Film

From an Alien Love Story to Major Lazer in Cuba: These Are the Latino Movies Playing Los Cabos Film Festival

Lead Photo: 'Camino a Marte' still courtesy of Los Cabos Film Festival
'Camino a Marte' still courtesy of Los Cabos Film Festival

Cannes may have the glittering galas, Sundance the snowy mountains, and Toronto more movie stars than you can handle, but we have to admit we have a soft spot for Los Cabos International Film Festival. For starters, we’re fans of being able to hit the beach after catching premieres from up-and-coming Mexican filmmakers. Add in an impeccable lineup of Mexican and Latin American premieres of well-received prestige fare and throw in the organizers’ commitment to nurturing a truly transnational networking film industry, and you can see why we’re excited to fly down for another edition of the ever-growing festival. This year Los Cabos is yet again boasting some impressive galas which include films featuring Emma Stone, Steve Carrell, Natalie Morales, Jessica Chastain, Willem Defoe, Kristen Wiig, Frances McDormand, and Casey Affleck, among others.

As usual, though, we’ll be keeping an eye on the Mexican projects that could use the fest’s boost. That’s why, while we’ll definitely be checking out a certain sci-fi romance set in Baja starring Club de Cuervos’ Luis Gerardo Mendez where he plays an alien, we’re gonna be following closely the many films in the México Primero lineup which include docs on Cardenche singing, family dramas about dealing with trauma in Tijuana, and even a Willem Defoe flick. We’ve rounded out the fest highlights of Latino and Latin American films below. Take a look!

Los Cabos International Film Festival runs November 8 – 12, 2017.

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
Drama
Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
Chris Bergoch, Kevin Chinoy, Andrew Duncan, Francesca Silvestri, Sean Baker, Shih-Ching Tsou, Alex Saks
2017
115

Camino a Marte

Humberto Hinojosa Ozcariz

Emilia escapes from a hospital to travel through Baja California with her friend Violeta. She’s been getting treatment for a while and it’s clear this may well be her final chance to enjoy her life to the fullest—and truly, nothing is quite as life-affirming as the landscapes and vistas in this Baja road trip. On their way, the two free-spirited best friends stumble onto a man claiming to have come from another planet. As a powerful storm threatens to make landfall and cause utter destruction, this inscrutable young man (played by Club de Cuervos‘ Luis Gerardo Mendez) keeps saying he’s come to Earth in order to witness the end of humanity. Emilia and Violeta think he is crazy, or perhaps just disoriented, but something makes them slowly start to believe him. And soon, concepts of love (which he decries) and humanity start seeming to be more weighted the more this end of the world nonsense starts to feel more real.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
Mexico
Science Fiction, Romance, Comedy
Humberto Hinojosa Ozcariz, Anton Goenechea
Pablo Garcia Gatterer
2017
93

Ayer maravilla fui

Gabriel Mariño

A being runs through Mexico City, taking hold of different bodies to get to Luisa, a young woman they’ve fallen in love with. These shapeshifting encounters remind us that you may yet find a deep connection with someone else, even in cities where you can be lonely while surrounded by millions of others. Gabriela Mariño’s sci-fi tinged drama, shot in black and white, offers a riff on what modern-day romance can be all about.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
Mexico
Science Fiction, Romance
Gabriela Mariño
Gabriela Gavica, Isaac Montecillo
2017
90

A morir a los desiertos

Marta Ferrer

Cardenche singing, born within the backdrop akin to slavery of the cotton laborers of Durango in the 19th century, is a tradition hanging on by a thread. To Die in the Desert is a close look at this music and the men which keep it alive.

Mexico
Documentary
Alejandro Durán, Sebastián Celis, Nicolás Celis
2017
75

Los días más oscuros de nosotras

Astrid Rondero

Ana has a vague memory of her sister’s death near their family home in Tijuana. When she returns for work, her encounter with Silvia, the tenant who now lives in the house and wants to buy it, forces Ana to confront the violent events of her past.

Mexico
Drama
Lila Nieto, Astrid Rondero
Fernanda Valadez
2017
97

Mis demonios nunca juraron soledad

Jorge Leyva

A violent and alcoholic gold prospector lives with his wife near the border. She is convinced that a demon is stalking them, and he thinks his wife is cheating on him. Blinded by jealousy, he decides to seek both his wife’s lover and the demon to strike them down.

