8 Movies Made by Latinos to Watch Out for in 2018

Here’s the inside scoop on some cool upcoming indie films written and directed by U.S. Latinos. Thanks to the long holiday weekend and Black Panther for inspiration I finally put together this hot list.  For more context read my rant about why American Latinos haven’t gotten their Black Panther moment.

All of these films are brand spanking new feature-length fiction films. Some may still be in post and some have yet to premiere at a film festival.  Check it out.

iGILBERT written and directed by Adrian Martinez

Adrian with his actors Dascha Polanco and Raul Castillo

Comedy character actor Adrian Martinez wrote, directed and stars in this touching drama about an overweight and extremely shy man pushing 40 who still lives with his mom in the Harlem brownstone building she owns.  Gilbert struggles with low self esteem which prevents him from having any real friends let alone a romantic relationship.  He is more comfortable and slightly obsessed with sneaking pictures and videos of women on his iPhone.  When Gilbert notices one of his tenants and secret crush, an aspiring dancer played by Orange is the New Black’s Dasha Polanco, having to deal with an abusive boyfriend, Gilbert starts to come out of his shell and show his mom and those around him the man he really is. Echoing the unlikely heroes of Charlie Kaufman or PT Anderson films, iGilbert is a better late than never coming of age, and nuanced portrayal of a man who struggles to be seen.

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Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 12.38.29 AMAMALIA written and directed by Omar Rodriguez Lopez

Who knows how many films Omar and his producer Adam Thomson have churned out in the last ten years.  The Sentimental Engine Slayer bowed at Tribeca in 2010 which was followed by Los Chidos which premiered at SXSW in 2012.  But even before and certainly after these films the ORL gang regularly gets together to make guerilla style films. The prolific music artist always has a lot to say in them, and now he has refined his skills as storyteller and director with this latest spell binding film called Amalia. First of all, the film is led by the absolutely mesmerizing Denise Dorado whose face dominates and hypnotizes onscreen. Amalia is the story of a woman who has recently lost her mother and is trying to manage her  grief when she learns that her partner has been having an affair. His mysterious death only days later sends her into a spiraling obsession with his mistress.  All the while on this quest for answers, whispers and bizarre sightings start to bleed into her scrappy existence, luring her to an alternate reality that may or may not hold the answers.Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 12.40.42 AM

PERFECT written and directed by Eddie Alcazar


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About to make its world premiere at SXSW, and executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, Eddie Alcazar’s first feature length fiction film is visually bold and enigmatic.  Eddie recently produced the acid trip that was Kuso directed by Flying Lotus.  Per the SXSW description: Perfect is about a young man with a violent past who enters a mysterious clinic where the patients wildly transform their bodies and minds using genetic engineering. A boy in a cold and stark modern house, in a vaguely science fictional world, is seduced by advertisements of perfection to install implantable characteristics directly into his body. The implants heal his dark, twisted visions, but come with a corporeal cost. He persists on applying them, hoping to reach perfection, but ultimately he discovers that purity of mind is not exactly as he’s imagined.

Eddie’s documentary feature Tapia continues to haunt me for how it cinematically portrayed the story of ABQ boxer Johnny Tapia and that was like 2012.  For a taste of his auteur cinematic vibes, you can watch his short film below.

EVERYTHING IS FREE written and directed by Brian Jordan Alvarez

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Following up his hilarious web series The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, actor and creator Brian Jordan Alvarez wrote and directed his first feature length film this year.  The film is being called ‘a psychosexual beach comedy. ‘

Included in Variety’s Comics to Watch in 2017, Brian does not hold back on the super sex-charged lunacy and heightened emotions of obsession, jealousy and utter confusion that swell when you mix young and naive gay and not-so-gay girls and boys together.  This theme running through his work is what makes it so fun and addicting to watch. That and the super improv like feel of his and his actors’ performances.

