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AMC Turns on Edward James Olmos’ ‘Water & Power’

19 Mar Featured Image -- 4570

Originally posted on Variety:

Richard Montoya’s “Water & Power,” backed by Edward James Olmos, has set a May 2 launch through the AMC chain.

Olmos came on board last year after seeing the film at the L.A. Latino Festival and approached AMC. The film will open in Los Angeles and several other cities.

“‘Water & Power’ embodies filmmaking quality and artistic value that engages me,” Olmos said.

“Water & Power” bowed on stage in Los Angeles in 2006. Montoya wrote, directed and produced the drama starring Enrique Murciano, Nicholas Gonzalez and Clancy Brown about a California senator who must help his crooked cop brother out of a crime that has backfired on L.A.’s Eastside.

Murciano plays the politician, nicknamed Water, while Gonzalez is the cop, Power.

“For a truly indie film like ours, it’s a lifeline to getting ‘Water and Power’ to the eastside and beyond,” Montoya said. “This is an organic film that…

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Video

#SXSW2014 Storytelling for Change: Diego Luna on the making of Cesar Chavez

10 Mar

Tonight at 6pm at the Paramount is the North America premiere of Cesar Chavez a film directed by Ambulante co-founder Diego Luna.

Hear his candid thoughts about making the movie with the Chavez family at this morning’s Participant Media panel

REZETA – Mexican feature film wins Special Jury Award at Slamdance

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REZETA written and directed by Mexican born but trans-nationally influenced Fernando Frias, was recognized with a Special Jury Award Prize at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival which celebrated its 20th anniversary last week.  It was the U.S. premiere of the film after its world premiere at the Morelia International Film Festival in 2012.  The story is about an Albanian model named Rezeta (played by the naturally charming Rezeta Veliu) who flies in to Mexico City for a work stint and develops an unlikely relationship with a down to earth, blue collar guy who works construction on set and who doesn’t fall all over her like most men do.  It’s an unexpectedly genuine, credible and revealing take on the opposites attract friendship romance, and one enjoyably surprising in its sympathetic and dimensional portrayal of a jet set beautiful model, who in many ways, her world savvy independent experience and maturity becomes much more of a threat to the men in her life than her looks.  Here’s the trailer.  Read on for my post Park City interview with Fernando – a talented up and coming voice to watch out for.

1. How was your Slamdance experience?  What is something that people might not know about Slamdance?

Slamdance is fucking fantastic. It’s all about filmmaking at its purest form. Slamdance has a very unique stamp. They dare to program great work that defies convention and they help create communities around genuine filmmaking. They have kept loyal to their famous phrase: “For filmmakers by filmmakers” for 20 years now. There’s a lot going on during the festival and still all the staff are extremely friendly and have such great attitudes. People might not know that the festival has been around for that long and that they have discovered people like Christopher Nolan and Lena Dunham, among many other big names.

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Film Still of Rezeta

2. What’s the next script you are working on?
It’s a story about a very particular Mexican kid around Queens. I had one earlier draft that I wrote for a class at school but when I came back to it, I found that it went in a very different direction that what I originally had in mind. The good thing is that after realizing that, I wrote the story in prose as a short story in the voice of my character and I had the great luck to be selected  winner of the  Bengala-UANL award (Nuevo León University). It’s a first edition contest open to all writers, journalist and filmmakers from Mexico and the objective of such a great contest is to find good ideas for scripts and help them throughout their developing stage. After I found out that I won, I got so excited that I completed a new draft in 2 weeks. I am currently revising it in 2 different workshops.
20140120-Slamdance-DSC_01065. What kind of culture do you belong to?
I’d say I belong to the DIY culture but I don’t know how much will that do for an answer. I can tell you that I’m Mexican born and raised in DF with parents who came from opposites sides of town.  I grew up traveling to unknown places because my mother worked for more than 25 years in Airlines, so we had standby tickets and we would go to the airport not really knowing where we were going too. It was cool because we could only fly on low season so I missed school and I wouldn’t know where we were heading until the very last minute… I guess this made an impact on me because all my work ends taking place around cultural differences…
6. What was the most inspiring thing you did or saw in Park City?
I have to say that winning the Jury award  for best narrative film at Slamdance was a huge surprise and really exciting but I also had a blast snowboarding, something that is kind of new to me.
7. What other US Latino filmmaker have you recently discovered or follow?
I discovered Alejandro Fernandez from Chile. I really love his film To Kill A Man which played at Sundance and won a big award. At Slamdance I think I was the only Latino but I might be wrong. As for names, I have to say that this last year I saw two amazing movies from Chile and Brasil: Gloria by Sebastian Leilo and and Neighboring Sounds by Kleber Mendoça. 
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Fernando is pretty modest.  He’s a Fulbright scholar in NY at Columbia, and his experimental documentary, Calentamiento Local (which means “Local Warming) won the Digital Prize at the Mexico City International Contemporary Film Festival known as FICCO in 2009, the penultimate year of the once IT festival.  A highly lyrical, romantic capturing of the symbiotic, magnetic relationship of ethereal beaches and the sensual bodies who traipse and fall in love on them in  Mexico. You can see the full film here.  Fernando has also made some really cool artist portrait commercials for Converse.    
Check out more of Fernando’s work on his vimeo channel
Video

Ambulante California – unveiled at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival

20 Jan

Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, co-founders of the traveling documentary film festival, talk about the inception of Ambulante, the power of cinema, and the upcoming launch of Ambulante California. Coming soon September 21 – October 4

@AmbulanteCA

Curaçao International Film Festival Rotterdam – Looking for Caribbean Island films

22 Dec news_1855

Hola!

