Film

These Are the Nominees for NALIP’s Latinx Film of the Year

Lead Photo: Courtesy of Fuego Films
Courtesy of Fuego Films
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It’s late October and that means award season will be kicking into high gear soon. Getting an early start is the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) who have just released their nominees for their annual prizes. NALIP rewards both the best in US Latinx filmmaking talent (Latinx Film award) as well as the best from outside the U.S. (Latin American Film award) in its two separate categories. The ten feature films nominated, which include a box office horror hit, an AIDS doc that’s making the festival rounds, and two Gael García Bernal flicks that were submitted for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, are a perfect cross-section of the range of projects created for and by Latinx storytellers that NALIP is intent on celebrating.

The winners will be announced at NALIP’s second annual Latino Lens Festival and Showcase, which takes place October 30, 2016 at the Avalon Hollywood. And lest you think it’s just an award ceremony, know that the daylong affair includes workshops, panels, screenings, and mixers. Even as they celebrate the strength of this past year’s crop of films, the focus continues to be the conviction that more and more Latinx content creators need to be nurtured and championed. Grab your Latino Lens ticket here.

Here’s a look at all the nominated films.

LATINX FILM OF THE YEAR

Listed below are the projects nominated in the Latinx Film category.

Memories of a Penitent Heart

Cecilia Aldarondo

Nominee in the Latinx Film category.

Like many gay men in the 1980s, Miguel moved from Puerto Rico to New York City; he found a career in theater and a rewarding relationship. Yet, on his deathbed he grappled to reconcile his homosexuality with his Catholic upbringing. Now, decades after his death, his niece Cecilia locates Miguel’s estranged lover to understand the truth, and in the process opens up long-dormant family secrets.

Puerto Rico, United States
Documentary
Cecilia Aldarondo, Patricia Benabe
2015
77

Don’t Breathe

Fede Alvarez

Nominee in the Latinx Film category.

A trio of Detroit delinquents who make a living out of breaking into homes think they’ve found the perfect mark: an Army vet who apparently has $300,000 in cash stashed in his house. To make things easier they find out he’s blind. Seeing the chance of finally getting enough money to make a life for themselves, Rocky, Alex, and Money plan to break into the blind man’s house at night and steal away his savings. In this terrifying cat-and-mouse thriller, Fede Alvarez basically takes up the question “What could possibly go wrong?” and with unrelenting force, delivers a pulse-pounding flick that never lets up once the Blind Man turns out to be not so helpless after all.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
United States
Thriller, Horror
Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Fede Alvarez, Sam Raimi
2016
88

Hands of Stone

Jonathan Jakubowicz

Nominee in the Latinx Film category.

Led by searing performances by Édgar Ramírez as boxer Roberto Durán and Robert De Niro as his trainer Ray Arcel, Hands of Stone tells the rousing story of Panama’s famed welterweight fighter. Getting the Rocky treatment he so deserves, Durán’s story is brought to the screen by Jonathan Jakubowicz who has turned the boxer into the type of upstanding Latin American hero these sports stories so rarely celebrate. With knockout fighting scenes and delving into more personal territory (including his relationship with wife), the film traces the boxer’s life from when he was a young kid learning to punch all the way to his infamous fight against Sugar Ray Leonard (played by Usher).

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1W1L0WnVnjY

Panama, United States
Biography, Action, Drama
Jonathan Jakubowicz
Carlos Garcia de Paredes, Claudine Jakubowicz, Jonathan Jakubowicz, Jay Weisleder
2016
111

Lowriders

Ricardo de Montreuil

Nominee in the Latinx Film category.

Where teenaged Danny is from, lowrider culture is about more than just spectacular cars—it’s about ethnic heritage, community expression and family traditions. When an annual lowrider event forces him to choose between his traditional father (Demian Bichir) and his estranged criminal brother (Theo Rossi), Danny’s loyalties are severely tested.

United States
Drama
Joshua Beirne-Golden, Cheo Hodari Coker, Elgin James, Justin Tipping
Brian Grazer
2016
100

La granja

Angel Manuel Soto

Nominee in the Latinx Film category.

