Housed in what was then a neighborhood in dire need of foot traffic and a cultural anchor, the Tribeca Film Festival now stands tall as one of New York City’s most anticipated events. With over 100 feature films in their 2019 program, there is plenty to look forward to in the expansive Tribeca roster.
Festival Director Cara Cusumano made a point of singling out the diversity in the 2019 feature film program; close to a third of the features are directed by people of color and 13 percent are by individuals who identify as LGBTQIA. “Every festival is shaped by and reflective of its community,” she said, “and we are fortunate that our hometown just happens to be the most diverse city on Earth. So our curatorial mandate is to bring to the screens a cinematic celebration – in only 100 features – whose breadth of stories and storytellers is as prismatic and adventurous, local and global, diverse and inclusive as our incredible city.”
One population who, unsurprisingly, remains underrepresented is the US Latino community — in a city where said community makes up a third of its population. As our list below confirms, only a handful of feature films center on the US Latino experience, and only a selected few are directed by US-born Latinos. (At least a screening of Vida‘s second season will make it feel like plenty of Latinas are in the house.) Even Latin American fare, which usually makes such a crucial part of global fests like Tribeca, is wanting this year, with a smattering of projects set in Argentina, Mexico, and Bolivia representing the booming industry down south.
Thankfully, in addition to its slew of features, VR projects, TV series, and shorts, the festival is yet again hosting some panels and talks that will be spotlighting some ace Latin American talent. You won’t want to miss out on Guillermo del Toro‘s master class, obviously. But be sure to also check out the New York Times Op-Docs special screening which will feature five short documentaries specifically focused on immigration, and the various events the fest will be throwing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Vida‘s Tanya Saracho and Ser Anzoategui will take part in “Narrative Ownership: Who Gets To Tell Whose Story?” about cross-community collaborations where trans, non-binary, and intersex artists have joined forces with cisgender creatives to forge successful storytelling partnerships, while Vida season two newcomers Raúl Castillo (Looking, We the Animals) and Roberta Colindrez (Broadway’s Fun Home) will be panelists in “LGBTQ Media Visibility,” all about the changing face of LGBTQ representation.
As we know, choosing what to catch at Tribeca can be daunting, so we’ve compiled a list of all the feature films, virtual reality projects, and TV series that center on Latino and Latin American stories. Check them out below.
Tribeca Film Festival runs April 24 – May 5, 2019.
In this moody and mysterious narrative feature, a scenic lake house becomes a sanctuary for two young women. Karen (Otmara Marrero), 29, is just out of a long-term relationship and needing a place to lick her wounds, so she sneaks into her ex’s summer home. There she meets the precocious Lana (Sydney Sweeney), whose bold charisma is a welcome distraction. Both Karen and Lana are emotionally guarded, but their cautious flirtation brings each of them a sense of validation. Sweeney and Marrero deliver hypnotic performances laced with intimacy. Equal parts psychological drama and sexual coming-of-age story, Clementine is a rumination on who we choose to love and how to let go. It’s a beautifully-rendered debut, marking the discovery of an exciting new female filmmaker to watch.
Esto no es Berlín
As Mexico anticipates the 1986 World Cup, 17-year-old Carlos is less interested in soccer and more interested in listening to his record collection and admiring Rita, the older sister of his best friend, Gera. Carlos and Gera’s suburban, juvenile monotony is interrupted when Rita’s goth band introduces them to an underground nightclub, the Azteca. The teens are instantly seduced by the Azteca’s regulars and their exhilarating world of performance art, sexual fluidity, and prescription drugs. Carlos and Gera’s friendship is tested as the two explore new identities and face the consequences of adult decisions. Infused with a post-punk soundtrack and brimming with enchanting performances from a promising young cast, Esto no es Berlín delivers an energetic portrait of a clandestine sanctuary propelled by youth fleeing the societal repression of their time.
For They Know Not What They Do
When the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality across the nation in 2015, many assumed that the fight for LGBTQ rights was won. But politicians and religious conservatives launched a state-by-state campaign to retract the human rights of America’s LGBTQ citizens under the guise of religious freedom. Introducing four American families caught in the crosshairs of scripture, sexuality, and identity, this documentary weaves together footage from the national news and the church pulpit with family photos and intimate testimonies to show the undeniable connection between the personal and the political. Among these is Vico Báez Febo, whose Catholic grandmother locked him out of their house in Puerto Rico when a neighbor outed him, and who later reconnected with his parents after coming out to them when he moved to Miami. An emotionally impactful follow-up to the award-winning For The Bible Tells Me So, this powerful examination of the intersection of religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity offers much-needed healing, clarity, and understanding.
