Dispatch From Cine Las Americas
By Latinx Spaces Film Staff
This past weekend saw the close of the 20th Cine Las Americas International Film Festival. The festival spanned five days and included a wide array of films, speakers, music, and events. As we learned by speaking to organizers, the goal of the festival was to celebrate inclusion and diversity in Latinx film while striving to make the festival more active and generative for the community.
These efforts were readily apparent and took many different forms. Films were co-presented with various organizations including the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival and the Austin Asian American Film Festival. There were events like Cine Latina, which celebrated women in filmmaking and brought together prominent local filmmaker Chelsea Hernandez with all female DJ collective, Chulita Vinyl Club. Cine Sin Fronteras—an event held under the ideal that a world is best without borders—brought together performers Krudas Cubensi, Mamis, and Mosaico Experiencia with local organizations. Speakers were varied and diverse and included filmmakers and organizers such as Tracy Rector, founder of Longhouse Media and a Chocktaw/Seminole community organizer, and María Inés Roqué, Director of Production and Training in the traveling documentary festival, Ambulante.
While these are only a few examples of the efforts put forth by Cine Las Americas, one running thread was clear: a concern with the story of the “other”. The current socio-political landscape has shifted the manner a large portion of the US populace engages peoples of the Americas—people deemed as foreign, other. This festival serves to not only create a sense of community for those people that don’t identity as part of the US mainstream, but combats the notion of a homogeneous other. Through its programming, Cine Las Americas does a worthwhile job of amplifying those voices while bringing to the fore the richness and pluralism that make up peoples of the Americas. Our film section contributors have provided a recap of some noteworthy films we caught over the five days of the festival—films that we feel display the richness and robustness of these varied cultures.
One of our favorite parts of the film fest is that they give you a chance to see some of the short films you might have otherwise missed by screening them in between the films. The break between Land and Shade and Dolores gave us the opportunity to see Aava, the short film about Hanna and her daughter Aava. The film shows the struggle that Hanna faces everyday when she has to leave Aava with her mother in law. Hanna is obviously a single parent now, and the relationship with her mother in law is strained. The film makes very subtle references to the fact that the mother in law thinks Hanna is wasting her time away from her daughter working in a theater, which a lot of creative professionals can probably relate to. However, it dives deeper to show how much Hanna actually admires her mother in law and her relationship with Aava and how, if communication were better, they might be able to have a good relationship with one another.
In Alba, Ecuadorian filmmaker Ana Cristina Barragán presents a compelling story of solitude and acceptance. When Alba’s mother falls ill, the extremely shy eleven year old must go live with her estranged and reclusive father. As she moves into her father’s isolated and poverty stricken home, Alba hopes to gain acceptance from her affluent private school classmates. The film follows Alba on a journey of personal growth as she is faced with the decisions that lead to social and, ultimately, personal acceptance.
Be Relentless tells the incredible story of one woman by the name of Norma Bastidas who not only broke the Guinness World Record for Longest Triathlon but utilized her accomplishment as a way of educating people on the traumatic reality that victims and survivors of human trafficking and sexual violence face every day. Intertwined with phone calls made by actual survivors detailing their own experiences with sexual violence, the film documents Norma’s struggle to overcome the physical and mental challenges that arise throughout her journey from Mexico to Washington, D.C. Director Brad Riley was in attendance for the showing and felt that the film spoke to an alternative method of speaking on behalf of or giving a voice to the voiceless, which was instead to hand over the microphone to the victims and survivors and encourage them to tell their own story.
The subject of our very first feature on Latinx Spaces, Dolores follows the story of civil rights activist Dolores Huerta. The film sheds a fair but positive light on Huerta and paints the narrative of a person that was drawn into a life of activism and sacrificed time with family and the enjoyment of the simple aspects of life in order to create a livable work environment for migrant farm workers. The film showcases her relationship with Cesar Chavez which, while tumultuous, was built on a mutual admiration and respect for one another. It follows her story from the early 1960s to present day and how she continues to fight for various causes while restoring relationships with the family she spent so much time away from in her early years.
I Dream In Another Language
The closing night film, I Dream In Another Language, was a powerful and provoking film. The film follows a linguist, Martin, as he arrives in a remote Mexican village to try to record and preserve a dying indigenous language. While there, the women whom he came to record pass away, and the last two speakers of the language have refused to speak to one another for the last 50 years after a fight over falling in love with the same woman. Martin enlist the help of one of the men’s granddaughter Lluvia, and as they get closer he comes to find out that their falling out was more complex that it would seem. The film incorporates mythical aspects of the characters ancestors, the influence of religion on the indigenous, and beautiful cinematography to tell a captivating story.
Land and Shade
Land and Shade depicts a story of an estranged man named Alfonso who returns to his home after many years to reconcile with his ill son. During his stay, he gains the opportunity to form a relationship with his grandson while the boy’s mother and grandmother go to work on a sugarcane plantation everyday. Not only does the cinematography vividly capture the isolation the family lives in, but is also very emotionally provoking in the way that it portrays the hardships and turmoil that exist among each family member and in their relationships with each other. Ultimately, this story is one that does not shy away from emphasizing the loneliness and darkness being experienced by the characters, to the point where it seeps into every corner of the film and its environment.
In Be Relentless, María Bonita explores the relationship between 80 year old Mexican actress María Felix and a 16 year old girl named Agatha as María comes to stay with Agatha’s family at their home. Not only does the actress impose values of self-love and confidence on the teenager, but the film as a whole also serves as a special, real-life memory for director Amanda de la Rosa. What makes this short film interesting and relatable is that it is intergenerational approach to its teachings regarding what makes or breaks a woman in society. Although given only a short amount of time together, Agatha and María’s relationship goes through several shifts as they continuously learn from one another throughout the film and realize that their friendship has a much bigger impact on the both of them than they initially thought it would.
Normally, one knows the sport rugby as all contact, and this is certainly no different when it comes to quadrugby. As one of only a very small amount of films from Peru, the documentary Rolling Strongfollows the first ever wheelchair rugby team as they embark on challenges found not only on the court, but also on a daily basis within the chaotic city of Lima. The film follows the team from the very beginning of its formation to its accomplishment of competing internationally. Not only does it draw on the personal narratives of team members and how they navigate through their lives and within the city, but the film also emphasizes the significant point that disability should not be equated with victimhood.
Making its world premiere at Cine Las Americas, the short film Undesirablesbrings to light the day-to-day realities homeless children in Brazilian favelas face. Dubbed “Undesirables”, the film follows Manu and his younger sister as they navigate this world and attempt to meet their most basic needs. Through traditional cut out animation, filmmaker Angela Rosales Challis disarms viewers, guiding them through the challenges these children encounter daily. Just as one is coming to grips with the substance matter, the film strikes with a much harsher reality.
X500, the second feature by Columbian-Canadian filmmaker Juan Andrés Arango, brings together three separate and seemingly distinct stories. The film follows three teenagers—David, Maria, and Alex—who migrate to their respective cities after personal tragedies. In the film, David leaves his indigenous village for Mexico City following his father’s death and must learn to navigate the barrios while encountering local gangs. Maria moves from the Philippines to Montreal after her mother’s death, and deals with issues of assimilation as she encounters a foreign culture. Alex returns to his home in Buenaventura after an encounter with US immigration and finds that his home isn’t as he left it—getting swept up by gang activity. The film represents an ambitious project by Arango as it spans the Americas, brings together different races and ethnicities, and utilizes five different languages—all while never insisting on a connection.