Mexico
Thriller
Jorge Leyva
Lilia Velazco
2017
90

Opus zero

Daniel Graham

Paul, an American composer, and Daniel, a Mexican documentary filmmaker meet in Real de Catorce. Their encounter makes them face supernatural phenomena which seem to unearth a past buried in the desolation of the desert.

United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico
Drama
Daniel Graham
Julio Chavezmontes
2017
90

Give Me Future

Austin Peters

2015 was a landmark year for electronic dancehall superband Major Lazer. After topping the EDM charts with their international hit single “Lean On,” the band continued its world tour, mounting elaborate shows not only in traditional destinations, but also in more challenging locations around the globe. Fueled by a dream of “making the world smaller by making the party bigger,” the group furthered their mission of peace through music with a free concert in the unlikeliest of venues — downtown Havana, Cuba, where no American band at the height of their fame had previously been allowed to perform. Without knowing whether anyone in the country even knew who they were, they hoped to reach a potential crowd of 50,000. After half a million exuberant fans showed up, music history was made on a massive scale. In what began as a concert film intended to document this groundbreaking event, director Austin Peters turns the camera on a burgeoning youth movement, fusing exhilarating performance footage with authentic stories of cultural and political shifts in a country on the precipice of change.

Cuba, United States
Documentary
Jack Turner, Jay Peterson
2016
85

Dina

Antonio Santini, Dan Sickles

The directors of Mala Mala are back with their sophomore documentary effort. Dina, an outspoken and eccentric 49-year-old in suburban Philadelphia, invites her fiancé Scott, a Walmart door greeter, to move in with her. Having grown up neurologically diverse in a world blind to the value of their experience, the two are head-over-heels for one another, but shacking up poses a new challenge. Scott freezes when it comes to physical intimacy, and Dina, a Kardashians fanatic, wants nothing more than to share with Scott all she’s learned about sensual desire from books, TV shows, and her previous marriage. Her increasingly creative forays to draw Scott close keep hitting roadblocks—exposing anxieties, insecurities, and communication snafus while they strive to reconcile their conflicting approaches to romance and intimacy.

United States
Documentary
Antonio Santini, Dan Sickles
2016
101

El Ángel en el Reloj

Miguel Angel Uriegas

Amelia wants nothing more in the world than to stop time. She’s got leukemia and she’s sick of taking her medication and losing her hair. In her search to make her wish come true, Amelia meets Malachi, an angel who lives inside her cuckoo clock that’ll take her on a wild adventure through the Fields of time where she’ll meet two faires, Aqui and Ahora (“Here” and “Now”). As she travels to this fantasy universe, she’ll have to come face to face with her fears and desires as she battled No-Time and attempts to get back home.

Mexico
Animation
Rosana Curiel, Miguel Ángel Uriegas
2014
91

Una mujer fantástica

Sebastían Lelio

Marina (Daniela Vega), the transgender heroine of A Fantastic Woman, is beautiful, enigmatic, and plunged into a precarious situation after her boyfriend dies unexpectedly in her company. Fifty-seven-year-old divorcé Orlando (Francisco Reyes) wakes in the middle of the night, suffers an aneurism, and falls down some stairs, sustaining injuries that will come to haunt Marina after she takes him to the hospital and attempts to slip away before authorities and family members begin prying. Marina knows she’s regarded with suspicion for her youth, class, and, above all, gender status. She expects to gain little from Orlando’s demise, but the viciousness of Orlando’s son, the cold-heartedness of Orlando’s ex-wife, and the intrusiveness of a detective from the Sexual Offenses Investigation Unit force Marina to not only clear her name, but also to demand the very thing no one seems willing to give her: respect.

Chile
Drama
Gonzalo Maza, Sebastián Lelio
Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza, Pablo Larraín, Juan de Dios Larraín
2017
103

The Battle of the Sexes

Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Following the now infamous 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billy Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), this touching tale of groundbreaking feminist history also plunges us deep into the personal stories behind those two sports titans. And yes, that means showing King struggling with her own sexuality while wanting to fight openly for equal pay. Beyond Stone and Carrell, this playful film is stacked with A-list talent, including Sarah Silverman, Fred Armisen, Bill Pullman, and even Natalie Morales as Salvadoran Grand Slam champion Rosie Casals.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
United States
Sports, Biopic, Drama
Simon Beaufoy
Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, Robert Graf
2017
121