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A rich hot mix of African, European and Latin American influences make for a striking unique multi culture and perspective

I know it’s been a while since my last post.  Lots to report on, but I’m jumping on right now because I’m putting out an APB (WANTED) out on Caribbean island feature length films.  I’m so delighted and honored to be Programmer of the Yellow Robin competition at the  Curaçao International Film Festival, taking place April 2 – 6.  I was happy to learn I was recommended by the veteran Latin Film Programmer at the  Toronto International Film Festival, Diana Sanchez (thank you!).  I got the gig after speaking with Rutger Wolfson, director of IFFR and then while at the Morelia Film Festival, I met with Percy Pinedo who leads the program from Curacao.   I was impressed to hear the year round efforts and programming The Cinemas Willemstad has been doing thanks to the support of the Fundashon Bon Intenshon.  The aim of Rotterdam’s Caribbean baby sister is to develop the local audience and spark the filmmaking impulse, and create a meeting point for Caribbean and Latin American film producers.

As a huge fan of Rotterdam’s edgy, discovery programming, I’m so happy to be collaborating with their smart team’s  bold initiative to register the filmmaking voices and people of the Caribbean islands.   This is a region to watch. This year I was excited to watch 4 fiction feature length submissions from the Dominican Republic films for Sundance, each completely distinct from each other.  The Havana Film Festival which 35th edition ended last week, boasted a stronger than ever regional program , including the premieres of Land Without Evil by Juan Carlos Valdivia (from Bolivia), whose last film, Zona Sur played at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010, and Giraffes, a Cuban/Colombian/Panamanian film by Cuban Kiki Alvarez.

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The audience at Curacao

There is also for instance, The Panama International Film Festival which has solid ties with the Toronto International Film Festival (Diana Sanchez is the Artistic Director) and is taking place from April 3 – 9.   Like Curaco IFFR, it will put on its 3rd edition in 2014.  I heard great things about Panama from Latin Film Market industry friends.   Since 2006 the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival has been earning a name for itself, and it looks like it also has a robust little engine of year round programming to engage the community.   Surely these kind of co-organized visionary festivals are encouraging the slowly increasing trickle of feature length films I’m seeing in submissions.  That said, there is not much film input  from specifically the island region, which makes the viewing process exotic and exhilarating to see such underrepresented culture.  The shortage and inconsistent quality is a challenge towards assembling a worthy, well rounded competition if restricted to only Caribbean islands therefore the competition will also select films from Central & South America, countries near geographically and influence.  For me, there is something so metaphysical about being so naked and vulnerable out in the middle of the sea that shapes the perspectives of these stories.

I’m looking forward to spending my holidays visiting the islands through film.   If you have any recommendations even if they are just the titles without contacts, let me know.  Please share and pass along the link in case someone you know might have some.

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LALIFF – Back in Community Effect

11 Oct laliff

2013-10-10 18.35.41Last night was the Opening Night Screening and Gala of the 2013 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.  Invoking it’s “Sweet Sixteen”, the tradition of celebrating an American Girl’s coming of age is appropriate even if technically, this would have been its 17th year, had it not taken last year’s hiatus. It’s appropriate all the same because this year’s program represents American (Latino) films AND a substantial amount of Latinas driving and depicting these stories.  Newly instated Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti was on hand to give his blessing.  The grandson of Chihuahua, Mexicans, his poetic remarks referring to Los Pobladores (the original mestizo settlers who founded LA in 1781) confirmed the passionate consciousness and respect he has for LA’s history. Edward James Olmos presented the Gabi Lifetime Achievement award to Pablo Ferro, a bohemian whose signature skinny long letters and influential film titles sequences on such films like Dr. Strangelove, Bullet, Russians Are Coming, BeetleJuice, Men In Black among countless others, established an art within the art of cinema’s first impression and tone.

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This is Pablo Ferro

The documentary, Pablo handled by Shoreline Entertainment and directed by Richard Goldgewicht is an animated, whimsical treatment of the life and times of this consummate artist and original hipster.  Folks like Angelica Huston, Andy Garcia, Leonard Maltin praise his genius, and narrated by The Dude, Jeff Bridges gives it an added air of deadpan wit, whose “This is Pablo” narrative  conceit, strikes the tone of the bohemian Cuban born artist.  Wearing his trademark red scarf,  Pablo accepted his award without so many words but no matter, as the audience generously paid enthusiastic homage to one or our own being rightly commemorated.  Also at long last given the deserving (posthumous) commemoration was La Madrina of the festival,  the late great Lupe Ontiveros.  Olmos made a point that even in her passing she changed the course of our community when her painful absence of the In Memoriam at the Oscars galvanized the Latino Academy members to rally and re-examine their presence within the organization.  Olmos’s handsome rugged face, much like Robert Redford, transmits such grit & soul, add to it that wicked Zapata mustache and his Escalante personality that he never got rid of, when he closed by saying It’s time for the community to take charge” his onda was fully registered.

At the party across the street at the Wax Museum where the uncanny real life sized figures freak you out every time you feel you should turn around to introduce yourself  (guests remarked where are my brown wax at!) I got a chance to see many of the US Latino filmmakers with films in the festival.  From Jesse Salmeron and Jeremy Ray Valdez of Dreamer, Richard Montoya of Water & Power.    I got a chance to catch up briefly with one of my esteemed mentors and friends who is also a LALIFF Advisor Sydney Levine of Sydneys Buzz on Indiewire.  She is a treasure trove of insight and knowledge in the international film circuit and I cannot wait for her upcoming comprehensive book focusing on Latin American Cinema.  Maria Agui Carter, NALIP member and filmmaker whose documentary on civil rights soldier Loreta Velazquez, Rebel screens in its full running time on Saturday at 3:10pm (The 52 minute version has been broadcasted on POV).  Maria and I started to get into a passionate chat on women authored and women depicted stories.  I’m pleased to find out there is a panel, Women and girls in Media Panel at 5:30pm today. We agreed that a candid and collaborative discussion needs to be had regarding these so called  female empowered yet still sexually objectified characters (see Sofia Vergara’s ak47 tits in Machete Kills), and on how as women we need to deconstruct our stories in a different way, not so much replace roles men have traditionally had.  Stories doing just that at the festival along with Rebel, are Maestra about Cuba’s National Literacy Campaign, a profile of the women who taught a nation to read and write, by Catherine Murphy. Colombian non-violent revolutionaries, in We Women Warriors by Nicole Karsin.  On the dramatic front there is Nicole Gomez Fisher’s delightful comedy Sleeping with the Fishes and the DIY Venezuelan inspiring guapa/activist/filmmaker/vlogger/mother, Fanny Veliz who has written directed, produced and has been distributing her film Homebound.

