gives us glimpses into the daily life of this hardworking single woman abroad: her endearing camaraderie with her employer’s young daughter and her online hookups with various men.
Read Remezcla’s review.
Mi piel, luminosa
Mi piel, luminosa (My Skin, Luminous) is written and directed by Gabino Rodríguez, in collaboration with Nicolás Pereda. Variously incorporating themes of education, environmental sovereignty, and spiritual rites, the provocative, absurdist film is composed of material ostensibly shot for the Ministry of Education in a rural school in Mexico’s Michoacán state. Inspired by ideas from cult writer Mario Bellatin (who appears in the film), My Skin, Luminous drifts in a beguiling manner into the realm of the oneiric as it narrates the story of a young boy’s troubled adoption. Enigmatic and deceptively playful in tone, the film boldly transforms the mundane into fantasy, acting as a meditation on the double-edged nature of rituals and childhood (cleansing, humiliation, rebirth), on race, and on water (as both a symbol and metaphor).
Sete anos em Maio
Urgent and arresting, Seven Years in May by Brazil’s Affonso Uchôa is the follow-up to his acclaimed narrative feature Araby (codirected with João Dumans). It centers on the story of Rafael dos Santos Rocha, here credited as co-writer. A pre-Bolsonaro portent, the film is grounded in Rocha’s abduction and assault by police officers, with the violence and impunity of the perpetrators still marking him. Seven Years in May‘s utterly engrossing 42 minutes are enacted entirely at night, partially and intimately told around a fire. The film uses fictional devices, recreations, recitations, games, and more, as if the variety of forms might permit better access to an atrocious incident that remains unresolved, and unatoned for.
Tracking the paths of several Cuban dissidents from the ’90s on, Wasp Network sheds light on events of enormous consequence to the way we think about terror, the drug trade, and international relations. It also features a stunning ensemble of international stars, including Edgar Ramírez, Oscar winner Penélope Cruz, and Gael García Bernal. In December 1990, airline pilot René González (Ramírez) steals a plane and flees Cuba, which is about to topple into an economic crisis precipitated by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Having abandoned his wife (Cruz) and daughter, René (now based in Miami), he’s regarded as a coward and a traitor, though in letters home he explains that he is fighting for a more just and prosperous Cuba as a member of the activist organization Brothers to the Rescue. Along with fellow exile and pilot Juan Pablo Roque (Wagner Moura), René gradually becomes more aware of the moral compromises the Brothers make to do their work, and the degree to which the CIA is involved in supporting anti-Castro activities.
Shadows of the political past loom ominously over the present in this eerily resonant thriller from veteran Chilean director Andrés Wood (Machuca). Written by Wood and Guillermo Calderón, Araña (Spider) is both a tension-filled entertainment and a potent cautionary tale. In the early 1970s, Inés (María Valverde), her husband Justo (Gabriel Urzúa), and their best friend Gerardo (Pedro Fontaine) are part of a militant right-wing nationalist group determined to overthrow Salvador Allende’s Marxist government. In the intervening decades, Pinochet’s oppressive regime comes and goes, democracy in Chile is restored, and Allende becomes a martyr. Now, 40 years later, Inés (La ciénaga’s Mercedes Morán) and Justo (Felipe Armas) have become affluent, respected businesspeople, happy to keep their youthful radicalism buried in a historical moment almost no one wants to excavate. But Gerardo (Marcelo Alonso) has held onto his life-or-death convictions. When he is arrested for murder and police discover an arsenal in his house, his case inevitably implicates his one-time allies, but Inés and Justo will do anything to keep Gerardo from exposing their shared past.
La cordillera de los sueños
Patricio Guzmán has completed a trilogy about Chile, his home country. He began with Nostalgia for the Light, focused on the north, and followed up with The Pearl Button, on the south. Now he turns to the majestic cordillera of the Andes that runs the length of Chile’s eastern border. Guzmán has lived in exile since the 1973 overthrow of Salvador Allende, an event he captured in his epic, multipartite The Battle of Chile and has revisited in other films. Currently in his late 70s, Guzmán makes return trips home that are marked by passage over the cordillera. His new film’s narration finds him in the kind of ruminative mood that comes from being in transit. In this eclectic film essay, the cordillera is a crossing point for discussion. Guzmán meets with artists who take many things from the mountains: materials for sculptors, imagery for painters, and inspiration for writers. “One of the biggest revelations when you enter the cordillera,” says author Jorge Baradit, “whether on foot, on horseback, or in a car, is that it forms a whole country that lives alongside ours.”
