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.

 

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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.

INTERNATIONAL SHOWCASE

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”.

SHORTS

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.

Spring Film Festival fever – Muchos Festivales!

With no less than four reputable Latino Film Festivals and three mainstream festivals coming up this spring in the states, my dance card is filling up quick, and I’m excited to survey inside and outside the so-called niche of Latino film programming.

35cinefestivalFirst up, CineFestival (where yours truly is proud to be a Programmer).  Put on by San Antonio’s vibrant Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, it is notably the longest running Chicano and indigenous film festival (35 years).  Taking place from February 23 – Mar. 2, the festival’s Opening night film is Mission Park a suspenseful street crime drama about a group of childhood friends whose different paths pit them against each other, directed by Bryan Ramirez and produced by Douglas Spain. The closing night film is Filly Brown, still going strong since its Sundance premiere last year but now seeking a new distributor due to Indomina, which picked it up last year, closing up shop.   Both screenings will be accompanied by the filmmakers and cast.  In between there will be a whole week of shorts and docs including the lyrical and fierce LGBT performance club doc Wildness by Wu Tsang which hasn’t been seen much outside of Outfest and last year’s SXSW, Carlos Avila’s Tales of Masked Men, a look inside Lucha Libre, and my favorite local Texas highschool shorts showcase.  See the recently announced lineup here.  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates and look out for a couple exciting additional program announcements next week.

MIFF-30Right behind CineFestival in date and age is the Miami International Film Festival, celebrating its 30th anniversary this Mar. 1 – 10.  Produced and presented by Miami Dade College, it is the biggest and strongest film festival for Latino programming in the nation.  The word Latino is not included in their name, yet almost half of its programming is Latino (by my count 51/117 features). I love that.

Just a few of the gems from Central and South America the festival will be screening include 7 Boxes by Juan Carlos Maneglia & Tana Schémbori (Paraguay), Polvo by Julio Hernandez Cordon (Guatemala).  In the impressive Opera Prima competition there is Edificio Royal by Ivan Wild (Columbia/Venezuela), Molasses by Carlos Diaz Lechuga (Panama) and No Autumn, No Spring by Ivan Mora (Ecuador).

Among the brand new US Latino features world premiering; Eenie Meenie Miney Moe by Jokes Yanes, Calloused Hands by Jesse Quinones, Sanitarium, a horror tri-vignette by Bryan Ramirez, Kerry Valderrama and Bryan Ortiz, and The Boy who Smells like Fish, a first feature by Analeine Cal y Mayor.

By far, Miami leads the pack in programming such a diverse and fresh Latino presence. Miami is la bomba!

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San Diego Latino Film Festival which is celebrating its 20th anniversary takes place Mar. 8 -18, pretty much overlapping with the monstrous South by Southwest Film Mar 8-17.  I profiled SXSW Latino element here.  The feature film lineup for San Diego has also recently been announced.  Check this to see the list of classic and tribute narrative feature screenings (Almodovar, Rodriguez and Innaritu) along with recurring American Latino film fest favorites, Aqui y Alla, The Girl, Filly Brown, Mission Park, along with two films that clearly look and sound like “Hispanic marketed films”,  Tio Papi and Tony Tango.

chicago-latino-film-festival-feature

In April we got my hometown representing, The Chicago Latino Film Festival (April 11-25) which has historically been more of a showcase-y festival screening a number of films from South America. Although they have not announced, I’ll take it as a hint that Delusions of Grandeur is playing there as they uploaded the Chicago Latino Film Festival poster on their Facebook page.  I hope so because I really dig this quirky, set in San Francisco film written and directed by Iris Alamaraz and Gustavo Ramos about a frenzied young grunge Chicana’s journey to be independent.  The film made its world premiere at the NY International Latino Film Festival last summer.

2013-CLAIFF_Call-For-Entries-top

Back to Austin from April 16-21, the 16th Cine Las Americas International Film Festival, a really excellent year round programmed non-profit which screens at the ubiquitous Alamo Drafthouse, is thankfully there to pick up the slack in supporting the Latin roots and diversity in Texas country as well as the unique bi-culture shown in their highlighted program, Hecho en Tejas section.