The Dominican Dream
In the early 1990s the hoops in the Bronx belonged to a young immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Felipe Lopez. Ranked first in the country as a high school senior, featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 17, and referred to affectionately as the “King of New York,” Lopez’s prospects appeared limitless. Many speculated Lopez would go straight from high school to the NBA, becoming the ultimate success story for children of the working class. With his community piling their hopes and dreams upon his back, Lopez chose to pursue education over fame, attending St. John’s University. This major life decision, made at such a young age, would go on to affect the rest of Lopez’s career. In The Dominican Dream, Lopez humbly reflects on the challenges of being the prodigal son and the importance of lifting up the next generation. Featuring interviews with Allen Iverson, Alex Rodriguez, and Zendon Hamilton, the film is an intimate portrait of community, family, and altruism. Imbued with Lopez’s optimism and humor, The Dominican Dream is a celebration of self-discovery.
“Struggling actor” is a generous way to think of Sergio Garces (Diego Peretti)—he’s closer to a prolific featured extra. On top of that, he’s having the unluckiest few days of his life. After pushing someone out of a window in the heat of a scuffle, he’s sentenced to probation and anger management training. Then, a bike accident busts his nose to the point that he can only “appear” onscreen in virtual reality porn. All the same, Sergio exudes an enticing charisma, a rumpled cool—an aura that led him to record covers of Serge Gainsbourg, to whom he bears more than a passing resemblance. He hooks up with a thrill-seeking American sales agent (Julianne Nicholson) in town for a film festival, but their dreams of adventure only escalate the trouble. Like Sergio’s covers, Initials SG riffs on classic cool, nodding to Goodfellas, Breathless, and the effortlessly chic sensuality of an icon like Gainsbourg. From these reference points, co-directors Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia create a world that is entirely their own, toggling between deadbeat dramedy, crime caper, and even surreal bouts of black comedy.
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice
With one of the most memorably stunning voices that has ever hit the airwaves, Linda Ronstadt (born Linda Maria Ronstadt to an Arizona family with German, English and Mexican ancestry) burst onto the 1960s folk rock music scene in her early twenties. The lead singer of the Stone Poneys, Ronstadt eventually branched out to begin her decades long career as a solo artist, touring the world selling out stadiums and, at one point, setting the record as the highest paid female artist in rock. Most remarkable to this day is her interest in and willingness to jump into new and challenging styles of music, including opera, jazz, and Mexican folk, excelling fantastically with each. Ronstadt has also been an outspoken political advocate for causes such as same-sex marriage and the inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants, never shying away from fighting for what she believes both on and off the stage. Filled with rare photos from her childhood in Tucson and wonderful archival footage from her iconic performances, as well as moving testimonials by luminaries like Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Bonnie Raitt, Ronstadt’s own voice narrates her journey all the way to her retirement in 2011 due to Parkinson’s disease. In the deft hands of directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and producers James Keach and Michele Farinola, we are treated to a poignant biopic about a truly one of-a-kind artist.
The Short History Of The Long Road
For teenage Nola (Sabrina Carpenter), home is the open road. Her self-reliant father (Steven Ogg) is her anchor in a life of transience. The pair criss-cross the United States in a lovingly refurbished RV, making ends meet through odd jobs while relishing their independence. A shocking rupture, though, casts Nola out on her own. She makes her way to Albuquerque, New Mexico in search of a mother she never knew, only for her motorhome to break down unexpectedly. But after forging a bond with an auto body shop owner (Machete‘s own Danny Trejo), Nola senses the possibility of mooring her ship in this storm. With an eye for quiet detail, Ani Simon-Kennedy emphasizes the precariousness of young people surviving on the fringes of a country ravaged by income inequality. This unforgiving backdrop makes The Short History Of The Long Road’s hope for Nola all the more moving and a poignant coming of age tale. It is ultimately Carpenter’s movie: she sinks into Nola’s wise but searching old soul in a breakout performance, endearingly detailed and compellingly internal.