Flush with sounds and images that bridge the angular sprawl of modern industrial spaces with the irrepressible fertility of the natural world, this gorgeously crafted film from Brazilian writer-director Maya Da-Ria conveys an intimate story of work, family, and inevitable change. Twenty years ago, 45-year-old Desana Justino (Regis Myrupu) moved from his home in the Brazilian wilderness to Manaus, a port city surrounded by the Amazon rainforest. Recently widowed, he works as a watchman at a cargo port and lives in a modest home on the outskirts of the city. His daughter Vanessa (Rosa Peixoto) has been given a scholarship to study medicine in Brasilia, but she worries about leaving her father in this urban environment to which he has never completely adapted to. Vanessa’s uneasiness is compounded when Justino begins to show symptoms of a strange fever, while rumors of a dangerous, perhaps supernatural animal circulate. A febre (The Fever) alternates alluringly between image-driven and verbal (both in Portuguese and Tukano) storytelling. Masterfully composed shots of dense, dark jungles and colossal cranes hoisting shipping containers elicit both awe and tension, while other scenes — such as the one in which Justino tells his grandson of a hunter nursed and sheltered by monkeys — carry a sense of wisdom being shared across generations.
Las buenas intenciones
Set in Argentina during the economic slump of the 1990s, writer-director Ana García Blaya’s feature debut is a poignant, semi-autobiographical portrait of a family fractured by fraught circumstances and unruly personalities, but united by an invincible love. Aging slacker Gustavo (Javier Drolas) lives for three things: fútbol, rock ‘n’ roll, and his children. Having separated some years ago, Gustavo and the kids’ mother Cecilia (Jazmin Stuart) share custody and remain more or less amicable, despite Gustavo’s inability to adhere to timetables or generate enough income to cover his share of the expenses. Gustavo runs a record store with his old buddy Néstor (Sebastián Arzeno), but business is poor, with bargain-priced pirate cassettes comprising the bulk of their sales. This tentative status quo is upset when Cecilia announces that she and her current partner want to start a new life in Paraguay, and take the kids with them. Gustavo is in no position to argue, but Amanda (Amanda Minujin) — the eldest sibling, and at 9-years-old already accustomed to taking on adult responsibilities — is determined to stay with her father in Buenos Aires.
Read Remezcla’s review.
A vida invisível de Eurídice Gusmão
From prolific Brazilian auteur Karim Aïnouz and set in midcentury Rio de Janeiro, The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão is a sprawling melodrama about feminine resilience. Based on Martha Batalha’s beloved novel, Aïnouz’s most accessible work retains the unfettered sensuality and sumptuous splendor that render all his films so uniquely captivating. The year is 1950. Classical piano prodigy Eurídice (Carol Duarte) dreams of studying at the Vienna Conservatory. Her sister Guida (Julia Stockler), however, is the first of the siblings to make it to Europe, albeit fleetingly. After having eloped with a Greek sailor, Guida soon returns to Rio de Janeiro pregnant and alone, unbeknown to Eurídice. Kept apart by a terrible lie, years pass as the two sisters forge their respective paths through their city’s teeming bustle, each believing the other to be half a world away. Complementing the seductively saturated hues of the cinematography by Hélène Louvart, the film’s soundtrack features a soulful score from Benedikt Schiefer coupled with a poignant voice-over duet consisting of the sisters’ misaddressed missives. Culminating in an affecting cameo from Oscar nominee Fernanda Montenegro, Aïnouz’s stirring epic of winding paths, that fail to intersect, balances cruel irony — the black sheep finds herself truly seen, while the ostensibly good daughter becomes invisible — with carnal abandon and tenacious love.
Read Remezcla’s review.
