Reviewer Ed Farolan
The 10th annual Vancouver Latin American Film Festival (VLAFF) will feature films from our Hispanic neighbours in the south. Highlights include the Al Jazeera Documentary Competition, The Queer Latin Cinema, and spotlights on Argentine, Mexico, and Cuba. Films from Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and other Latin American countries will also be screened. Check VLAFF's website for updates. Venues: PC=Pacific Cinematheque; GR 7= Granville 7 Cinemas; SFU-HC=SFU Harbour Centre; SFU-V=Goldcorp Centre for the Arts SFU
Todos hemos pecado (We All Have Sinned)
Date and Venue 5 Sep 7pm GR7 & 7 Sep 4.45pm PC
Mexico 2011. Director: Alejandro Ramirez
Director Alejandro Ramirez and actress Aleyda Gallardo (whose picture appears on the festival pass) were present during the gala screening of this film. Ramirez said that being Catholic, he took the various rituals of catholicism and put some humour in them. I also spoke to the lovely Aleyda Gallardo during the reception, and although her role in the film was down to earth and coarse, playing the part of Death (La Chingada Vieja), she was quite charming and I enjoyed chatting with her about her role and her co-actors. I've always enjoyed Mexican films and music, particularly Cantinflas and Trio Los Panchos when I was growing up in the 1950s. Before the show started, while the audience was waiting outside the theatre, there was a Mariachi group that entertained the crowd , and again inside, right before the screening of the film. The idea of poking fun at Catholicism seems to be the trend in a lot of contemporary Latin American films, but Ramirez put an interesting twist to Death, which is a recurring theme in Mexican culture, and the film was received warmly by the Vancouver audience during this gala.
Todo el mundo tiene a alguien menos yo (Everybody's Got Somebody But Me)
Date and Venue 3 Sep 5.15pm PC
Mexico 2012. Director: Raul Fuentes
Producer Roberto Fiesco was in attendance and dialogued with the audience after the screening of this film, saying how difficult it is to get financing for films in Mexico, especially a film like this, dealing with lesbianism. He also mentioned that at the last minute, the actress who was supposed to play the main protagonist backed out and the director's girl friend Andrea Portal had to take over the part, and even added dialogues to enhance the film. Well, this is an excellent film, and the dialogues came across really well. The sexual chemistry between Alejandra (Portal), an established literary editor, and Maria (Naian Daeva), a sexy and blonde Lolita, in her last year of high school, was erotic, lovely and beautiful. This is the first full-length film by Fuentes who has done a number of short films about lesbians Filmed in black and white reminiscent of the New Wave films of the 60s, to give more intimacy to the theme, according to Fiesco, this film is a product of UNAM, the National University of Mexico.
Verdades verdaderas, la vida de Estela (Real Truths, the Life of Estela)
Date and Venue 3 Sep 3pm PC
Argentina 2012. Director: Nicolas Gil Lavedra
We've all heard of the desaparecidos both in Argentina and Chile during the late 1970s and early 80s; however, this film deals with the next generation of the desaparecidos-- the disappearance and abduction of theinfants of the desaparecidos who gave birth during their detention. Based on a true story of Estela de Carlotto (Suso Pecoraro) whose daughter was murdered by the Argentine military and whose grandson was abducted and had also disappeared, the film depicts her political awakening as a leader of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Until now, she is looking for her grandson who is now 33 years old. This is a poignant story, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
Karen llora en un bus (Karen Cries on the Bus)
Dates and Venues 2 Sep 7pm PC & 4 Sep 5pm PC
Colombia 2011. Director: Gabriel Rojas Vera
When Nora leaves her husband in Ibsen's Doll's House, this moment gave rise to what later became the Women's Lib Movement. However, we don't know what happened to Nora afterwards. Well, this film is perhaps a sequel to what Nora went through and other women who leave their husbands. The film starts and ends in a bus with a woman crying, and the film depicts the vicious circle of a woman's relationship to man. When the husband or boyfriend says "Get me my coat", that signals something to the protagonist Karen (Angela Carrizosa) who's heard it from her ex-husband. And when she hears it again from her boy friend, she decides she doesn't want to go through another "gilded cage" relationship. Very interesting insights from Rojas Vera on marital as well as man-woman relationships.
Dates and Venues 2 Sep 5pm PC
Canada 2012. Director: Orlando Arriagada
This excellent documentary makes its World Premiere here at VLAFF, and veteran filmmaker Arriagada who is originally from Chile and now residing in Quebec, did a thorough study of why the Miss Venezuela beauty pageant is the country's second most important industry next to oil. Interviews from past Miss Venezuela winners as well as beauty and modelling academy directors, a plastic cosmetic surgeon, a dentist, a communications professor, people in the streets, and of course, the pageant czar, Osmel Sousa, give their opinions on why Venezuela , with its six Miss Universe and six Miss World titles, is definitely the beauty mecca of the world.