La Granja takes Puerto Rico’s economic crisis as the backdrop for a series of interconnecting stories à la Amores Perros. In this twisted take on a fictionalized Puerto Rico, drug addiction and economic depression are the order of the day. One vignette follows a middle aged ex-boxer who trains his ambitious son for a youth boxing championship while he struggles with a cockfighting debt; another follows a midwife desperate for her own child; and the last dramatizes a young girl’s attempts to win the attention of her drug-addicted older sister. In the fruitless pursuit of hope, all three characters are eventually pushed to the limits of desperation.

Synopsis By: Andrew S. Vargas
Puerto Rico
Drama
Angel Manuel Soto
2015
101

LATIN AMERICAN FILM OF THE YEAR

Listed below are the projects nominated in the Latin American Film category.

El ciudadano ilustre

Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn

Nominee in the Latin American Film category.

A renowned Argentinean writer—a Nobel Prize winner no less!—gets an invitation to return to his small hometown to receive that year’s “Distinguished Citizen” award. The writer, who has lived abroad for the past few decades yet whose work is all about the small town life he left behind, hasn’t been home since he was a teenager. The homecoming becomes, in Duprat and Cohn’s dark dramedy, a clash of fiction and reality, of parochialism and cosmopolitanism, where it slowly dawns on the writer that everything back home is not as he left nor as he continued to imagine it.  Oscar Martínez won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor for his performance as the literary luminary stranded in a farcical world of his own making.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
Argentina
Andrés Duprat
Fernando Sokolowicz
2016
118

Neruda

Pablo Larrain

Nominee in the Latin American Film category.

Those looking for a straight-up biopic of famed Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, have come to the wrong film. In its place, Pablo Larraín has crafted a meta-poetic treatise on fiction and politics. Ostensibly, we’re being told the story (in first person voiceover narration) of how police officer Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) is trying to capture Neruda (Luis Gnecco), now a wanted man by the state. But with a dreamlike, fragmented shooting style that disorients you from line to line, Larraín is as interested in evoking Neruda’s artistry as he is in crafting a thrilling chase through late ’40s Chilean landscapes.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
Chile, France, Spain, Argentina
Guillermo Calderón
Renan Artukmac, Peter Danner, Jeff Skoll, Fernanda Del Nido, Juan Pablo García, Alex Zito, Gastón Rothschild, Ignacio Rey, Axel Kuschevatzky, Juan de Dios Larraín
2016
107

Desierto

Jonas Cuaron

Nominee in the Latin American Film category.

Tackling the ever timely issue of immigration, the younger Cuarón’s Desierto takes that one crossing-the-border plot line from Babel, adds in a ruthless minuteman (Watchmen‘s Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and for good measure, gives us Gael García Bernal in full-on survival mode. When a group of Mexicans try to cross over into the United States, they are forced to face a rifle-toting vigilante who’s intent on putting a bullet in them before they get any further along the border.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
France, Mexico
Thriller
Jonas Cuaron, Mateo Garcia
Jonas Cuaron, Carlos Cuaron, Charles Gillibert, Alfonso Cuaron, Alex Garcia
2016
94

Alias Maria

Jose Luis Rugeles

Nominee in the Latin American Film category.

Shedding light on the child soldier experience, Alias Maria puts audiences smack in the middle of Colombia’s armed conflict. Young Maria (Karen Torres), a recruit for the guerrillas fighting in the middle of the jungle, is tasked with taking a newborn child to a nearby town. It’s a shrieking reminder of the perils of pregnancy during war—all the barely pubescent girl soldiers are freely used for sex but forbidden from carrying a child to term, a plot nugget that will surely clue you into what awaits Maria herself. Informed by countless interviews with women and children from the very regions the film depicts, and awash in the greens and browns of the conflict’s landscape, Rugeles’ film plays like a socially conscious arthouse flick about motherhood and war.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
Colombia, France, Argentina
Diego Vivanco
Federico Durán, Gastón Rothschild, Ignacio Rey
2015
91

Migas de pan

Manane Rodriguez

Nominee in the Latin American Film category.

Starring Cecilia Roth, Migas de pan is a story about grappling with the past. Liliana (Roth) is preparing a suit alongside many other women who, between 1973 and 1985, were kidnapped and tortured for their dissident political views. Shuttling between the horrific ordeal she endured as a young woman fighting the regime in Uruguay and the hard choices she’s forced to make in the present as she seeks justice, Manane Rodriguez’s chilling flick sheds light on the resilience of women like Liliana and the burden they carry long after the country’s military rule was toppled.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
Uruguay, Spain
Manane Rodriguez, Xavier Bermúdez
2016
109