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Eric Garcetti remarking on the flowers the Pobladores seeded 231 years ago

While LALIFF has had and continues to have many organization struggles and challenges, I’ve become so aware that one thing you can never take away from it,  is the powerful sense and network of community.  So many talent pursuing their craft have made connections, collaborated and grown in their careers as a result of hanging out at LALIFF.  Someone should archive these fruitful connections as much as the films that have been shown.   Further proof is the filmmaker who told me last night how he met someone he wants to cast in the film he is working on.

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Mi querida amiga Maria Oliva! Documentary filmmaker/photographer and LALIFF’er

My dance card is full this weekend before I head to Mexico on Monday.  I’m in screening crunch mode for Sundance, but I’ll try to run down to the festival at the TLC Chinese 6 theaters when I can to write up another dispatch of films and filmmakers to watch.  If you are in LA please do buy a ticket to support the Latino Film Institute and the next wave of Mas American talent.  As with any festival your best bet for discovering emerging voices is the short film program.  Go watch shorts The Shooting Star Salesman by Kiko Velarde,  Llegar a Ti by Alejandro Torres, The Price we Pay by Jesse Garcia and El Cocodrilo by Steve Acevedo.  Go to http://latinofilm.org/festival/ for full program and check them out on Twitter & Face

Mas Later

#MasAmerican

Hernandez, Brugues, Grau Pitch at Fantastic Market

17 Sep

Christine Davila:

So psyched to be going to Fantastic Fest. Latino genre is where its at!

Originally posted on Variety:

MADRID – Uruguay’s Gustavo Hernandez (“La casa muda”), Cuba’s Alejandro Brugues (“Juan of the Dead”) Mexico’s Jorge Michel Grau (“Somos lo que hay”) Colombia’s 64A-Films (“All Your Dead Ones”) and Spain’s Apaches (“The Impossible,” “Open Windows) will all present new genre/thriller projects at the Austin Fantastic Fest’s inaugural Fantastic Market.

Kicking off Thursday, Austin’s first Fantastic Market is an international co-production mart for new genre pic projects. Homing in on Latin America and Spain, Portugal and the U.S..

FF programmer Rodney Perkins and FF director Kristen Bell are spearheading the initiative, teaming with El Rey founder Robert Rodriguez and Mexico’s Canana, headed by Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Pablo Cruz and Julian Levin.

The Fantastic Market bows as Latin American genre production is building fast and genre talent is increasingly sought-after by U.S. companies.

The new initiative further consolidates both Rodriguez and Canana – which partners Participant Media in film fund…

View original 527 more words

Más American

10 Sep

I am so psyched to unveil a conversation and collection of films I’ve curated on the innovative crowdfunding and streaming cross-platform, Seed & Spark.   I can’t think of a more conducive and savvy approach to changing the conversation about Latino films, than by actually presenting those films that speak to that fluid and hybrid identity DIRECTLY TO THE AUDIENCE.  I’m also going out on a limb here and coining a new term, Mas American.  Let’s see if it catches on.   Read my post below (which I originally wrote for Seed & Spark’s Bright Ideas blog)  and check out the rad films in the program by clicking on the links.  Mas Later!

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If you hear someone utter, “Kids These Days,” it’s usually in a disapproving tone towards the younger generations’ fresh attitude or their breaking with tradition (or their tendency to speed while driving).  When I think about Kids These Days, though, it is in sheer awe.  I am so impressed by their confidence and transcultural expression with which they carve out their bold self-individuality.  I don’t remember ever being that loud and proud in my teens.  I, like most, just wanted to fit in.  But the Millennial generation has spoken: Assimilation is out; Non-conformity is in.

The_Never_Daunted-2Adjusted As a first generation Mexican-American I’m naturally drawn to bi-cultural narratives because they relate to my own culture dash – American clash.  Speaking Spanish at home, making tortillas with abuelita, and my parents’ late night dance and Tequila parties, blasting Sonora Santanera or the passionate cries of Vicente Fernandez, all formed a very specific childhood.  There is something really powerful about seeing a reflection of your roots in a contemporary context in the biggest form of entertainment, the movies.  You may have read the numbers; There are 55 million+ Latinos in the country, making us the fastest growing and youngest demographic.  Brands clumsily chase after this market and miserably try to coin terms to define us like New Generation Latino, Young Latino Americans, Hispanic Millennials.  The term Latino attempts to encompass far too many diverse ethnic and social cultures that it is a useless denomination.  A limited view failing to recognize the fluidity of our social zeitgeist in the 21st century.

GABI poster_18It is critical to adopt with the changing times and engage the new generations of our immigrant nation.  It’s time to reframe our notions and classifications on race and identity.  Más American is my humble attempt of doing away with outdated and ill-defined terminology like Hispanic or Latino.  It is meant to convey the real, inclusive and radical reflection of society’s eclectic fabric found in fiercely independent filmmaker voices.  More aptly, it speaks to the transcultural identity and non-conformist spirit of today’s characters and narratives.  It’s not necessarily confined to speak about people of “color.”  It is about all kinds of shifting identities, from conventional, traditional and sociocultural norms to a more progressive evolution.  It is about gender – equality, reversal of roles, gender variant.  Filmmakers are out there telling these unique perspectives through independent film.  These stories are out there.  I can attest to that with some authority because of the volume of screening I do for film festivals year round.  Films from underrepresented communities usually have an outsider/insider perspective, which in turn provokes highly original and compelling narratives by its very nature.  This emerging class of individualism is what embodies American spirit.

