By Mukul Khurana
Day 3+ began with EN FAMILIA, the shorts program meant for the whole family, which had some charming and funny entries: CHULA (Puerto Rico 2014) directed by Victoria Sorberal, was one of those funny and entertaining shorts. Bebo can’t be found on his wedding day! Various detours later, it is a happy wedding. But first…
Also from the islands, THE EXTRAORDINARY MR. JUPITER (Puerto Rico 2014) directed by Federico Torres Fernandez turned out to be a lovely magical tale of romance. True love is hard to find—but not if you are a magician. ***** Life can be cruel. Sometimes, only flowers can soften the blow. In EL MAESTRO Y LA FLOR (Mexico 2014) directed by Daniel Irabien, a teacher must decide what he is willing to give up for love.
Also from Mexico, a story of creativity that has no bounds—EL NECIO (Mexico 2014) directed by Carlos Quiroz Robles. Joaquin will not miss the big game (despite problems with electricity. ***** In terms of the triumph of creativity over conformism, the animated EL TROMPETISTA (Mexico 2014) directed by Raul Robin Alejandro Morales Reyes, takes the cake. Not to be missed! ***** On the other end of the scale, the narrative feature TERCER GRADO (Spain 2014) directed by Geoffrey Cowper, was high in graphic violence. Curiously, it did not deter from a tight and thrilling story. Mark Rodriguez is on the first weekend of parole after five years in prison. There is a brazen robbery, a stripper, and action.
If violence was the major theme in TERCER GRADO, LIZ IN SEPTEMBER (Venezuela 2014) directed by Fina Torres had a different theme and agenda. Liz is gay and knows that beauty is power. Cancer enters the picture. A lesbian love story, ultimately it is a universal story of love and death. One small detail that rings false: It isn’t common to be reading Kuebler-Ross years after the death of a close friend.
The point is being made that Mexico is going through a period of renewal—that the violence of recent years is slowly ending. A good barometer for various observations are the shorts—the topics, the mood, and the climate… MEXICO RARO Y QUERIDO is aptly named for the “rare and dear” element that makes Mexican cinema unique. As such, BINGO (Mexico 2014) directed by Andres Borda Garcia shows that other topics are, indeed, possible. EL GRAN LIDER (Mexico 2014) directed by Francisco Jimenez continues the tradition of questioning leaders (in this case using a marionette analogy).
NUNCA REGRESES (Mexico 2014) directed by Leonardo Diaz is a visceral tale of friendship and the consequences of agreeing to something that should have been thought out a little better—very powerful. Likewise, PRIMAVERA (Mexico 2014) directed by Tania Claudia Castillo deals with the awakening of Elba when her sister runs away.
From Mexico we go into the collective history of South America. In the 70s and 8os, the dictators of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay got together under the umbrella of Operation Condor. Operation Condor was a campaign of terror waged against their civilian populations. Fear was used to get rid of opposition and to control the masses. Most people don’t realize the extent of American involvement in this unholy alliance. OLVIDADOS (Bolivia 2014) directed by Carlos Bolado sets the record straight. Through powerful and graphic scenes of violence and torture, it becomes clear that it is possible to rule through fear—it’s possible anywhere. It could be argued that the violence depicted didn’t need to be quite as graphic. On the other hand, why sanitize reality?
Back to a different Mexican reality—PARAISO (Mexico 2014) directed by Marian Chenillo was the story of a couple moving from Ciudad Satelite to Mexico City proper (affectionately–or not–known as D.F. for “Distrito Federal” ). Ciudad Satelite is a comfortable suburban area near Mexico City. The stress of Mexico City translates into relationship issues for Carmen and Alfredo. On a different reality altogether, LA VIDA INESPERADA (Spain 2013) directed by Jorge Torregrossa was a quirky comedy with a distinctly European sensibility. Juanito is a Spanish Actor who moved to New York in order to pursue his acting career. Success has not come his way so he feigns it. His cousin comes to visit and stay with Juanito. Facades can only be kept up so long—an intelligent comedy worth watching…
On the strange but interesting front, BLUE DESERT (Brazil 2014) directed by Eder Santos—a movie with striking futuristic visuals and much philosophy… Shades of Future Shock by Alvin Toffler came through. There were some mesmerizing scenes with music and fashions that could be the future or now.
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