MONSTERS AND MEN written and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green

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This is Reinaldo’s first feature film for which he won a Special Jury Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.  Neon picked up the film for distribution and will be releasing the film sometime this year.   Anthony Ramos stars as Manny one of three young men affected by a police shooting in this Brooklyn set drama.  The film wisely eschews what could have easily been melodrama.  Grounded in realism through and through, the film’s most unforgettable moment comes near the end when time seems to slow down, as if drawing a deep exhale, which captures how suddenly life can become surreal.   This feature could have easily been a superb limited television series it’s so rich and complex with storylines.  Very excited to see what he directs next as he is somebody who can cohesively tell an epic kind of drama robust in multiperspectives.

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DUCK BUTTER written and directed by Miguel Arteta

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 9.45.54 PMMiguel hasn’t directed a feature he’s written since his first film, Star Maps back in 1997.  He co-writes Duck Butter with Search Party TV star and indie darling Alia Shawkat.  Shot in 9 days and called an experimental comedy, Alia has described it about two girls who meet and decide to spend 24 hours together, and they have to have an orgasm every hour.  Really excited about this one!



**** The next couple filmmakers were not born in the U.S. but their voices and experiences have been significantly shaped within the U.S.

ALL ABOUT NINA written and directed by Eva Vives.

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Barcelena born Eva Vives co-wrote Raising Victor Vargas in 2002 with Peter Sollett as their thesis film.  After writing and directing a couple shorts herself including Join the Club which played at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, Eva applied and got into the Sundance Screenwriting lab with the project then called Nina. She later joined forces with rising producer Natalie Qasabian, a producer who got to hone her producing chops with the Duplass Bros Rainbow Time and is now killing it on her own having recently produced the online thriller Search directed by Aneesh Chaganty which won the Audience Award in the Next Category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and Miguel Arteta’s upcoming Duck Butter.  The amazing Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Nina, a comic standup who impulsively decides to move out to LA only to confront the deep seated trauma she can’t run away from, and ultimately reckon with how to find success and truth in her creative self expression.

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I think of a Nora Ephron when I think of Eva’s knack of being funny, relatable and heart-breakingly real.  This is a film that should pop up later this year.  Watch her short film below.

BLINDSPOTTING directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada

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The director busting out a cameo in Blindspotting

You may have already heard about the film that was co-written and stars Hamilton Star Daveed Diggs.  It opened the U.S. Dramatic Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It is one of a handful of films like Monsters and Men which went into the festival without distribution and came out with a major distribution release.  Lionsgate has picked up the film and announced a June release!

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 1.10.55 AMCarlos was born in Mexico and moved to the states as a teen before enrolling at Chapman University for film school.  Influenced primarily by the music videos he grew up watching here, he ended up directing many award winning videos including a majority for Daveed’s band Clipping.  2016 was the year he made the leap into more narrative long form.  First, directing the digital series High and Mighty for Warner Bros Digital Network Stage 13, and then directing this indie feature Blindspotting.

Carlos has an eye for a gritty hyper realism, an inventive flair and dynamic visual aesthetic that elevates the humor and resonant drama of both Blindspotting and High and Mighty.  Like Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Eddie Alcazar on this list, I would die to see him direct a big genre film to unlock his creative prowess at the highest level of the game.

#LAFF2013 Tapia – The Indomitable Spirit & Legacy of Johnny Tapia

TapiaPoster-thumb-300xauto-33284The brief and tumultuous life of prizefighter Johnny Tapia, who passed away last year at the age of 45, elicits overwhelming empathy and incredible awe.  The documentary directed by Eddie Alcazar, intimately reveals the immense emotional agony and pain he suffered in his life but also shows that for the series of extreme, rock bottom lows of misfortune, Johnny always jumped back up to reach equally extreme heights of success and triumph, like winning five boxing championships, meeting the love of his life, Teresa Tapia, with whom he has a young son, and becoming a beloved hero to his hometown Albuquerque, as well as around the world.  Johnny grew up without a father, and his mother was the world to him.  At the tender age of 8, his mother was viciously murdered – a traumatic catalyst for what became the pang of his tortured existence. The documentary, which is world premiering in competition at the Los Angeles Film Festival, is powerfully narrated through Johnny’s own words.  Alcazar adds a touch of style and a gorgeous cinematic framework.  The film opens with Johnny’s slightly raspy Burqueño slanged voice over young Johnny Jr. punching the air in the New Mexico desert plains and celestial horizon captured in wide panoramic vista at the magic hour, painting a metaphysical element to the legacy he leaves.

Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 12.08.11 PMEddie was working on a dramatic feature about Johnny but after he passed, Eddie took the research footage and made it into this documentary film.  The dramatic feature, which he is co-writing with Bettina Gilois, (Glory Days, The Hurricane) who co-wrote Johnny’s biography, Mi Vida Loca is readying for a fall shoot in Albuquerque.   50 Cent is an executive producer on the documentary and is also onboard for the dramatic version.

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Teresa & Johnny Jr. at the world premiere screening

The documentary is gripping and utterly poignant. Hearing his inner, unwavering fury takes on a dark possession.  His voice and soul feel weary but he is unrelenting against the demons he waged battle with every single day of his life.   Seeing him from his early days rising up through the boxing world first as the “Baby-faced Assassin” to his later years as the lines of anguish take over his face and his body becomes heavily drawn with symbolic tattoos, his killer instinct clashing with his vulnerability. At the world premiere screening, his wife Teresa and son, Johnny Jr. came out to introduce the film but did not return after the screening, as much as everyone wanted to see them.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that it was too overwhelming for them and Eddie declined to do a Q&A out of respect, feeling that what’s important in the doc is Johnny, and Teresa is the only person who could talk about and for him. He told me that a couple days later when I got the opportunity to interview him.  I learned the ABQ native has some Bolivian lineage and found out more about both Tapia films.  Here’s a redacted transcription of our talk:

How did you know Johnny, how far did you too go back?

I never actually met him until I knew I wanted to do a movie two years ago.  Back then it was about creating the narrative version of his life so I sold him on my idea of doing one year of his life in his youth and he was totally up for it.  Then I got the rights and we basically just started following him around at that point. As I was following him around I was writing the script.  It was all about research and compiling all this archival footage.

Relating to him.

A lot of it is because he embodies the Albuquerque culture, which is a little bit different. Having somebody that stands out from ABQ is always kind of special and he definitely kept it real from his upbringing so I think that’s why everybody in ABQ has that strong connection with him and each other.  It’s distinct.  The community always looked up to Johnny. There is no professional football or baseball team and he was one of the first professional athletes who came out of that area.  More than seven thousand people came out to his funeral.

Kick ass image by Sam Flores.

How did you manage to contrast the darkness of his life with all the other light and positivity he also experienced?

It was tough, which was I never intended to do the documentary. I wanted to concentrate on one year of his life because there is so much to his whole life, and it was a really really hard process confining everything that he’s been through so I was experimenting and discovering it as I went.  Bu there are as many highs as there is lows and his life in particular is filled with many from each side of the spectrum.  As far as my experience with him I never saw too much of the dark side other than when I interviewed him.  I mean personally it was just fun, just me and him playing around.  He was always active, jumping on the trampoline, playing ping pong, when we’d go out to eat he’d shake everybody’s hand. He really couldn’t stay in one place for too long.

Doc vs narrative, what do you intend to do with the dramatic feature you weren’t able to do with the documentary

filmThe documentary was about trying to hone in on what he said and having him say it directly to the audience. I didn’t want to interrupt anything too much.  We did a little bit of stylistic stuff intertwined to show a little bit of the spiritual side, you know like his connection to his son, and his connection to nature. But I wanted to keep it pretty loose on that, only scratching the surface of what I’m going to do in the feature. The feature is going to definitely be a little dreamy and spiritual.  When I say spiritual, there’s this thing that I recognized when I would talk to Johnny, I was always trying to pin point how his mind works – and he feels like his mother is right next to him.  So that plays a large role in the actual film; the presence of his mother, always around and also that connection with his youth.  In the feature as its written now we pop back and forth in his life from Johnny at 27 years old, and when he was 8 years old when he lost his mother. Its always trying to establish the connection of where he finds all this anger but also power, passion and energy that was super important to have. That drives every action in his life, I think, from that point forward, and I’ve had conversations with people who agree he became stunted at that age.  He still felt like an 8 year old when I’d talk to him, he had a child like spirit, insight.  He was not that formally educated, he was street smart, he improvised with whatever was around him.  He had that excitement, wonder and would be happy to see someone looking to give him love, and made people happy.  He was always surprised at any good news.