Más American also speaks to the influence Latinos have on non-Latinos.  You don’t have to have the blood in order to appreciate or acquire a sensibility of the Latino experience.  Many non-Latino filmmakers have made extraordinary films capturing the US Latino experience.  It’s only natural considering the countless generations who originate from before the Hidalgo treaty was signed.  We are your neighbors, friends, colleagues, lovers, wives, husbands, in-laws, in each of the 50 states.  Indeed, a long time ago my mom and I learned to stop talking trash when out in public about non-Latinos in proximity realizing that many people understand some Spanish.

f86291356d57663f4bd3b24608bdb159_largeAnd so it is with much pleasure, and gratitude towards the filmmakers, the Más American Conversation on Seed&Spark is rolling out.  These films purely conceive of characters and a world more reflective and authentic of our reality.  Perhaps the freshness comes from a subconscious in which they derive and embody a defiant individuality, outside of any identity politics.  Más American hopefully is a starting point for a more forward and richer conversation towards genuine, original and underrepresented narratives.  I hope to add more titles to the mix in this Conversation, championing filmmakers who get America’s evolving sense of cultural self-identity and who are on the pulse of the rapidly shifting zeitgeist.

In THE CRUMBLES, written and directed by Akira Boch, the acting talent naturally inhabit LA’s Echo Park hipster artist scene in such a sincere and rocking way.  The lead happens to be a Latina and her co-lead happens to be Asian.  Their color is so not the center of the tragicomic slice-of-life.  Yet it does make them who they are: badass rock n roll girlfriends who resist quitting on their dream of hitting it big with their band.

In THE NEVER DAUNTED, writer/director Edgar Muñiz explores the toll and cross a man must bear who can’t conceive, in such a profound, heartbreaking and uniquely creative way.  The film explores a modern masculinity more open to vulnerability, clashing with the Western stoic cowboy machismo image imposed on men from boyhood.

GABI – director Zoé Salicrup Junco’s impressive NYU thesis film – centers around its titular business-smart, sexy and confident 30-something woman living an independent and successful life, whose main conflict is the reminder that, in her hometown, her success represents a failure within the context of the marriage, kids and housewife model.

In all of these stories, new definitions of traditional norms are celebrated and scripts are being flipped.  I’m thrilled that with Seed&Spark the public at large can discover these rebellious voices.

I want to thank the filmmakers for sharing their inspiring non-conformist narratives on Seed&Spark and for, whether they know it or not, breaking type.

#WTF is Latino at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival?

20 Aug tiff

The 288 features that make up the mega-sized and mega-watt Toronto International Film Festival have been announced.  It is awesome to see South America in the house and a substantial number of films from Mexico and Spain.  Sadly on the US Latino representation front we got next to nada.  Is it possible that it’s not since 2006 the festival has screened a US Latino film?   Bella by Alejandro Monteverde, about two people in NYC who fall in love, ended up winning the People’s Choice Award.  Randomly, in looking up the title to refresh my memory I came across this review by the late, great Roger Ebert who makes an amusing dig on Variety critic Robert Koehler about ‘being late’ in the course of reviewing the film.

Out of the 70 *countries the program represents, 26 of them are from Spain, Mexico (both which lead the pack with 7 films respectively), followed by Portugal, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Uruguay and Costa Rica.  Note this figure includes co-productions.

0 ,  “Ahem” that is,  Zero U.S. Latino filmmakers.  I have made an inquiry to the festival to confirm, if I hear different I will update.

Before the copied and pasted list of film descriptions and pics courtesy of TIFF – let me also note:

I’m so excited to see films play on this important world cinema stage that hail from Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Peru and Uruguay, countries who have fledgling film industries but such unique narratives and exciting filmmaker voices to tell them.

Latin/Spanish language genre is hot.  Alex de La Iglesia is back with another pulse throbbing spine-tingling, action flick, Witching and BeWitching which he describes as a It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.  I can’t wait to see this at Fantastic Fest.  Also making a return to Midnight Madness this year is Eli Roth and Chilean filmmaker Nicolas Lopez with The Green Inferno.   They previously teamed up on horrifying ‘real life’ scenario thriller, Aftershock.

A few Latino actors are sprinkled across English language films like Mexican Demian Bichir in Dom Hemingway by Richard Shepard, Colombiana Sofia Vergara in John Turturro’s Fading Gigolo and Dominicana Zoe Saldana in french hottie actor/director (Marion Cotillard’s man) Guillaume Canet’s Blood Ties.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 2.41.45 PMMy M.O. in this series is  to dig through festival films’ log lines and cast to find and highlight actors, stories and filmmakers that might bear some Latino sensibility ahead of the festival’s opening.  My overriding goal is to expand on what a Latino story might be, and by monitoring some of the big fests’ track records try to illuminate the context and obstacles that emerging Latino film artists smash up against.  Reading through the film descriptions of this year’s TIFF, I find some really rad sounding and innovative twists of classic storytelling, as well as interesting revisiting of American history.  Which is why I’m so troubled by the near total exclusion of Latinos in both the cast and filmmaker roles, especially given our hard to ignore populace.   There are two stories set in Texas and neither feature one Mexican American role.  (Parkland about the 48 hours after the JFK assassination, and Dallas Buyers Club in which Matthew McConaughy travels across the Mexican border for HIV drugs).  Then there are a handful of contemporary films that take place in an imagined New York/LA/Midwest and likewise I don’t see any US Latinos in the otherwise homogenized billed cast so its like we don’t register on any plane of representation.  Black films, filmmakers and cast are slowly but steadily gaining profile in these big festivals and in the mainstream media but US Latinos are sorely behind.    I know its not news-breaking but it is heart breaking and it does not cease to shock me to find such a lack of interest in discovering US Latino talent.  As far as I can tell there are not any narratives from the US Latino perspective in TIFF’s international 288 feature film program.   In confronting this absence and disregard, I want to A.  Call out festival programmers/distributors to consider that part of their curating responsibility is to accurately reflect the spectrum of people who make up our society and movie going public by giving those few films  made by people of color and without precedent a shot in front of an audience.  B. Create a consciousness of the absentee-frame-of-reference in which Latinos are working from.  Finally to encourage all people of color/gender variant and other underrepresented groups to take things into their own hands, creating, producing, casting, exhibiting and distributing our stories because traditional gates have not and will not open their doors until we’ve already made a name of and for ourselves.

