Films to watch at LALIFF’s Quinceañera

The Quinceañera edition of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival kicks off this Sunday, July 17 and will go through Monday July 24 at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.   I’ll be on the scene focusing on U.S. Latino films.  I’m looking forward to the Saturday July 23 free panel called New Modes and Old of Distribution for Latino Films, moderated by Sydney Levine of Indiewire’s Sydney’s Buzz.   Per the website, panelists include  Lionsgate’s new Latino division, Pantelion, Maya Entertainment (Sleepdealer, Dry Land) and Film Collaborative, an innovative non-profit distributor of niche films.  Let’s see if anyone has any breakthrough thoughts on how to reach the ubiquitious, ill-defined named “Hispanic” market.

Below is my list of films I’ve seen that I really like and highly recommend you come see at the Festival (* denotes first feature)  I definitely include Natalia Almada’s documentary, El Velador as a must see.  Check out my interview with her.  Click  here for film schedule.

Capsulas (Guatemala)  directed and written by Veronica Reidel – Flawed, but a powerful and fresh female voice sizzling with such unbridled intensity, about a mother and her son who live smack middle in the upper-class elite contending with the drug-fueled violence in Guatemala.

*Gun Hill Road directed and written by Rashaad Ernesto Green –  Silverfox oozing-machismo Esai Morales may take top billing but the explosive star wattage comes from super fierce newcomer Harmony Santana.

*A Tiro de Piedra  (Mexico) directed and written by young multi-talent, Sebastian Hiriart. A gorgeously shot and mystical odyssey that stands out from the usual border-crossing stories.

*Octubre (Peru)  directed and written by Daniel and Diego De La Vega.  Strikingly formal brushes inhabit this tale about an emotionally dry pawnbroker whose thrown for a loop with a surprise during a holy season known for miracles.

*All She Can directed by Amy Wendel and co-written with Daniel Meisel – Premiered at this year’s Sundance U.S. Dramatic Competition under its former title Benavides Born.  A window into the interesting and rarely seen Texan -Mexican-American world, through the eyes of an empowered teen.

La Vida Util (Uruguay) directed and written by Federico Veiroj – second feature from the filmmaker of 2008’s AFI Grand Jury Prize winner Acne.  His follow up is in black and white and about an awkward soul who hides behind his job as a classic film archivist and programmer.  For hard core film geeks everywhere.

Chico y Rita (Spain) directed by Fernando Trueba – A crowd pleaser – an enormously satisfying and romantic animated romp about a Cuban jazz player featuring the best jazz music from the 40s through today, including endearing characterizations of jazz icons like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie among others.  One of my discoveries at last year’s Telluride.

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