And last but certainly not least we got the big apple, Tribeca Film Festival taking place April 17-28.  They usually announce in early March.  Babygirl and The Girl both screening at this year’s San Diego Latino Film Festival premiered here last year.  Babygirl is a film by an Irish filmmaker, Macdara Varelly who tells quite the racy story of a mother and daughter after same guy.  The street cred is infused by the two leads who play the Nuyoricans in the Bronx. The single mother is played by Rosa Arredondo and precariously sexually blossoming teen played by unknown Yainis Ynoa who surprises in her very first acting role.  I don’t think it received half the attention it deserved.  Meanwhile, The Girl, directed by David Riiker (co-writer of Sleep Dealer) stars Abbie Cornish in a ‘subverse’ tale as an American woman who crosses the border going south to pursue her dreams.

I plan to cover as much as I can with an eye towards monitoring the tendencies and differences of the Latino Film Festival circuit versus mainstream.  Being familiar with most of the brand spanking new American Latino films out there looking for a home and audiences to connect with, I will be tracking closely throughout the year which festivals are committed to carving out a space for discovering American Latino filmmakers and stories.  All my recon will be shared here on my blog, so ojos people!

TOP 5 AMERICAN LATINO FILMS OF 2012

Elliot and his MaFrom Elliot Loves
Elliot and his Ma
From Elliot Loves

I recently contributed to a Top 5 Latino Films of 2012 on Indiewire’s Latinobuzz blog.  Among the Programmers’ picks were films from Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Cuba and Peru, alongside U.S. films like Filly Brown.  In fact, when asked for my list, I thought I needed to make a statement by pointing out I picked all “American” Latino films. The exercise indicated once again a lot of us are not on the same page when it comes to the definition of the term “Latino”.   As filmmaker, Alex Rivera (Sleep Dealer) commented on the post, “It’s important to have a term that describes the diaspora community here in the U.S.  Latinos in the U.S. face very different challenges and opportunities than Latin Americans…..in terms of tracking what’s happening in film, we need this distinction, the way there’s a very clear distinction between African Cinema and African-American Cinema.

I couldn’t agree more.  Even if it still makes for a fairly broad category to band together the vastly different and culturally rich spectrum of “Latin roots,” at least the unifying reference that can serve as glue or a constant, and help level and monitor the landscape within the context of film, is the social/political experience of life in The United States.  It’s these vibrant and unique bi-cultural stories and voices that must be shepherded through the bottleneck gates towards distribution.  More so because these groups are largely under-represented or marginalized in the main arteries of film distribution channels.  With a growing number of new alternative models of distribution available and the power of the audience/consumer, now more than ever, we can demand our content.

So with that, let’s take a closer look at my Top 5 American Latino Films of 2012 – all of which compellingly portray singular, rarely-represented walks of life and perspectives – and in each case the filmmaker’s personal and distinct multi-cultural makeup adds to the film’s alchemy.  Every film on this list has bowed at film festivals and only two of them have had a very limited theatrical run. In a sense, these films have been born but now its time to help these babies walk and talk. There’s no better way than today’s word of mouth: the social media. Please click on the films’ links to follow and interact with the film’s life and if you dig it, be proactive and support these films to help them reach their audience.

A ver ~

Love_Concord_poster5.  Love, Concord  -written and directed by Gustavo Guardado, Jr. (1st generation Salvadoran-American from Concord, California, where most of the film was shot).

Festivals: NY Latino International Film Festival (world premiere) and stay tuned for future festivals this Spring 2013.

Why it stands out:  Of all the films on this list this might have the biggest commercial potential because of the broad appeal of the classic, wholesome high school coming of ager comedy genre.  Filmmaker Guardado, Jr., who is a video teacher at Heritage High School by day, injects a modern, refreshing representation and empathetic, teen authenticity to the formula.  For far too long this type of movie has been domineered by slender-shaped Anglo protagonists with your token black/brown/gay supporting characters. And while it is awesome to see brown leads; curvy, nerdy cute girl played by Angelina Leon and class clown/jock played by Jorge Diaz, at the epicenter of this story, it’s more importantly a perfectly pitched sweet, funny and ‘real’ high school romantic comedy that resonates.  Just check out the trailer here.  I reviewed it earlier this year here.