I will concede that last names and loglines do not always identify relevant sub-stories or acting roles that might be discovered as having a Latino element, so perhaps there is more Latino in the program than I have been able to pinpoint here.  Again the disparity is on the US Latino component.  As you can see below there is a rich element of Mexican, Central American, South American, Spanish, and Carribbean at the most important film festival in North America.

Gravity Alfonso Cuarón, USA/United Kingdom North American Premiere
Gravity is a heart-pounding thriller that pulls its audience into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space. Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer accompanied on her first shuttle mission by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney). On a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone — tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth… and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But their only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.  Ahead of its stateside Oct. 4 release from Uno de los Amigos, Del Toro.

The Green Inferno Eli Roth, USA World Premiere
How far would you go for a cause you believe in? In horror master Eli Roth’s terrifying new film, a group of college students take their humanitarian protest from New York to the Amazon jungle, only to get kidnapped by the native tribe they came to save: a tribe that still practices the ancient rite of cannibalism, and has a healthy appetite for intruders.  Produced by Chilean Nicolas Lopez (Que Pena Tu Vida, Aftershock)

Jodorowsky’s Dune Frank Pavich, USA North American Premiere
The story of legendary cult film director CHILEAN Alejandro Jodorowsky’s staggeringly ambitious but ultimately doomed film adaptation of the seminal science-fiction novel Dune.

Little Feet Alexandre Rockwell, USA, World Premiere
Determined to see “the river,” two young children living in Los Angeles leave home to embark on a magical urban odyssey, in the marvelous new film by American indie icon Alexandre Rockwell (In the Soup). Starring Lana Rockwell, Nico Rockwell and Rene Cuante-Bautista.  I venture to guess that the third kid, the big pudgy one seen in the trailer is Rene Cuante-Bautista and that he might be Latino.  And I hope that since getting to LA’s concrete river usually includes a criss crossing of East and South LA, there will be some Latino community in the foreground.  Regardless, the kids, who include Rockwell’s children (with Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s Karyn Parsons) look adorable enough to carry a 60 min movie.  The look and feel of the trailer remind me of Corey Mcabee’s Crazy & Thief.   

Dom Hemingway Richard Shepard, United Kingdom World Premiere
Dom Hemingway is a larger-than-life safecracker with a loose fuse who is funny, profane, and dangerous. After 12 years in prison, looking to collect what he’s owed for keeping his mouth shut for protecting his rich mobster boss, he finds himself drawn back to the perils and pleasures of his criminal lifestyle — while trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Starring Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir, Emilia Clarke, Kerry Condon, Jumayn Hunter, Madalina Ghenea and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett.

Blood Ties Guillaume Canet, France/USA North American Premiere, 
New York, 1974. 50-year-old Chris has just been released on good behavior after spending several years in prison. Waiting for him reluctantly outside the prison gates is his younger brother, Frank, a cop with a bright future. Chris and Frank have always been different, yet blood ties are the ones that bind. Starring Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Matthias Schoenaerts and James Caan.

Chris Nunez who was had a small role in A Guide To Recognizing your Saints and handful of small roles as busboys, waiters, tweekers and gangbangers and is a credited as a waiter in David Wain’s upcoming film plays the role of ‘barfly’ in NY set Can A Song Save Your Life by John Carney (Once). NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate.

Fading Gigolo John Turturro, USA World Premiere
Fioravante, at his friend Murray’s suggestion, enters into the world’s oldest profession, and ends up finding something he didn’t know he was looking for. Starring John Turturro, Woody Allen, Vanessa Paradis, Liev Schreiber, Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara.

MEXICO

The Mayor Emiliano Altuna Fistolera, Mexico Canadian Premiere

Mauricio Fernandez is the polemical mayor of San Pedro Garza García, the wealthiest and safest municipality in Latin America. He presents himself as an active ruler who is capable of cleaning his municipality of drug cartels without questioning the methods he uses to achieve this. The Mayor describes the wild times of a country that is marked by violence and the complete discredit of the ruling class.

la ultima pelicura_01_mediumLa ultíma película Raya Martin and Mark Peranson, Canada/Denmark/Mexico/Philippines World Premiere
A famous American filmmaker travels to the Yucatán to scout locations for his last movie. The Mayan Apocalypse intercedes.  Also described as a “feverish, aesthetically startling re-imagining of Dennis Hopper’s notorious cult classic The Last Movie starring  Gabino Rodriguez and Alex Ross Perry.

Paradise (Paraiso) Mariana Chenillo, Mexico World Premiere
Overweight childhood sweethearts Carmen and Alfredo have re-located from the suburbs to the city. Feeling out of her element and subconscious about her body, Carmen joins a weight loss program and asks her husband to join. Ironically, he sheds the pounds and the distance between them grows, putting their relationship to the test.  Very excited for Mariana’s sophmore feature after her award winning 5 Days Without Nora in 2008.  Will also screen at the Morelia Film Festival.