Así habló el cambista
In the mid-1970s, the South American economy drew many crooks and scoundrels to Uruguay. Institutions were bankrupt. The government was run by the military junta. Subversives were shipped to prison. As the Brazilian and Argentine economies bore great risk and eventually bottomed out with currency devaluations, Uruguay seemed like an ideal place to make money disappear. Here, in Montevideo in 1975, we encounter Federico Veiroj’s strangely sympathetic, oddball protagonist, Humberto Brause (Daniel Hendler), who furiously throws himself into the buying and selling of currency, a rapacious endeavor supported by his father-in-law, a veteran in the business of capital flight. It’s not long before Humberto is consumed by his outsized ambition and compulsive drive, trampling over everything and everyone in his path — except his unflappable, tough-as-nails wife, Gudrun (Dolores Fonzi). When he finally assumes the direction of the family business, Humberto accepts a suspicious assignment: laundering the largest sum of money he’s ever seen.
The Two Popes
The Catholic Church’s papacy is a singular institution, with unique demands placed on the men who would see themselves elevated to it. This decade saw one of the Church’s most important moments of transition, but news reports can fail in the face of such enormous, complex change. The Two Popes takes us beyond TV images of smoke rising from the Vatican chimney into the hearts, minds, and actions of those charged with leading over a billion faithful. Directed by Brazil’s Oscar-nominated Fernando Meirelles (City of God), and starring two acting legends in Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, this insightful story ushers us behind gilded doors to watch the once and future Popes grapple with faith and religious leadership in a rapidly changing world. The year is 2013. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) could not be a less conventional candidate for the papacy. Dodging pomp at every turn, he prefers walking or biking to limousines. He likes to tango and watch soccer with ordinary people. In an amusing early scene, we hear him whistling “Dancing Queen” in the Vatican men’s room. Most importantly, he believes it is the church’s obligation to respond to the shifting needs of its followers — which makes him the opposite of Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins), who regards any change as a perilous compromise to the church’s integrity. Nevertheless, Benedict realizes that momentum is building for Bergoglio to succeed him, so the two men meet, break bread, and engage in a debate that reveals much about their respective pasts and divergent visions for the future.
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.
Showcasing the rare talents of Brazilian acting legend Regina Casé, the latest feature from director Sandra Kogut is a brilliant comedy about gross class disparity and the infinite resourcefulness of those who can never take anything for granted. Casé plays Madá, the 50-something caretaker for a cluster of luxury beachside condos owned by a wealthy Rio de Janeiro family. Unfolding over the course of three consecutive summers (2015 to 2017), the film follows Madá as she invests in a roadside snack kiosk while tending to the every need of her condescending employers. She becomes a bystander in a major money-laundering scandal, and eventually launches a whole new career. With every dizzying new turn of events, Madá manages to retain her high spirits, her sense of loyalty to those who deserve it, and her eagle eye for opportunity. Written by Kogut and Iana Cossoy Paro, Três verões (Three Summers) is a modern picaresque, its tripartite structure allows us to track its heroine’s roll-with-the-punches pluck while bearing witness to an epoch-defining scandal based on the real-life criminal investigation Operation Car Wash.
Ready for War
Thousands of immigrants in the United States enlist in the military, expecting an expedited path to citizenship. But the reality is more complicated. After fulfilling their service, thousands are estimated to have been deported. (The enforcement agency known as ICE won’t divulge the exact number.) Something even more sinister awaits on the other side of the border, where drug cartels convert the U.S.-trained soldiers into mercenaries. Ready for War profiles three veterans living different stages of this lethal cycle. Miguel Perez grew up in Chicago and did two tours of duty in Afghanistan, where he suffered a traumatic brain injury. Back in the U.S., he was arrested for a nonviolent drug charge and deported away from his parents and children in Chicago to Mexico, where he has no support. Hector Barajas suffered a similar fate. The former U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Specialist was deported in 2004 and dedicates himself to running the Deported Veterans Support House in Tijuana. Lastly, there is the masked “El Vet,” a soldier ejected by the U.S. whose strongest job prospect was to become a killer for the cartels. Director Andrew Renzi and producer Nick Boak embed themselves into the lives of these veterans and their families. We also meet the community of lawyers, activists, and politicians struggling to find justice. At a time when U.S. deportations have become ubiquitous and desensitizing, Ready for War has the power to bring a fresh perspective.