Todos tus muertos (All Your Dead Ones)
Dates and Venues 2 Sep 3pm PC & 5 Sep 9.30pm PC
Colombia 2011. Director: Carlos Moreno
Although I found this film intresting in the dark comedy side, it had a number of flaws. For one, I felt it was politically incorrect to make fun of a disabled man, Salvador (Alvaro Rodriguez) for being cross-eyed. The film constantly refers to him as such, and he is made fun of because he has a beautiful wife. The other aspect is the attempt to make the dead peple found in his corn farm open their eyes as though they weren't dead. I understand the concept of absurdity in this case, but I didn't find it funny at all. However, the concept is interesting: finding a pile of corpses in the middle of a corn field. I suppose the filmmaker attempts to project in a darly comic way how politics in Colombia can be that bad where politicians can go to the extent of murdering just to reduce votes for the opposing side.
Dates and Venues 2 Sep 1pm PC & 8 Sep 9.15pm PC
Ecuador/Colombia 2011. Director: Sebastian Cordero
Drugs is a big theme in Latin American films, and in this somewhat tragi-comedy, we see Blanquito (Andres Crespo), a supposedly naive fisherman, ending up being a sophisticated drug dealer. He learns his ropes quickly, as he goes from his small towm El Matal in the Equatorian coast, to the sophisticated Guayaquil and later, Quito, to sell cocaine he finds washed up on the beach. He teams up with Lorna (Maria Cecilia Sanchez) who tries to con him, but he outsmarts her in the end. This is what I felt while viewing it a kind of tongue-in-cheek film where even the simpletons can be astute drug dealers.
Tropa de elite 2 (Elite Squad)
Dates and Venues 1 Sep 6.15pm SFU-V & 7 Sep 5pm GR7
Brazil 2010. Director: Jose Padilha
This is the sequel to the 2007 film which, like this one, raked in a lot of money at the box office. This film has a lot of suspense, drama, action and reflects, like the iconic City of God, the corrupt politics of Rio de Janeiro where politicians are in cahoots with the police and drug dealers. In this sequel, the militias are created to protect the favelas (slums) of Rio, but instead of doing that, they act like the mafia, extorting protection money from the poor and preying on them. Col. Nacimiento (Wagner Moura) of BOPE (a special police task force similar to SWAT), together with Legislator Fraga (Irandhir Santos) try to bring out the corruption among politicians and the police. They are successful, but then, the moral of the story is that new corrupt politicians and police take over. Some even return back to office, and the struggle continues. I won't be surprised if another sequel comes up. But this is an excellent film, full of violence (a warning to those with weak stomachs), and a reflection of third world societies.
El Ultimo Elvis (The Last Elvis)
Dates and Venues 1 Sep 4pm SFU-V & 7 Sep 9.30pm PC
Argentina 2012. Director: Armando Bo
A friend of mine is an Elvis impersonator, and as I watched this film, I saw how tragic it is being an impersonator, or in a more euphemistic term, a tribute artist. He's a security guard so he can earn his bread and butter. He lives in a one-bedroom apartment almost like the Elvis of this film. The difference is that the Elvis in this film has a dream which ends when he turns 42, the same age when Presley died. It is a tragic ending, but for the "ultimo Elvis", his dream comes true, tragically, though. This was a well-written and directed film about this Argentinian Elvis, and it's a film I highly recommend for VLAFF viewers to see.
Boleto al paraíso (Ticket to Paradise)
Dates and Venues 6 Sep 9.15pm PC & 8 Sep 4pm SFU-V
Cuba-Spain-Venezuela 2011. Director: Gerardo Chijona
Cuba has eased up in these past few years ever since Raul Castro took over from Fidel. Queer films, and films on AIDS are beginning to surface. This particular film is about AIDS, and it tackles the problem of poverty in the rural areas of Cuba. The title suggests that you can live in Paradise if you're contaminated with AIDS. You are brought to a hospital with your own room and are fed three meals a day. It shows the state of poverty in these hick-guajira villages where the youth, the "freakies", run away from their homes because of domestic problems. Such is the case of Eunice who runs away from her sexually abusive father and joins a gang of street kids. Instead of living homeless in the streets and begging for food, they opt to contaminate themselves with AIDS so they can be admitted to the hospital. There are graphic scenes here, and this is a warning for those with weak stomachs.
© 2012 Ed Farolan