Angelina Leon and Jorge Diaz - the two charming leads of Love, Concord
Angelina Leon and Jorge Diaz – the two charming leads of Love, Concord

Where to see it now:  Like I say, this is especially ripe for mainstream release opportunities (cable/DVD/VOD).  So far the film had a one night screening in its hometown sponsored by Brenden theaters.  The filmmaker is currently approaching other local theaters to arrange more screenings.  Interested parties (festivals/distributors/PR) can email the filmmaker directly at: gguardado@gmail.com.

Links:  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

Hearing what life events he has missed since he left town from La viejita
Hearing what life events he has missed since he left town from La viejita in Aqui y Alla

4.  Aqui y Alla (Here & There) – written and directed by Antonio Mendez Esparza (Raised in Madrid and has lived in Mexico and NYC – film shot in Mexico)

Festivals: 45 –  among them, Critics Week at Cannes (world premiere), San Sebastian, AFI, Morelia, Mar de Plata, Dubai, Lone Star Festival.

Why it stands out:  The magnetic non-professional acting ensemble and the film’s doc-like aesthetic subtly immerses the audience into the psychological aftermath of a story rarely told onscreen.  Quite simply it’s about a Mexican father who has recently returned to his family after being away in the states for a long time.  The film fills a void within the canons of the Mexican immigrant story.  There’s so much more than the grueling border-crossing journey, which is one small part of the ‘immigrant experience’.  The more opportunities and support Latino filmmakers can reach to tell their stories, the more their storytelling can evolve to truly capture the whole context.   It’s only recently that I’ve started seeing some reflection on those families of immigrants who stay behind and the generation-spanning social effects – and I’m not only talking within US and Mexico panorama.  In 2009 Antonio’s short film, Una Y Otra Vez garnered him much attention as it traveled to many festivals worldwide.  It probably helped give him a profile when it came time to submit his first feature.   Antonio is currently busy with the limited release of his film and is also already at work on his next project; a mother and son story titled, Saudade.

Where to see it now:  You are in luck if you are in NY!  The film premieres in three different venues for limited release NOW.  Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center at Lincoln Center, the reRun Theater in Dumbo, and the Jackson Heights Cinema. (Click on links for tickets and showtimes).

Links:  Website, Facebook, Twitter

From Elliot Loves
From Elliot Loves

3.  Elliot Loves – written and directed by Terracino (Dominican New Yorker, film shot in Harlem)

Festivals:  Over 50 film festivals, among them, Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival in May (World Premiere); New York International Latino Film Festival, Outfest, San Francisco Frameline,  Global Film Festival in Dominican Republic.

Why it stands out:  Elliot.  He is as lovable and charming as he is emotionally conflicted and flawed.  We meet him as a sweet, precocious boy growing up in Harlem with his young, single mother, an ill-equipped parent who suffers from a co-dependency on a string of deadbeat-boyfriends.  As we jump forward to Elliot’s adult years, his strained relationship with his mother and deeply rooted childhood fears and dreams continue to play a role in how he pursues love.   How else do I put it, I’ve never seen as real of a depiction of a ‘gay cholo’.  I enjoyed the romantic dalliances – especially the steamy love scenes, the old school mano-a-mano fights on the street, and the drama that while zany, eschews any of the flamboyant queen diva archetypes or melodrama we’ve seen associated with gays before.   Like Mosquita y Mari (next on the list) the gay Latino niche has huge potential.  For years, gay representation has been relegated to background or one dimensional characters, or lead roles in a serious coming out/AIDs dramas.  But what about mainstream genres like romantic comedies?   When a film like Elliot Loves comes around, no wonder it is fiercely celebrated by the gay community and film festival circuit.  At the end of the day though, the storyline’s universal resonance (looking for love) is what hits a chord with gay AND straight audiences alike.

