The New York International Latino Film Festival ended its festivities by honoring various films at an Awards Ceremony last week. Prizes were handed out for Best Domestic Feature, Best International Feature, Best Director, Best Documentary, and Best Short.
It’s rare for a film in Spanish or Portuguese to make it to a U.S. theater. But this week is a big one for Latin American cinema. Two award-winning films opened theatrically this past Friday, Venezuelan soccer drama Hermano and Neighboring Sounds, a meditation on the divide between Brazil’s social classes.
Raynier Casamayor Griñán is a twenty something year-old doctor who lives high up in the Sierra Maestra mountains of Santiago de Cuba. Known as ‘El Médico’ he serves his community, treating patients at the town clinic and making home visits. But he longs to be a musician, a rapper, a reggaetonero.
After months of scouring the internet and obsessively looking through other festivals’ programming announcements, after tons of emails to strangers, begging them to send you a DVD of a movie that you hope might be the one, after spending days watching film after film—dreary-eyed and delirious—then, all of a sudden, something magical happens. All the other kinda okay documentaries you’ve been watching fade into the background, you can barely even remember their names—it’s just like falling in love.
Year after year—the New York International Latino Film Festival packs Manhattan theaters with bilingual, bicultural Latino moviegoers. The very same demographic that TV execs and movie studios are clamoring to attract but fail to. Why is it that the entertainment industry’s most sought after group of consumers attends this festival by the tens of thousands?
As a fan of documentaries, and a self-professed docunerd, it bugs me when people say that docs are boring. I get it. A lot of them are just a bunch of interviews or archival footage that makes them hard to watch. Once in a while, a filmmaker finds an innovative way to structure their doc, using striking imagery, narration, or creative editing–in combination with interviews. Such is the case with El Edificio de los Chilenos.
It’s a story never before documented: While their parents battled the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, a group of children were raised, first in Europe and then in Cuba, safely and communally. The 20 adults who supervised “Project Home” saw over sixty children through to adulthood, children whose mothers and fathers–members of the leftist organization Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR)–fought in their homeland to fight for freedom, many never to be seen again.
I spent the earlier part of this year watching lots and lots of documentaries. It’s part of my job as the Documentary Programmer for the New York International Latino Film Festival to sift through stacks and stacks of DVDs and find the good ones. This year, I tried to do something un poco diferente.
Aurora Guerrero set out to make a film that people like her could relate to. The result is Mosquita y Mari, a sensitive, bold and thoughtful portrait of two teenage Chicanas whose budding friendship begins to slowly become something beyond just friends. It opens this Friday August 3rd and runs to August 9th at Cinema Village in NYC.