Sure, it’s nice and bright outside. But this weekend marks the third annual Filadelfia Latin American Film Festival—so you should probably spend it in the dark.
This year’s slate is a collection of iconic cinema and first-time premieres, stories of the immigrant experience and tales rooted firmly in the identity of home. Curating it is a careful process, reveals Beatriz Vieira, FLAFF’s executive director. “Because we’re interested in presenting films in all genres from emerging and established filmmakers that tell important stories in compelling and innovative ways, we try to see as many works and talk to as many people as possible. We are also interested in bringing works from countries less often represented on the screen, so we focus on finding ways to keep informed about filmmaking in those countries.”
In addition to the inclusion of films making the annual festival circuit, most of which will be shown in Philadelphia for the first time, this year also features classics revived for the big screen. Vieira sees this as a vital aspect of modern filmmaking. “The classic cinema of Latin America—from Mexico, Brazil and Argentina—are important because they helped to create the visual identity and culture of these countries in the mid-20th century,” she tells PW. “These films are an essential part of the network of exchanges, reinterpretations and appropriations that influences filmmakers today.”
Here’s our guide to the movies you can’t miss at the 2014 Filadelphia Latin American Film Festival.
María Candelaria (Xochimilco) (1946). A jewel of golden-age Mexican cinema, conceived as a gift from director Emilio Fernández to Dolores del Río to woo her into working with him after a disastrous shoot on Flor Silvestre in 1943, María Candelaria is the visually-mesmerizing story of doomed romance and community intolerance. It hasn’t been seen on big screens in Philadelphia for over two decades, and Gabriel Figueroa’s cinematography alone is reason enough to snag a ticket. Fri., 7:30pm, at University of the Arts, 401 S. Broad St.
Pelo Malo (Bad Hair) (2013). Venezuelan writer-director Mariana Rondón, who last examined the complicated interior worlds of children in Postcards from Leningrad, has been making festival rounds with Bad Hair, which follows the complex relationship between Junior, increasingly intent on straightening his hair, and his mother, for whom the wish raises concerns about his identity. Rondón will be introducing and discussing the film. Sat., 4:45pm, at International House Philadelphia, 3701 Chestnut St.
Anina (2013). This family-friendly animated feature, a world of cut-paper detail with a watercolor wash, stars passionate Anina, whose chief complaint is that her names are palindromes—could anything be worse? Certainly getting into trouble at school could, as Anina is given a very unusual punishment involving a black envelope that fires up the beautifully-dreadful corners of her imagination. Sun., 10:30am, at University of the Arts.
The House That Jack Built (2013). The Best Picture winner at the Phoenix Film Festival, this family drama took over 20 years to make. The original script was written by the late Joseph Vasquez (Hangin’ with the Homeboys) and is a similarly unflinching story of how easily bonds can be broken. Jack moves his family rent-free into a Bronx apartment complex, but the close quarters soon begin to strain at the seams. Sun., 5pm, at University of the Arts.
Las Analfabetas (Illiterate) (2013). The magnetic Paulina García, last seen in Gloria, is a woman who’s lived a lifetime hiding her illiteracy. When an unemployed elementary school teacher offers to teach her, their relationship becomes complicated: teacher-student, a friendship, an exploration of social dynamics and an occasional power struggle between two people who are secretly adrift and looking for hope in the other. Sun., 8pm, at University of the Arts.
Matar a un Hombre (To Kill a Man) (2014). This neo-noir study of what drives a man to murder—and the grinding mechanics of the business—won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Unrelentingly tense and deeply atmospheric—shot largely at night with no additional lighting, casting the film in a dim gold ringed with shadows—it’s a harrowing parable of masculinity and the sacrifices it demands. Sat., 8pm, at The Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St.
Yo Indocumentada (I, Undocumented) (2011). Winner of the FLAFF’s inaugural LOLA Award for Best Documentary—and sponsored for inclusion by Philadelphia social-justice organization GALAEI—I, Undocumented explores the invisibility of transgender people in Venezuela, a country that doesn’t officially recognize their existence. The three women on whom it focuses—lawyer Tamara, hairdresser Desirée and student Victoria—provide character studies that highlight the necessity for change as they push legal action that will make their identities legally possible. Sun., 2pm, at University of the Arts.
La Camioneta: The Journey of One American School Bus (2012). Director Mark Kendall follows a decommissioned school bus on its fraught journey to Guatemala, where it will be refurbished and repainted as a camioneta for public transit. Though the danger doesn’t end there—armed gangs demand protection money, and the life of a driver or fare-collector is dangerous—the documentary focuses on the interplay between communities and the optimism and renewal each camioneta represents. Sat., 12:30pm, at International House.
Aqui y Alla (Crossing Borders) (2013). Artist-activist Michelle Angela Ortiz’s film connects the experiences of teenagers living in Chihuahua and Philadelphia, both experiences affected by immigration—either as those going or as those left behind—and often informed by socioeconomic status and prejudice. Through a “trans-national art project,” teenagers from both cities design a mural that speaks to their experiences while also speaking of those experiences, some for the first time. Sun., 7pm, University of the Arts.
Forbidden Lovers Meant to Be (2013). If you’re short on time, they don’t come much shorter: this thing clocks in at five minutes. It’s the work of Taller Puertorriqueño’s 2012 Youth Artist program—including a meta-film about the process—with the filmmakers in attendance for a Q&A. It screens alongside the half-hour Tire Dié (Toss Me a Dime), a 1958 documentary about train-chasing children whose call of “Tire dié!” became the neighborhood’s moniker. Sat., 11am, International House.
Fri., April 25-Sun., April 27, various times and locations. flaff.org