Trailer:

Where to see it now:  Elliot Loves sold for worldwide distribution to TLA last May.  Thanks to the successful Kickstarter campaign during production, distributors had been tracking the film early on. Now available on DVD, Amazon and iTunes!  A major cable broadcast expected Summer 2013 followed by Netflix debut.  You can also request a screening at your local theater through Tugg.
"Mosquita"
“Mosquita”

2. Mosquita y Mari – written and directed by Aurora Guerrero (Chicana from the Bay, film shot in LA)

Festivals: A whopping 110 festivals, both mainstream and queer including Sundance (world premiere), San Francisco International, Seattle, Sarasota, Melbourne, Sao Paolo….

Why it stands out:  I’ve long wanted to articulate that extra magical ingredient and feeling you get when you watch something and find it so incredibly in tune with a part of you.  As a first generation Mexican-American I find many of these moments related in Mosquita y Mari.  The log line seems simple enough; Two high school Chicanas, one square, one street, make friends and come of age in LA.   The palpable emotion and sensitivity in portraying adolescent romance, sexual impulses and tensions with parents who shoulder you with the heavy pressure of achieving a better life on behalf of all your ancestors, drives the heart and veracity of the story. The way they talk, look, the music they listen to, is all me.  I’m sure I’m not the only chicanita who feels that way either.  When film speaks to you on a specific level – it’s a wonderful feeling of connectedness. Again, early awareness helps; Guerrero worked on getting this film made for several years, reaching out and applying to as many non-profit partners for assistance, including Sundance Institute’s Native Screenwriters lab and San Francisco Film Society’s robust year round Filmmaker grants.  Combined with her Kickstarter campaign launched while finishing production, the film attracted attention early on, making it easier for film festivals to track.  Guerrero is currently at work with her next feature, Los Valientes which recently obtained a grant from San Francisco Film Society.

"Mari"
“Mari”

Where to see it now: DVD/internet/broadcast rights sold to Wolfe Releasing earlier this year.  Let the filmmakers know you want to see it!  Express your interest on their film site to purchase a DVD  (late 2013) and or request a screening of the film near you.  This information will help their ongoing self-release theatrical strategy in partnership with Film Collaborative a non-profit film distribution/consultant outfit catering to specialty releases that is helping the film book theaters and educational outlets.  HBO broadcast also in the future late 2013.

Links:  Facebook, Twitter, Website

Poster designed by Sonny Kay.  Click on image to see more of his badass art
Poster designed by Sonny Kay. Click on image to see more of his badass art

1.  Los Chidos, written and directed by Omar Rodriguez Lopez (Puerto-Rican, grew up in El Paso, shot the film in Mexico, citizen of the world)

Festivals: SXSW (world premiere), NY Latino International Film Festival, Rio, Santa Fe Independent, Hola Mexico (Australia).

Check out the recently released trailer here:

Why it stands out:  Provocative genre.  Whether it incites a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ reception, taboo-defying, wicked satire and social and political commentary under an unsettling visually graphic aesthetic, elicits a fervent reaction and guarantees a degree of attention.  ORL is not one to hold anything back and you can feel an exhilarating rush as he discovers and makes the tools of the visual medium his own to challenge and trans-mutate society’s views about identity, religion and sex, among other hot-button issues.  Like the poster tag reads (translated), “Those who don’t criticize their culture don’t love their mother”, signaling the film’s unrelenting attack on every stereotype ever pitted to lazy, homophobic, incestuous, thieving, murdering, macho Mexicans. There’s no doubt his prolific music career (The Mars Volta, currently Bosnian Rainbows) has spawned a specific audience for his work as an uncompromising artist.  This built-in audience will be the first to give flight to his flourishing career turn as filmmaker.  I personally can’t wait to see future films as I bet he’s only getting started in this arena and has so much to say.  Omar returns to his hometown of El Paso next month to begin shooting Niño de la Esperanza.

Where to see it now:  Indiewire recently included Los Chidos in their Top Ten Undistributed Films of 2012 piece.  So unless a savvy and daring outfit (like Oscilloscope) picks it up, expect ORLP and music management/record label, Sargent House to self-distribute as they are doing with Omar’s 2010 film, the psychedelic identity trip, The Sentimental Engine Slayer (You can buy the DVD, and cool poster art and t-shirt for $35 here). These guys are the perfect example of D2F (Direct to Fan) distribution at work.

Links:  Facebook, Website

Next up, top 5 American Latino films to watch out for in 2013!