Alvaro Brechner’s second feature length film, Mr. Kaplan, has received international acclaim as well as the honor of representing the nation of Uruguay as best foreign language film in several festivals throughout the world. Part of the international appeal of Mr Kaplan, aside from its mixture of the profound and the humorous, the tragic and the comic, this film centers on a subject familiar to all, especially in today’s world: memory.
As the world has seemed since the second World War to be engaged in an unending war that may switch setting from decade to decade, but always focuses around the same issues of fear and insurgency, it has become increasingly difficult for national communities to construct collective historical memories. Because information and narratives of political conflict saturate our every glance at a television or cell phone screen, notions of exactly what is happening and why become increasingly difficult to grasp as a collective whole. One community that has been struggling with this process since the second World War are the world’s Jews, many of whom are spread out from places like Israel, to New York to Uruguay and Argentina. Capturing ninety year old Nazis and extraditing them to Israel has been a common motif for south American Jews for several decades now, and the aged character Jacobo Kaplan seems to represent the tiredness of this common story: despite how important these moments are for members of the Jewish community and anyone else who feels the need to continue the process of international justice, Jacobo Kaplan’s hunt for a suspected ex-Nazi in Uruguay takes on an almost comic, albeit tragic, nature.
Jacobo Kaplan and his younger friend, Contreras, become a duo of amateur detectives that grasp for meaning in their own lives by investigating and tracking an elderly man they suspect of past involvement in heinous crimes. But does anyone actually still care? And why are they actually chasing him? For what end? We find through these two characters partial answers to these questions, no matter how dry, hilarious or painful they may be.
Mr Kaplan is our Showcase Film on Saturday Night, 8 PM - September 19th at the Bank of America Theater. See you all there!! This is a must-see for all!
During the second annual Cine Magnífico Latino Film Festival, we will all be presented with and reminded of images, sounds and textures of Latin America. But, in the process, we will also be presented with conflicts that are central to all forms of art and human experience.
“Bad Hair”, “The Golden Dream”, “Anina” and “School Days” are just a few examples of how this year’s films take on the conflicts of youth and coming-of-age. “The Lock Charmer”, “My Straight Son” and “Spanish Affair” showcase the power of love and romance to transcend culture and political boundaries.
This cultural-political entity that we call Latin America is infinitely diverse, and the wide variety of settings and characters employed in this year’s film line up serves as a testament to that diversity. That being said, however, there is certainly a sense of what it means to be Latino or Latino American, especially here in the U.S. where cultural lines often become blurry and personal identities difficult to define. In this way, our collective experience at this year’s Latino Film Festival will not necessarily be centered around defining what makes a film a Latino film, or even in the broader sense, what makes a person or a community Latino.
Rather, Cine Magnífico Latino Film festival, supported in conjunction with Instituto Cervantes, the National Hispanic Cultural Center and the Latin American & Iberian Institute, is a festival that celebrates art and humanity. While the film lineup is, in part, affected by political boundaries that define what is Latin America, the cultural boundaries that all of us experience on a daily basis are far more fluid than national borders, and rather than centering around nationality or even language, which can serve as agents of division, art and culture are often centered around universal emotions and desires that bind us together.
Rebecca L. Avitia, Executive Director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center, beautifully remarked for our blog that “film has the unique ability to transcend the boundaries of culture and language and show that we all have common experiences,” adding that “this year’s extraordinary lineup of films is further proof of that.” We look forward to this year’s Cine Magnífico Latino Film Festival to be a community spectacle in all senses of the term: a place where people convene to enjoy film, together.
“My Straight Son” (“Azul y no tan rosa”) is the Venezuelan actor/writer/director Miguel Ferrari’s first major feature length film, and his ‘opera prima’ that deals with social intolerance against homosexuality won him recognition from around the world, as well as the prize for Best Iberian-American Film at the Goya Awards, Spain’s equivalent to the American Academy Awards. Aside from superb acting, writing and music, the story’s main attack on the ridiculousness of homophobia and its sincere portrayal of family is what brought this Venezuelan film across the borders with such success.
Ferrari stated in an interview with the Spanish film review "El Antepenultimo Mohicano" that in his home country of Venezuela there has always been a ridged taboo against homosexuality, and the few times homosexual characters have actually been presented in Venezuelen cinema, they have been portrayed “through a burlesque and disrespectful perspective”. He added that television and cinema, despite having the power to change social paradigms, is as responsible as any other field of media production for the distorted representation of LGBTI characters and topics that have been disseminated to the public, and above all to the youth.