The Amazing Catfish (Los insólitos peces gato) Claudia Sainte-Luce, Mexico North American Premiere
22-year-old Claudia lives alone in Guadalajara. One night, she ends up in the emergency room with signs of appendicitis. There she meets Martha, lying on the bed next to her. 46-year-old Martha has four children and endless lust for life, in spite of her illness. Moved by the lonely young woman, Martha invites Claudia to come and live with her when she leaves the hospital. At first, Claudia is bewildered by the somewhat chaotic organization of the household, but soon she finds her place in the tribe. And while Martha is getting weaker, Claudia’s bond with each member of the family gets stronger day by day.  First feature that will also screen in competition at Morelia

Club Sandwich (Club Sándwich) Fernando Eimbcke, Mexico World Premiere
Paloma and her 15-year-old son Hector have a very strong and special relationship. When on holiday on the seaside, Hector meets Jazmin, a teenage girl with whom he discovers love and sexuality. Trying to keep Hector close to her, Paloma has a hard time accepting that he will eventually grow up.

El Mudo Diego Vega and Daniel Vega, Peru/France/Mexico North American Premiere
After a short investigation, police conclude that the gunshot that nearly killed Judge Constantino Zegarra was nothing more than a stray bullet. But Constantino, who unlike his peers fervently adheres to the letter of the law, is convinced someone tried to take him out. He re-opens the investigation, and soon finds himself breaking some of his own rules to prove himself right. The Vega bros previously made their debut in Cannes with the beautifully formal and curiously repressed character driven film, Octubre which Global Film Initiative supported.

 

CENTRAL AMERICA

All About the Feathers (Por las Plumas) Neto Villalobos, Costa Rica World Premiere
Chalo is a lone security guard who struggles to get his first gamecock. His job in an abandoned factory is boring and monotonous but it doesn’t seem to bother him that his life is like that as well. Once he finds his prize rooster, which he names Rocky, his life changes. Not having a proper place to raise and train Rocky triggers a series of comical events that will put Chalo’s passion and love for his new (and only) friend to the test.  First Feature filmmaker Villalobos raised over his 14,000 post production fund goal to finish his film on Indiegogo.

CARIBBEAN

Old Moon (Luna Vieja) Raisa Bonnet, Puerto Rico World Premiere
Elsa lives in the mountains of the Caribbean Island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. A visit from her teenage granddaughter, Mina, and her son-in-law, Alei, brings a sweet and bitter taste into her life. In order to protect her granddaughter, Elsa makes a decision that will change Mina’s life forever. Starring María Velázquez, Laura Cristina Cardona and Julio Ramos.  This is Bonnet’s grad short film from NYU Tisch School of the Arts

SOUTH AMERICA

Gloria Sebastián Lelio, Chile/Spain North American Premiere
Gloria is 58 years old and still feels young. Making a party out of her loneliness, she fills her nights seeking love in ballrooms for singles. This fragile happiness changes the day she meets Rodolfo. Their intense passion — to which Gloria gives everything, as she feels it may well be her last — leaves her dancing between hope and despair. Gloria will have to pull herself together and find a new strength to realize that in the last act of her life, she could burn brighter than ever.  Since its discovery at the Berlin film festival, Gloria, played by the effervescent 58 year old Paulina Garcia, has duly charmed festivalgoers and critics.  Roadside Attractions picked it up for stateside distribution, the film will next play at the venerable New York Film Festival, and in its Chilean release was the first non-comedy Chilean film in two years that has made top 5 most-seen films for an entire month.

A Wolf at the Door (O Lobo atrás da Porta) Fernando Coimbra, Brazil World Premiere
A child is kidnapped. At the police station, Sylvia and Bernardo, the victim’s parents, and Rosa, the main suspect and Bernardo’s lover, give contradictory evidence which will take audiences to the gloomiest corners of desires, lies, needs and wickedness in the relationship of these three characters. Starring Leandra Leal and Milhem Cortaz.


Bad Hair (Pelo Malo)
Mariana Rondón, Venezuela World Premiere
A nine-year-old boy’s preening obsession with straightening his hair elicits a tidal wave of homophobic panic in his hard-working mother, in this tender but clear-eyed coming-of-age tale. Starring Samantha Castillo and Samuel Lange. Third feature from the filmmaker of Postcards from Leningrad.  Rondon studied cinema in Paris and Cuba’s renowned EICTV film & TV school in San Antonio Los Baños.

Brazilian Western (Faroeste Caboclo) René Sampaio, Brazil Canadian Premiere
João de Santo Cristo is a young boy, who abandons his poor life in the Brazilian outback to try his luck in the capital, Brasília. A story of love, hate, revenge and violence freely inspired by the Brazilian song Faroeste Caboclo by Renato Russo. Starring Fabrício Boliveira and Isis Valverde.

The Summer of Flying Fish (El verano de los peces voladores) Marcela Said, Chile/France North American Premiere
Manena is a very determined teenager, and the darling daughter of Pancho, a rich Chilean landowner who devotes his vacations to a single obsession: the extermination of carp fish that invade his artificial lagoon. As he resorts to more and more extreme methods, Manena experiences her first love, deception, and discovers a world that silently co-exists alongside her own: that of the Mapuche Indian workers who claim access to these lands… and who stand up to her father.

The Militant (El Lugar Del Hijo) Manolo Nieto, Uruguay World Premiere
A university student involved in militant leftist activism is faced with some difficult decisions when his father suddenly dies, leaving him in charge of their troubled ranch and forcing him to take on the role of a middle class landowner.

