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.
My 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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.