In a way its hard to imagine him as anything but a boxer, literally pounding and fighting his demons…

He was really hyper, boxing was a natural thing for him, it was a natural release of energy, it was actually perfect, getting into the ring, always training is what kept him alive.  It’s hard to think of him as anything else, maybe some other kind of athlete.

Curtis Jackson at the second screening; “It was so interesting to see someone, 3 weeks before they actually passed, reflect on their entire life.”

How did 50 Cent come on board?

It all came through Lou DiBella, (executive producer) the boxing promoter and tv/film producer.  When we finished the film we started showing a handful of people to get people’s thoughts on it.  Lou was actually head of the HBO sports division who helped put together the infamous Johnny Tapia/Danny Romero fight back in the day so he had that connection. He showed the movie to 50 cent with who he has a partnership… 50 felt all these similar things and really connected with what Johnny went through (they both suffered the loss of their mother around the same age).  Also he grew up in similar crazy circumstances.  Its weird how you connect the dots….

Tell me about your producer Andrea Monier

Yes, Andrea Monier has been pivotal. We are friends, she’s also an actress but an amazing producer.  We worked on an Everlast spot first and she did an amazing job.  To do a documentary you have to have a super strong producer because there is a lot of work like archiving footage, etc. I couldn’t have done it without her.

And this amazing artwork by Akira Beard

Describe the driving creative process in writing the narrative

(Losing his mother)  that’s the biggest thing.  All his issues stem from that; drugs, psychological conditions, we explore a lot of him meeting and falling in love with Teresa.  It’s a big part of the film; the love story, but then that also connects to the mother. There’s a lot of similarities between Teresa and his mother as far as the expectations Johnny had, he almost felt like Teresa was his mother, she replaced her in a way.Feeling like a baby with your mother, a lot of the treatment you get from your mother at that age.  I come from a single parent as well and it helped me a lot to realize how much Johnny valued his mother.  Like, I don’t’ know where I would be without my mother, those thoughts always trickled through my head.   Johnny was super proud to have Teresa next to him as his woman.  I don’t think he ever constricted her in any way.  She was more the person who kept him in place, she was the one who handled the business and dealt with the promoters and he looked up to her in terms of what direction to take. He trusted her opinion above all.

What do you think she saw in him?

She likes to joke that she was young and stupid but I know there’s a lot more to it.  She has all the traits that he may have needed help on, and likewise, he showed her the excitement, spontaneity that she was looking for in life, and that quality of never expecting or knowing where the day is going to go was interesting and that’s what she gravitated to.

It must have been hard to watch him fight all the time

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Eddie Alcazar

Well, the professional aspect is almost better than the day to day reality in ABQ.  There are worse street fights, guns involved.  Every time I’d go to a party there were gunshots. I wanted to show this world that is not familiar, Breaking Bad does it a little bit but its not as dark or raw as it really is.  (ABQ) is a beautiful place but it’s a weird thing; there’s this subculture, an underbelly. It has a big native American population, Spaniards, Mexicans, I don’t know what leads to so much conflict but maybe the biggest thing I can relate to is there’s not too much to do. So people just …they are bored and act crazy sometimes.

Big thanks to Eddie for the interview. LA folks I urge you to go see Tapia tomorrow night, Saturday at 9:50pm at the Regal at LA Live.  Get tickets here.  Details on the big ABQ screening forthcoming.  Also be sure to queue it up on GoWatchit and like it on Facebook to support it and to get updates on where it lands with its theatrical/television/VOD release.

WTF is Latino at the 2013 LA Film Festival?

The summertime, downtown set, glitzy yet ‘cashz’ LA Film Festival, presented by Film Independent has announced their film lineup today.  The verdict on the Latino rep?  Compared to the last three festivals I’ve examined this year, Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca, LA Film Festival comes through with arguably the most valuable representation; there are three films representing American Latino in the narrative competition and one in documentary competition.