SPAIN

Witching & Bitching (Las brujas de Zugarramurdi) Alex de la Iglesia, Spain/France World Premiere
Desperate dad José and his friends run from a coven of witches hell-bent on their souls and on the 25,000 wedding rings the guys stole from a Cash-for-Gold shop in a desperate attempt to escape their lives of wife troubles. Witching & Bitching marks the seventh film by cult-favourite Spanish genre specialist Alex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus) to be screened at TIFF

cannibal_01_medium

CANIBAL

Cannibal Manuel Martin Cuenca, Spain / Romania / Russia / France, World Premiere

Carlos is the most prestigious tailor in Granada, but he’s also a murderer in the shadows. He feels no remorse, no guilt, until Nina appears in his life. She will make him realize the true nature of his actions and, for the first time, love awakens. Carlos is evil incarnate. Nina is pure innocence. And Cannibal is a demon’s love story.  Yea this looks awesome.  Check out trailer here.  

Story of My Death Albert Serra, Spain/France North American Premiere
Loosely based on the autobiography of Casanova, the film depicts the journeys of the famous libertine from the joyful, sensual and rationalistic 18th century Europe to his last days where violence, sex and dark romanticism reigned.

"Libertador"The Liberator (Libertador) Alberto Arvelo, Venezuela/Spain World Premiere
The film is an epic adventure based on the incredible life of Simón Bolívar, the 19th-century revolutionary who fueled Latin America’s struggle for independence. Bolívar’s quests and military campaigns covered twice the territory of Alexander the Great. Golden Globe nominee Édgar Ramírez brings to life one of the most influential freedom fighters in history. Also starring María Valverde, Danny Huston, Erich Wildpret, Juana Acosta and Imanol Arias.

People In Places (Gente En Sitios) Juan Cavestany, Spain World Premiere
This kaleidoscopic film weaves together approximately 20 fragmented scenarios that offer a view of contemporary Spain, drawing conclusions about the persistence of the human condition, strangeness, and the chaos within relationships. Starring Raul Arevalo, Eduard Fernandez and Santiago Segura.

The Kids from the Port (Los Chicos del Puerto) Alberto Morais, Spain North American Premiere
In this charming neorealist gem set on the sleepy outskirts of Valencia, young Miguel and his friends undertake a seemingly simple mission on behalf of Miguel’s grandfather that teaches them all a lesson in real independence.

Ignasi M. Ventura Pons, Spain World Premiere

Ignasi M., a world renowned museologist, is living a dramatic moment, but has the capacity to turn any situation into an edifying one and any discomfort into a hilarious series of facts.

The  38th Toronto Film Festival takes place September 5 – 15th, 2013.  To see more of the festival films trailers check out their YouTube channel.

@TIFF_NET

#TIFF13

Facebook.com/TIFF

Morelia Film Festival unveils most impressive Mexican Competition yet

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Designed by Rodrigo Toledo based on Michoacana by Jesús de la Helguera

The 11th edition of the Morelia Film Festival (FICM) which will take place in Morelia, Michoacan October 18-27, announced its raison d’être  Mexican competition of 88 films consisting of 11 narrative features, 23 documentaries, 43 short films and finally 11 films in their Michoacan section, in which for the first time in its 11 years a feature narrative will compete.

Further proof the festival is at the fore of social media muscle and hipness, (FICM boasts the 2nd most followers on Twitter out of all international film festivals, second only to Sundance), FICM organized a Google Hangout to discuss the lineup announcement, forgoing the boring, stuffy press conferences that typically accompany festivals’ film announcements.    You can watch it here.   Festival Director Daniela Michel, Producer & Programmer (and film producer) Daniela Alatorre and Festival Advisor/Soulful spirit (and also a filmmaker) Alejandro Lubezki were onhand looking and sounding their ever poised, smart, warm, enthusiastic, professional selves.  The team underscored their deep appreciation and privilege of getting to know their beautifully rich and profound country via the images and stories of the filmmakers over the course of the festival’s history.  Coining this year’s edition as the “First year of the Second Decade”, Daniela Michel exudes a reinvigorated energy as she and her esteemed partners forge ahead in producing the most renowned, anticipated and beloved film festival in Mexico.

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Founding Festival Director, Daniela Michel

Since the program’s inception in 2007 (the festival did not include a narrative feature competition until four years after the festival launched in 2003), the Official Narrative Competition was exclusive to 1st or 2nd time filmmakers.  This year FICM opened it up, making room for such international superstars as Fernando Eimbcke and Michel Franco.   There are brand spanking new titles yet to premiere anywhere else like Paraiso by Mariana Chenillo, A Los Ojos by Michel Franco, and Manto Acuifero by Michael Rowe.  However, it’s hard to say if they will still be world premieres upon their Mexico bow in October since San Sebastian and Toronto are still unrolling their program selections.

Here’s a closer look at each of the 11 narrative features in competition

jaulaFrom this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard, La Jaula de Oro by Diego Quemada-Diez, a startlingly authentic portrait of Guatemalan migrant youths traveling by “La Bestia, or Beast, what they call the dangerous train on which thousands hitch a ride on at their own peril.  A first feature by the Barcelona born filmmaker who has accumulated a host of experience with varying camera operator credits on Hollywood films and has notably worked with Ken Loach.  The film was called the unglamorous non-Hollywood version of Sin Nombre.

img_15949The Empty Hours/Las Horas Muertas is Aaron Fernandez’s second film after 2007′s Partes Usadas.  It was in San Sebastian’s treasure trove Works in Progress last year and is world premiering in this year’s New Directors competition. Shot in Veracruz, its about a 17 year old who has to caretake his uncle’s motel on a remote stretch of tropical coast.

Last year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard winner and Mexican entry to the Oscars was Despues Lucia by Michel Franco.  Apparently he had been working on A Los Ojos before then and it was actually tipped for this year’s Cannes per IonCinema.  Oaxacan actress Monica Del Carmen who gave a fiercely intense and breakthrough performance in Michael Rowe’s Leap Year stars.  Michel’s sister Vicky Franco co-directs.

