By Mukul Khurana
It isn’t often that we get to see films from Nicaragua. So, it makes sense to avail yourself of the opportunity to catch La Pantalla Desnuda (Nicaragua, 93 min. 2015) at the San Diego Latino Film Festival 2016. Part of the Viva Mujeres Showcase, this recent movie directed by Florence Jaugey, tells the story of Octavio and Alex (two friends from opposite ends of the social spectrum).
Octavio comes from a poor background. He is envious of his generous and charismatic friend Max, son of a landowner. The tension goes into drama when Max uses a cell phone to film himself making love to his girlfriend, Esperanza. The video gets leaked…
That was a Monday highlight. On Tuesday night, the last movie of the night, Volley (Argentina, 95 min. 2015) turned out to be a surprising comedy about “matters of the heart.” That actually depends on how you define “heart” as the movie was more about sex and the physical—but in a good way. This was not an average T & A movie. It had some intelligent insights.
Nicolas (who is also the writer/director Martin Piroyansky) has a habit of sleeping with most of the women that he encounters. That includes Pilar, Cata (Vera Spinetta), Belen (Justina Bustos), and Manuela (Violeta Urtizberea). Manuela happens to be the controlling girlfriend of his best friend (played by Chino Darin). The characters are well-developed in this excellent and entertaining movie.
So it was with the last movie of the night on Wednesday—Mi Gran Noche (Spain, 100 min. 2015). Confession time: I had seen this movie on its first night and made the assumption that a few scenes in the first 10-15 minutes were forecasting the rest of the movie. The violence was pretty shocking. I was not going to give this cutting edge comedy a second chance.
Things worked out in its favor. I had followed the same strategy for La Calle de La Amargura (Mexico, 99 min. 2015). For those who follow films with a passion, they know that a film sets the action/tone in the first 10-15 minutes.
Whereas the famous Mexican director, Arturo Ripstein disappointed with his story about older prostitutes, Spanish director, Alex de la Iglesia, delighted with his film about show business (seems that is the same everywhere in the world too). It reminded me of the value of not assuming anything when choosing films. Ripstein’s piece, though excellent as usual in terms of cinematography and atmosphere, went also the usual path of sordid and dark characters. Though interesting, audiences felt depressed and cheated.
On the other hand, Iglesia’s biting and sarcastic look at Spain’s TV and social landscape proves that black humor can be taken to the limit and still be originally funny. People were still laughing as they left the screening. By the way, Mi Gran Noche actually had Raphael (the famous singer) in it—with original songs. How did they pull that off?
There is a concept called “the law of unintended consequences” that has been used in regards to warfare, economics, etc. It briefly states that actions often have consequences that were not expected (had Bush read his history, we might be in a totally different place today…). In Felices 140 (Spain, 98 min. 2015), Elia (Maribel Verdu) decides to celebrate her 40th birthday by inviting her family and friends for a luxury bash in the Canary Islands. There, she drops a bombshell—she has just won a 140 million Euros as a lottery prize.
What follows next is a great example of “with friends like these, who needs enemies?” Money will change everything. This is an incredibly intelligent morality tale. Viewers might remember Maribel Verdu from the hit film Y tu mama también. If you don’t remember the movie, it is well worth your time to see this film and grapple with issues revolving around money.
As a trend, the center of gravity shifted From Mexican films on the weekend to Spanish films during the week (not that there weren’t other films worth seeing… ). Hablar (Spain, 75 min. 2015), Siempreviva (Colombia 111 min. 2015), Sin Alas (Cuba/USA, 90 min. 2015), El Comienzo del Tiempo (Mexico, 110 min. 2015), La Cosa Humana (Cuba, 90 min. 2015), Hotel de Paso (Mexico, 98 min. 2015), Ixcanul (Guatemala/France, 100 min. 2015) also showed great potential…
San Diego Latino Film Festival
Dates: March 10 – 20, 2016
AMC 18 Fashion Valley Cinema
If interested in more information, go to SDLatinoFilm.com for more details.