A Taste of Sky
Danish culinary entrepreneur and Noma co-founder Claus Meyer has kickstarted a gastronomic revolution in Bolivia’s capital of La Paz with the opening of Gustu, a fine-dining restaurant and cooking school for the country’s impoverished youth. Kenzo, a hunter raised in the Bolivian Amazon, and Maria Claudia, a native of the Andean altiplano, have resettled in La Paz in order to pursue a career in the culinary arts. Under the tutelage of Meyer, these young Bolivians are working towards a better future as they attempt to establish their country as the world’s next great culinary destination. This sumptuous documentary is an inspiring story about resilience and mentorship, viewed through the powerful lens of food. More than just a delicious documentary, A Taste Of Sky is a celebration of the art of gastronomy and the importance of paying opportunities forward.
Emojis (Japanese for “picture character”) have emerged as a way for billions to communicate. Their widespread use and ability to convey complex and subtle feelings could mean the world is on the cusp of discovering a new language. Directors Martha Shane and Ian Cheney take us deep into the world of picture characters, from the private non-profit international consortium that standardized emoji offerings and decides on the introduction of new ones, to the campaigns for new emojis such as those depicting menstruation and Argentinian mate, and to the very beginnings of emojis in Japan. Picture Character follows the path of smiling poops and heart-eyed faces, tackles the development of skin tones, and tracks the evolution of the global digital language. Like a good use of a chin scratching emoji, the documentary is both thought-provoking and fun, and it will insure that viewers never look at another emoji, or think of language itself, the same way again.
Living with his mother and working as a farmhand in his hometown, fourteen-year-old Lalo (Eduardo Banda) sees buying a smartphone for his high-school crush the only surefire way into her heart. When his mother is forced to use his savings in order to pay for medical bills, Lalo decides to approach the local huachicoleros for help, who quickly enlist his aid in their business of illegally siphoning gas in order to take advantage of the country’s shortage and re-sell on the black market. As Lalo naively becomes more involved with the huachicoleros’ work, an uneasy air of violence begins to overtake the world around him, while investigators narrow their search for those responsible. Depicted in beautifully sun-drenched imagery and grounded in Banda’s remarkable first on-screen performance, director Edgar Nito crafts an intensely resonant and engrossing story of the tightening grip facing both his protagonist and his country with this feature debut.
In the second season of Vida, Lyn (Melissa Barrera) and Emma (Mishel Prada) begin the monumental task of rebuilding their mother’s legacy—a crumbling bar and apartment building in East L.A.—at a time when the local anti-gentrification uprising will stop at almost nothing to call out any and all cultural displacers. They navigate obstacles while contemplating the relationships in their lives, including their own, and are forced to dig deep to unearth what their mother’s legacy means to them.
Luna Grande (Elizabeth De Razzo) is the producer of Noticias Unimundo 45’s 11 p.m. newscast. She couldn’t be happier that Trump is President. She never believed that “post-racial” bullshit, so she’s relieved to see that America’s mask has finally come off. But when her undocumented parents decide to self-deport due to the new anti-immigrant policies, Luna begins to question the jaded person who she has become. She begins to shed her cynicism, and what emerges is an impetuous Chicana activist monster of sorts, full of rage and eager to make up for lost time.
Adapted from Staceyann Chin’s own autobiographical one-woman show, Motherstruck follows the true story of one lesbian’s (Chin) quest to become a mother. She shares her story alongside her closest friends (who are played by, among others, Orange is the New Black‘s Laura Gomez and One Day at a Time writer Janine Brito). With them by her side, Staceyann embarks on a wild road toward motherhood.
El sueño de la hija del jaguar
Created and directed by Alfredo Salazar-Caro, this Mexican-American co-production is a surreal Virtual Reality documentary where Achik’, the spirit of a young Maya immigrant, guides the viewer through her memories of an arduous journey north.
In this virtual reality project, participants are immersed in visions triggered by a dose of the hallucinogenic drug ayahuasca. The spectator lives this through director Jan Kounen’s eyes as he travels on a spiritual voyage. He and viewers are guided there through Guillermo Arévalo Valera, a Shipibo vegetalista and businessperson from the Maynas Province of Peru.