736490_402811483141484_1993639310_oThe lineup consists of a handful of new American indies mixed in with many favorited international films from last year’s Toronto, Venice, London and Berlin film festivals, and seven Sundance films screening out of competition including Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, which won both the Audience and Jury Awards in Park City.  Starring Boricua Melonie Diaz as Oakland police murder victim Oscar Grant’s girlfriend, Fruitvale will be given the gala treatment (like last year’s Sundance awarded, Black film, Middle of Nowhere), alongside the direct-from-Cannes, Only God Forgives, the reteaming of director Nicolas Winding Refyn and GQ sensitive alpha hero Ryan Gosling (Drive).

But I’m not here to comb and recycle through the ‘high profile’ films that come armed with buzz. As always I’m spotlighting U.S. films in which the writer/director/cast are native born whose ethnic/cultural roots originates from the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, Central or South America.  In addition, films by filmmakers who may not be Latino, but whose narratives explore and relate to the relevant bi-cultural experience/subjects.  And finally I also like to mention the Latin films (international).

While I’m happy to acknowledge and give it up for LA, it’s still painful for this blogger/programmer to know there are so many more fresh American Latino films out there ready to be discovered.  Game-changing films offering such fresh and original perspectives, which have by and large been dismissed by most of the major US Film Festivals.  With the futures of the two highest profile Latino niche festivals in limbo, The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and HBO’s NY International Latino Film Festival, it’s especially crushing to know that these films might also be robbed of their only community platform.  It’s cause for alarm and high time to address this void.  But wait, lets save that for another post. For now, lets get back to the Latino stories coming at you at this year’s LA Film Festival.   For official synopsis and pics check the Film Guide here.

NARRATIVE COMPETITION – Notably 9 of the 12 are US, hopefully giving the scrappy indies a better chance to compete and win the cash prize against the healthy subsidized production value of foreign movies.  Five are first features and only one female narrative director.

40 YEARS FROM YESTERDAY written and directed by Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck and Robert Machoian

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 12.06.58 PMThis is the first feature from the writing/directing team who got a lot of attention with their 2010 short Charlie and The Rabbit.  Ojeda-Beck (whose parents are from Peru) and Machoian who is from the heavily Mexican populated King City, met at Cal State, Monterey Bay where they forged a tight artistic collaboration. Forty Years from Yesterday is described as Machoian’s imagination of how his mother’s death would unfold for his own family, capturing the loss his siblings would feel in losing a parent and his father’s pain in facing the death of his partner.

The duo have their way with documentary, fiction and experimental form, instilling an aura of temporality in an anchored realism.  This unique evocative alchemy is found in Machoian’s doc short, Movies Made from Home #16, a 4 minute existential moment which screened at Sundance this year. The cosmic life themes they tend to broach are treated in such a down to earth and sensitive way, which is further made relatable by the natural non-pro performances they employ.  Robert’s father, Bill Graham has starred in a few of his films and in Forty Years from Yesterday, both Robert’s parents and siblings play themselves. See this endearing behind the scenes clip of the making of the film:

THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT written by Joseph B. Vasquez and directed by Henry Barrial

Written by the late Joseph B. Vasquez (d 1995) whose 1991 movie, Hanging with the Homeboys, was a groundbreaking urban comedy when it came out, now very much a classic, albeit sadly forgotten gem.  The only one of Vasquez’s five movies that was distributed (by New Line), Hanging with the Homeboys was shot in the South Bronx where he was born and raised.  About four homeys, two Puerto Rican (one of them played by a baby-faced Johnny Leguizamo) and two Black, the movie, available on dvd from Amazon (or, I found it in 6 parts on Youtube) screened at the Sundance Film Festival at its indie darling peak. Its good-natured humor is derived from neighborhood beefs, trying to rap to ladies, and the racial tensions of the day delivered with unapologetic commentary.  A slice of barrio life, the film is clearly an early influence for the Ice Cube Friday series.

