It’s tough to decide on what the first impression of the late filmmaker Roberto Guerra was most striking: his owl-like, inquisitive eyes open wide with curiosity and magnified in his stylish, designer frames, or his enormous grin, broad, warm and infectious, ready to welcome friend and stranger alike into his unique realm of life and art. And so this aptly describes his documentary style, as a Peruvian-American citizen of the world who from a young age documented the most chic of the chic (warning, name dropping ahead: Coco Chanel!), the founding fathers of film (French Cinematheque founder Henri Langlois), and the choicest dudes and dudettes of design (Massimo and Ada Vignelli).
His later work produced collaboratively with his life, love, intellectual, and artistic partner Kathy Brew provided an incisive look at the creative process, asked all the right questions, captured all the kooky quirks, and attests to a documentarian who was unflinching yet loving toward his subjects. His place behind the camera with a lens on the world, which he left too early after a fierce battle with cancer, is celebrated tonight and seen in the new film, Roberto Guerra: A Life, by filmmaker Lorry Salcedo Mitrani, at the opening of the New York Peruvian Film Showcase (NYPFS).
The fifth edition of the NYPFS runs Sept 16 -19 and kicks off with several screenings including the short documentary Roberto Guerra, a Life, by Lorry Salcedo Mitrani, followed by the feature film El Mudo by Daniel and Diego Vega, which recently picked up an award for Best Actor at the Locarno Film Festival.
This year’s incarnation of the four-day showcase is dedicated to Peruvian archaeological heritage and as such will celebrate Peru’s rich, multicultural history and the fifty years of Peruvian cinema. Narrative features, documentaries, video-art installations, and Andean music concerts will round out the bill, all of which will be free and open to the public. Be sure to stop by and get a window into the cinematic tradition of one of Latin America’s largest and most historically significant countries. After all, it’s free. Here are the movies we think you shouldn’t miss.
Roberto Guerra, A Life
Director: Lorry Salcedo Mitrani
This short documentary centers on the life and career Peruvian-American documentarian, Roberto Guerra. From a young age he focused his camera on Coco Chanel, French Cinematheque founder Henri Langlois, designers Massimo and Ada Vignelli.
The Mute (El Mudo)
Directors: Daniel and Diego Vega
In this dark comedy, Constantino, a harsh and incorruptible judge in Lima, Peru, is suddenly and inexplicably demoted. Shortly thereafter he’s shot in the neck as he’s driving home, and rendered unable to speak. He’s sure there’s been a conspiracy against him, and takes the law into his hands; he’ll stop at nothing to see that justice is done. And yet his rigid ideas of right and wrong are belied by his conflicted and less-than-straightforward relationships with his wife and family.
Director: Josue Mendez
In director Josué Méndez’s stylishly composed second feature, Elisa — the soon-to-be-wife of a wealthy industrialist — is eager to shed her working-class background in favor of the opulence of her fiance’s elite lifestyle. To her dismay, she soon realizes her hopes to slip into magazine-ready images of domestic splendor must also include her future stepchildren: Diego, who is hounded by his overbearing father and reluctantly preparing to enter the family business, and Andrea, Diego’s party-girl sister and the object of both his desire and disgust. As Elisa embraces her new life of lavish parties and beachfront estates, Diego and Andrea rebel against their upper-class upbringing, setting the stage for an ironic contrast of fate and ambition in this biting satire on upper-crust wealth and privilege.
El Evangelio de la Carne
The Gospel of the Flesh
Director: Eduardo Mendoza
Three lives in search of redemption intersect in the streets of Lima: undercover cop Gamarra’s desperate attempts to save his wife from a terminal illness gets him into trouble; bus driver Felix wants to be accepted into a religious sect after his involvement in a tragic traffic accident; and imperiled soccer club leader Narciso tries to secure his younger brother’s release from prison. The Gospel of the Flesh does for Lima whatAmores Perros did for Mexico City: to present a complex portrait of a socially and financially precarious world.
The New York Peruvian Film Showcase runs from September 16 – 19 at Instituto Cervantes in Manhattan. All screenings are free.