Film

From Soccer in Sunset Park to Chicanos in the Bay: 10 Must-See Movies at the New York Latino Film Festival

Lead Photo: 'Saturday Church'. Courtesy of Spring Pictures.
'Saturday Church'. Courtesy of Spring Pictures.
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After a four-year hiatus, the New York Latino Film Festival, presented by HBO, is back for its 14th edition this week. NYLFF is taking over the Big Apple with a wide variety of films from Colombia, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and plenty of US Latino features. “Our event is about galvanizing and empowering community. We are very excited to bring back the festival with such an exciting lineup showcasing some of the best multicultural, bilingual, and diverse films,” said Calixto Chinchilla, festival founder.

From a queer New York City-set musical romance to a documentary tracing Residente’s DNA ancestry, the fest is packed with a stack of must-see films that have been making the rounds at Sundance, Tribeca, and other world-renowned festivals around the country. And for those Gloria Estefan fans, NYLFF will also feature the Emilio-produced and Gloria co-starring flick A Change of Heart. Find below nine others that you should seek out this week.

The New York Latino Film Festival runs October 11-15, 2017.

1

Saturday Church

Damon Cardasis

Ulysses has just begun experimenting with his sexuality and identity; his nights are full of stolen nylons and high heels. Stern Aunt Rose is having none of it, so Ulysses flees the Bronx, finding refuge at an unusual church in the West Village where voguing is more important than sermons populated by a welcoming group of queer and trans Latinxs. Luka Kain, enthralling as Ulysses, grounds the dream-like musical interludes running throughout the film. Salvation is found in a holy space that allows you to be yourself.

United States
Music, Romance, Drama
Damon Cardasis
Damon Cardasis, Rebecca Miller, Mandy Tagger Brockey, Adi Ezroni
2017
81

2

A Change of Heart

Kenny Ortega

Frustrated with the cards life has dealt him, Hank (Jim Belushi) is man whose circumstances have driven him to fear diversity, yet his Central Florida town is adhering less and less to the white, straight profile with which he’s comfortable. After suffering a heart attack, Hank’s life is saved by a transplant — but will Hank’s body accept a donation from a Puerto Rican drag queen? Playing on both the literal and symbolic significance of that most treasured of organs, A Change of Heart conveys the sort of story America needs right now. Produced by Emilio Estefan (and co-starring Gloria herself,) this Kenny Ortega film (High School Musical) reminds us that even the most hardened among us can learn to embrace difference, accept love, and move on with life.

United States
Drama
Luis Santeiro, James Orr
Emilio Estefan, Kenny Ortega
2016
105

3

Corpo Electrico

Marcelo Caetano

First-time filmmaker Marcelo Caetano gracefully weaves a warm, sensual tale that captures the charm of young working people and the beauty of the changing sexual landscape in Brazil. Carefree Elias works at a textile factory, juggling long shifts with animated nights out and no-strings sexual encounters. As he tries to discern where his future might lead him, Elias learns to take pleasure in the small things in life.

Brazil
Drama
Marcelo Caetano, Gabriel Domingues, Hilton Lacerda
Roberto Tibiriçá, Marcelo Caetano
2017
93

4

La soledad

Jorge Thielen Armand

Imagined as a poetic metaphor for Venezuela’s current socio-political crisis, director Jorge Thielen Armand set La soledad in his grandparents’ old home which was then inhabited by their lifelong maid and grandson (who play themselves in the film). As young José learns that the nature-riddled and near-dilapidated house will be demolished, he sets out to find the treasure legend tells has been buried in the estate. He sees it as his last chance at providing for his grandmother and getting them out of their squatting situation. But he’ll soon find this get rich quick scheme may not be the best way out of the poverty he’s come to know. Mixing fiction with documentary flair, La soledad is a timely indictment of the inequality that’s run rampant in Venezuela.

Synopsis By: Manuel Betancourt
Venezuela
Docudrama
Rodrigo Michelangeli, Jorge Thielen Armand
Manon Ardisson
2016
89

5

Residente

Rene Perez Joglar

Intrigued by a DNA test Residente takes that reveals to him information about his ancestry, the 24-time Grammy Award-winning Puerto Rican rapper, founder of the alternative rap group Calle 13 and recipient of the Nobel Peace Summit Award, takes a trip around the world to learn about his family history and to record his new album. Directed by Residente – aka Rene Perez Joglar – himself, the doc tells his own story about how he started as a struggling art student to become a member of one of Latin America’s most influential rap groups as well as a social justice and a political activist.

Synopsis By: Kiko Martinez
Georgia, Mongolia, Niger, Armenia, Burkina Faso, China, Russia, United States
Documentary
Marc de Beaufort
2017
90

6

En el séptimo día

Jim McKay

Acclaimed director Jim McKay’s first film in over a decade is this timely, compassionate, often humorous look at life in New York as an undocumented Mexican immigrant. José works long hours making bicycle deliveries for a restaurant in Carroll Gardens and spends his days off on the soccer fields of Sunset Park. When his team makes it to the championship, José suddenly finds himself forced to choose between his job and his loyalty to his team. Shot on the streets of Brooklyn, McKay’s film vividly captures the everyday struggles and camaraderie that binds a community together in this universally relevant story of fortitude and dignity.

United States
Drama
Jim McKay
Jim McKay, Michael Stipe, Caroline Kaplan, Alex Bach, Lindsey Cordero
2017
90

7

Afrolatinos “An Untaught History”

Renzo Devia

Giving voice to communities throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America that have been excluded from history for centuries, this provocative documentary delves into the Afro-Latino experience, covering topics such as history, identity, language, religion, traditions, art and social issues.

Colombia
Documentary
Renzo Devia, Alicia Anabel Santos
2017
64

8

O gato de Havana

Dacio Malta

Dacio Malta chronicles the long, fascinating story of Havana’s most famous jazz club, Gato Tuerto, in all its bohemian glory and creative bliss in this captivating, star-studded documentary. To this day, Havana remains that rare city where music-lovers can still wander into a small club and, for a nominal fee, witness some of the world’s most vibrant sounds as they are generated by some of its greatest talents. Perhaps the most illustrious of all Havana’s clubs is Gato Tuerto, now in its sixth decade of existence. Its stage is small but has hosted giants, among them Omara Portuondo, Pablo Milanés and Chucho Valdés, who have played for the likes of Gabriel García Márquez and Julio Cortázar.

Brazil
Documentary
Livia Arbex, Dacio Malta
Gretel Medina, Julia Maribal
2016
89

9

Love Cecy

Jay Francisco Lopez

Ripped from the headlines, Love Cecy takes audiences back to the cholo, free-style culture of 1990s California as it retells the story of 15 year old Cecilia Rios. The film follows Rios’ promising beginnings- striving to become a lawyer while keeping her cholo boyfriend off the streets- to its tragic end on March 14, 1994, when her brutal murder was chronicled by newspapers across the country.

United States
Drama
Jay Francisco Lopez
Kenneth Medina
2017
100

10

Luis

Archie López

An honest and decorated Chief of Police struggles to keep his spoiled teenage son on the right track. When he is eventually caught in a transgression of the law, they will both have to confront the true meaning of justice, compliance and privilege in a society marked by deep social contradictions.

Dominican Republic
Drama
Archie López, Amelia del Mar Hernández, Alejandro Andújar
Archie López, Desiree Reyes Peña
2017
98