Jack & Lilly Wedding - GRDThe House that Jack Built similarly has that raw and authentic Nuyorican energy but pushed into a rollercoaster of a dysfunctional family drama with warmth, affection and intensity.  The director, born from Cuban parents and raised in Washington Heights, Henry Barrial, is also an alumni of Sundance (Somebody 2001).  The film stars E.J. Bonilla as the hot-blooded self-imposed king of his family who buys an apartment building to keep his family close, only to start dictating everybody’s life since he’s letting them live rent free.   Bonilla is a fiercely charismatic up and coming actor who has been turning heads  in the indie world.  This is his third consecutive time at the festival (Four, Mamitas) and he was in Don’t Let Me Drown (Sundance 2009).  An uproarious and high-edged Harlem set chamber piece, the heavy conflict of gravity that besets Jack is from being pulled in opposite directions by his street values on one side and deeply rooted family values on the other.  See the trailer on their Kickstarter page.



MY SISTER’S QUINCEANERA written and directed by Aaron Douglas Johnston

This was reportedly one of the most talked about American films in the experimental leaning Rotterdam Film Festival this year.  The filmmaker who was born and raised in Iowa, Aaron Douglas Johnston, has an impressive academic pedigree having attended world prestigious universities, Oxford and Yale.  His first feature, the small town, gay life set, Bumblefuck, USA screened at Outfest 2011.  In My Sister’s Quinceanera, he uses the local Mexican-American Iowa residents as his non-pro actors with whom he collaborated with on the story.  It’s a gentle and earnest portrayal of a young man named Silas who is convinced he has to leave town to become independent and start his life but must first see his sister’s Quinceanera take place.

WORKERS written and directed by Jose Luis Valle  (Mexico/Germany)  – A quietly simmering artful drama about a retiring factory worker and housemaid in Tijuana circumstantially reunited and trying to compensate for their spent lives.  An accomplished and arresting feature debut, the film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section and won Best Mexican Film at the Guadalajara film Festival.  A full investment into the contemplative tone and rhythm yields an appreciation for the film’s visceral and dry humor undertones.  Born in El Salvador, Jose Luis Valle previously made a documentary short called Milagro del Papa.

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION:  7 out 10 are US, 4 first features, six female directors (incl. 2 co-directors)

tapia_1520167aTAPIA directed by Eddie Alcazar

The 5 time world boxing champion and emotionally damaged blue-eyed Chicano from the 505, Johnny Lee Tapia, survived a series of near deaths before his turbulent life ended at the young age of 45 last year. The sheer volume of tragedy and coping afflictions Johnny endured in his Vida Loca, as he openly shares in his autobiography, includes the scarring experience of seeing his mother’s kidnapping and violent murder at the tender age of eight.  Tapia funneled this heartbreaking formative incident and many other painfully grueling experiences to fuel a successful professional boxing career.  Tapia’s confrontation to such tumult is so impressive, it’s no wonder that former EA video game designer Eddie Alcazar decided to both dramatize and document his harrowing real life story.  Originally announced as a biopic, subsequently the documentary was born of it, in which Eddie captures final interviews and archival footage with the haunted boxer.   This is actually the first feature out of the gate for filmmaker Eddie Alcazar whose radical sci-fi film 0000 has been curiously tracked as in production for a couple years now and the ambitious looking trailer only piqued mad interest.  Watching the clip below of Johnny, there is a poignant sadness yet slight zeal and spirit, however low key and worn, that emanates from the towering rumble of his battered lifetime – unquestionably his refusal to be knocked out.

PURGATORIO directed by Rodrigo Reyes (Mexico) – An elegiac and cinematically shot poem filled with emotional narration and iconography, this border film is told by way of a tapestry of stories that culminates into a strong cry for human compassion. Imagining the border as if purgatory, where migrants must suffer in order to get through to the other side, the dangerous plight in crossing the US/Mexico border is viewed outside political context but rather a metaphysical prism.  This is the fourth film from Reyes, a talented young documentarian from Mexico.


Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 9.58.48 AMEUROPA REPORT directed by Sebastian Cordero and written by Philip Gelatt – From award winning Ecuador born filmmaker Sebastian Cordero (Rabia, Cronicas, Pescador) Europa Report marks his first film in English. Somewhat shrouded in mystery, the story is written by Philip Gelatt, an adult comic book author, and is set aboard the first manned mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. The genre bending sounding sci-fi thriller was recently picked up by Magnolia’s Magnet division and will go straight to VOD on June 27 after its LA Film Festival premiere. Cordero, who is a UCLA grad, has a well-controlled gritty realism to his aesthetic, which might inhabit and distinguish this deep space thriller among the genre’s canon.

CRYSTAL FAIRY written and directed by Sebastian Silva (Chile) – From the crafty young Chilean filmmaker whose first first film, The Maid put him on the international map, this is one of two films he screened at Sundance this year.  A road trip of self-discovery featuring the charming free spirited Gaby Hoffman pitted against a smarmy American tourist Michael Cera in the long and vast Chilean coast side, the film explores their unusual and fluid character dynamic and opposing auras.

THE WOMEN AND THE PASSENGER directed by Valentina Mac-Pherson, Patricia Correra (Chile) – A 45 minute version of this screened at the prestigious documentary film festival in Amsterdam IDFA.  An unobtrusive camera follows four maids as they clean the rooms of one of those clandestine by-the-hour motels.  Amid the moans behind doors and bed aftermaths of torrid love affairs, the women reveal their own perspectives about life, love and sex in some kind of visual love letter to the special place.   I don’t believe the title is translated to interpret its full meaning, its more like, “The Transients’ women”.


I WAS BORN IN MEXICO BUT…. written and directed by Corey OHama – 12min (US) – Per the IMDB description, “using found footage to tell the story of an undocumented young woman who grew up thinking she was American, only to find out as a teenager that she didn’t have papers because she was brought to the U.S. as a young child. “  Sounds like the thousands of Dreamers plights whose stories are being suppressed.

MISTERIO written and directed by Chema Garcia Ibarra (Spain) 12min – So even though this is from Spain (not the Americas),  I mention it if because I’m a huge fan of Chema’s shorts, Protoparticles  and The Attack of the Robots from Nebula-5.   I have no doubt this will share that similar strange, whimsical vibe.

 AL LADO DE NORMA written and directed by Camila Luna, Gabriela Maturana 14min (Chile) – 49 year-old Jorge is a silent, tired man, whose life seems to revolve around Norma, his elderly mother who has Alzheimer’s. But Antonio, who rents a small room in their home, will provide him with the chance to examine himself and question his monotonous life, which might just make for a radical change.

PAPEL PICADO – written and directed by Javier Barboza – From a 2007 Cal Arts Alumnus, and independent animation teacher and filmmaker, this looks wild!  Check out his vimeo works here.

SAINT JOHN, THE LONGEST NIGHT, written and directed by Claudia Huaiquimilla (Chile) 18 min – The filmmaker is of the indigenous Mapuche tribe of Southern Chile.  Set amid the happy Saints celebration of June 24, a young boy must wrestle with the reappearance of his violent father.

TOO MUCH WATER (DEMASIADA AGUA) written and directed by Nicolas Botana, Gonzalo Torrens (Uruguay)  14 min – A young woman fills her backyard pool every night and finds it empty in the morning. Strange neighbors and even stranger circumstances stir her paranoia.

kid-cudiLastly, I have to mention dance beat rapper Kid Cudi’s feature film acting debut in GOODBYE WORLD directed by Denis Hennelly (Rock the Bells doc about Wu Tang Clan) and written by Sarah Adina Smith.   Essentially, the film is about a group of friends hanging out when some kind of apocalypse hits.  Hijinks ensue. (There’s a trend here after It’s A Disaster and the upcoming “look-we’re-so-cool-we-play-ourselves celeb cast partying of This is The End).  Although he’s one of seven players, including Adrian Grenier, Mark Webber and Gaby Hoffman, it is one a few films Kid Cudi is in that are coming through the pipeline.  Born Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi in Cleveland Ohio, he is a beautiful brown mestizo blend of African American on his mother’s side and Native/Mexican mix on his father’s side.

The LA Film Festival kicks off with Pedro Almodovar’s, I’m So Excited on June 13 and runs until the 23.  Tickets and info here.