Ferrari, who left Venezuela to study cinema production in Spain and subsequently returned to produce films in his home country, acknowledged the great risks involved in undertaking a project like “My Straight Son”; despite the good social intentions of the script, if carried out improperly a film such as this can actually run the risk of offending viewers even within the LGBTI community.
However, that has clearly not been the case with this film, which has moved viewers towards the ideal of social openness and understanding in audiences throughout the world. Most importantly, the film has made a great impact in Ferrari’s home country of Venezuela, where the subject of homosexuality has been particularly ignored, even in comparison to other Latin American countries that maintain a similar streak of social conservatism and homophobia within their societies. In the last decade, a couple of important films containing LGBTI subjects came from joint projects involving Argentine, Uruguay and Spain, from the writer/director Lucia Puenzo, a Buenos Aires native.
To see those films, check out “XXY” and “The Fish Child” (“El niño pez”). In addition, the theme of social intolerance is not only confined to topics of sexuality; in fact, “Bad Hair” (“Pelo malo”) will be showing on Sunday at Cine Magnifico, a film that involves filmmakers in Argentina, Venezuela and Peru, deals with similar social pressures that arise from homophobia and engrained class distinctions.
Clearly there is a tide of films with intense messages and depictions of social issues that are often overlooked, left under the table in the proverbial dining room of Latin American culture and society. Look no further than our film lineup this year at Cine Magnifico, not only including “My Straight Son” and “Bad Hair”, but also “The Golden Dream”, which deals sincerely with intense social pressures and culturally ignored subjects.
“My Straight Son” will be a moving and enlightening film screening, not only for Miguel Ferrari’s prize-winning script and cinematic direction, but also for the way this film fits into the rising trends of Latin American cinema over the course of the last two years. “My Straight Son” will be our Showcase Film on Saturday night, September 12th @ 8 PM. See you there for a wonderful showcase presentation!!
Although “The Golden Dream” (“La jaula del oro”) is writer-director Diego Quemada-Diez’s first feature-length film, it is not his first time working with themes and images of Mexico-U.S. immigration.
The Spanish native who is now based out of Mexico City was a camera operator in the 2003 hit film “21 Grams”, directed and written by the renowned duo of Mexico City natives, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu and Guillermo Arriaga.
“21 Grams” is a masterfully designed tale set in various locations throughout the world, one of which includes a woman and two children lost in the desert borderlands between Mexico and the U.S. In “The Golden Dream”, Quemada-Diez draws on the quiet, austere landscapes of the rural areas in Mexico that attract the many north-bound migrants seeking to keep themselves from the eyes of the public as they make their way to the border.
One of Quemada-Diez’s major achievements in this film is his ability to elicit magnificent performances out of three non-professional actors. Quemada-Diez’s “The Golden Dream” which began production in 2013 and was released in Mexico in May of this year, could not have come to the U.S. market at a better time, as the issue of Central American children illegally crossing the border has come to occupy a central storyline for mainstream media outlets since the summer. “The Golden Dream” follows three main characters, teenagers from a village in Guatemala.
In the end, it is that rawness which renders this film a sincere and not sensationalized portrayal of the journey north.
“The Golden Dream”, which won awards at Cannes,
Chicago and Palm Springs, among others, was touted for its honest and direct approach to the portrayal of the heart wrenching and vicious truths of this journey, which has come to occupy a part of the American Dream imaginary, often distorted and simplified, if for no other reason than its perceived commonality or an overall cultural laziness to delve deeply into the truths and realities of those making the journey north every day.
Working on “21 Grams” with Iñarritu and Arriaga, who together are responsible for the films “Amores Perros” and “Babel” in addition to “21 Grams” (that’s 3 Oscar nominations and 1 win), Quemada-Diez could not have been afforded a better learning opportunity for dealing with scenes and images of border crossings – it would be akin to a minor league ballplayer for the Albuquerque Isotopes getting the chance to sit in the dugout with Dodgers all-stars Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw.
This Showcase Film screening is a must see not just for film aficionados, but for everyone in our border-state community interested in truth, sincerity and the ultimate beauty, and irony, of youth and dreams. Don’t miss it!!
Screening Saturday, September 13th @4:30 PM. See you there!!