64121_176095105896167_1265303641_nThe idiosyncratic titled, Amazing Catfish, Los Insolitos Peces Gatos by Claudia Saint Luce is a first feature and only one of two female directed films (not counting Vicky Franco) out of eleven.  A n unexpectedly heart tugging film about a solitary twentysomething who becomes inadavertently folded into a dysfunctional family household run amok by the single mother’s worsening health, she becomes an indispensable honorary family member which ensues with the typical sibling rivalry.  The film is world premiering at this  year’s Locarno film festival and according to sales agent Pyramide’s website, it will also screen at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival even though it is not announced on TIFF’s website yet.  Claudia is for sure a talent to watch!

mari-pepaSomos Mari Pepa which just had its world premiere at the Guanajuato Film Festival is drawn from the short film, Mari Pepa which endeared audiences all over the world and won Morelia in 2010.  An unassuming, empathetic, immediate yet nostalgic portrait of youth as they finish their last year of high school, having to grapple with the gravity of what to do for the rest of their lives. Another  discovery to look out for as this first feature is certain to launch the talented filmmaker’s career.

5.LaVidaDespues-LIfeAfterLa Vida Despues/Life After is from David Pablos, an alumni from the thriving film school CCC, Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica and he is currently finishing up at Colombia NYC film school.  He co-wrote SKIN a mesmerizing short film which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, directed by Jordana Spiro.  The Life After  which will have its world premiere at the prestigious Venice Film Festival before its FICM premiere, is about two teenage boys who embark on a road trip in search for thier mother who disappears leaving nothing but a mysterious note.  Pablos’ previous film was the 2010 documentary Una Frontera, Todas Las Fronteras which premiered at world’s greatest doc festival IDFA in Amsterdam.  His short film, La Cancion de los Ninos Muertos played the Morelia Film Festival in 2008 and went on to win the Ariel Award in 2010.  You can watch it here

Workers played the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section and was notably in competition at the LA Film Festival by Jose Luis Valle. The film has a tinge of black humor in portraying a maid and a janitor who expect a retirement pension after decades of devoted service, only to take things in their own hands when they get shafted.  Like David Pablos, this is Jose Luis Valle’s first dramatic feature having first made a a documentary feature.  The Salvador born filmmaker who attended the most famous and oldest film school in Mexico city, UNAM’s  Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos (CUEC),  caught the attention of several Mexican festivals with El Milagro de Papa, a documentary he made when he read in the newspaper about a Zacatecas boy whose Leukemia was ‘cured’ by a visit from Pope John Paul II.

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The addition of feature length film Enero by  Adrián González Camargo gives FICM lots of personal pride since for years they’ve made grand efforts to strengthen Michoacan produced films by having a competitive Michoacan film category, resulting in today’s thriving filmmaking scene.  Adrian is not only an alumni and collaborator of the festival but he also run a series of indigenous film screenings in the Michocan area.  He will be attending CSU Northridge on a Fulbright scholarship this year.  The film sounds like a dark, on the run thriller about a man who kills his wife and hits the road with his lover, only to find that their own happiness together might not be their destination after all.

Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 4.42.24 PMFrom Camera d’Or winner for 2011′s Leap Year,  Michael Rowe, the Australian born Mexico based filmmaker is back with his second feature, Manto Acuifero/The Well.  Shot in Puebla.  The film is about an 8 year old girl who longs for her father to return even though her mom has moved in with another man.  A well in the backyard of their house becomes a secret place that inspires her imagination.   The Well is one of two films produced by Canana in this competition.  Rowe has already secured funding for his third film, Rest Home which will be his first film in English

Penumbra – Shot on 16 mm this film premiered at the Rotterdam film festival and is currently making the international festival circuit tour including Edinburgh Film Festival.  Eduardo Villanueva’s previous film was the trippy, wildly intriguing and strikingly shot German/Mexican film Trip To Tulum.

club-sandwich Fernando Eimbcke is back with his third feature.  He made a big splash back in 2004 with his first feature, Duck Season, a jewel discovered in the 2004 Guadalajara Film Festival went on to play Cannes’ Critics Week, won AFI’s grand jury prize and won the Ariel for Best film.  His followup was in 2008 Lake Tahoe, a script developed at the Sundance Institute Screenwriters lab and which film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival where it won the Fipresci Prize.  Club Sandwich is only described as the growing pains relationship between a mother and her teenaged son.  It is set to world premiere in competiton at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

Screen Shot 2013-08-09 at 4.44.01 PMAnd last but certainly not least, I’m super excited for Mariana Chenillo’s sophmore feature, PARAISO.  Chenillo won the Audience Award at FICM 2008 with her beautifully dramatic and humorously pitched film, 5 Days Without Nora. It went on to be a hit at many international festivals and won Best film at the 2010 Ariel Awards (Mexico’s top film honors).  The film is about an overweight couple who move to Mexico City where they immediately feel the social pressure of being overweight surrounded by beautiful people. When they decide to jointly go on a diet, their relationship is put to the test when one of them successfully makes progress while the other continues to struggle. Produced by Canana’s Pablo Cruz.

Below is the list recapped with International Sales Agent info.

*Denotes first feature (Opera Prima)

Sección de Largometraje Mexicano

1. A los ojos. Michel y Victoria Franco
2. Club Sándwich. Fernando Eimbcke  (Funny Balloons)
3. Las horas muertas. Aarón Fernández (Urban Distribution International)
*4. Los insólitos peces gato. Claudia Sainte-Luce  (Pyramide)
*5. La jaula de oro. Diego Quemada-Diez  (Films Boutique)
6. Manto Acuífero. Michael Rowe  (Mundial)
7. Paraíso. Mariana Chenillo   (Mundial)
8. Penumbra. Eduardo Villanueva
*9. Somos Mari Pepa. Samuel Kishi Leopo  (Figa Films)
10. La vida después David Pablos
11. Workers José Luis Valle  (MPM Film)

Not to ignore the bread and butter of the festival, the docs and shorts – I’ll get to them in a later post.  In the meantime, to see the rest of the competition titles click here.

Viva Cine!  Viva @FICM!

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