¡Hola amigos y fanáticos del cine! The 14th annual Latin Wave Film Festival crashes into the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on Thursday, May 2nd, flooding the Brown Auditorium Theater with the flavors of Latin American cinema through Sunday, May 5th. Audiences can immerse themselves in a fantastic selection of films (11 in total) and escape to Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Argentina, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil, without cracking open a passport or jumping on a plane. Latin Wave is one of my favorite film festivals in Houston and I’m excited to tell you all about this year’s lineup of movies and special guests.
I’ve had the opportunity to see many of this year’s films and the tradition of a stellar lineup continues. Latin Wave Artistic Director & Programmer Diana Sánchez and the MFAH team led by Marian Luntz, the museum’s Curator of Film & Video, do an exceptional job selecting a lineup of interesting and entertaining films from a variety of genres and Latin American countries. Ms. Sánchez has an impressive resume; besides working on Latin Wave since 2013, she’s been the Artistic Director of IFF Panama since 2011 and an International Programmer for the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) since 2002. She has also programmed for the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Miami Film Festival, and Los Angeles Latino Film Festival. It was recently announced that her duties at TIFF will expand from overseeing the programming of Latin American and Spanish cinema, to overseeing all of the festival’s programming and more. Diana Sánchez is a knowledgable and influential person in the world of film and a distinguished guest of Latin Wave 14.
Another Latin Wave guest to get excited about is Cristina Gallego, co-director of the beautifully-crafted Colombian film, Birds of Passage. In 1998, together with Ciro Guerra, Gallego founded Ciudad Lunar, the company that produced the acclaimed feature films Wandering Shadows, The Wind Journeys, and Embrace of the Serpent, my favorite film of 2016. Birds of Passage depicts a family of native Wayuu people and how they’re affected when they give up long-held traditions and values in favor of new, lucrative paths of income (selling weed to gringos). Full of authentic characters and gorgeous landscapes, it’s a gem of a movie that dazzles on the big screen. I look forward to seeing it again and checking out the Q&A with Ms. Gallego. Birds of Passage screens twice: Thursday at 7pm and Saturday at 3:30pm. Q&As at both. Tickets here.
Another film ideally suited for the big screen (but released on Netflix) is screening at Latin Wave; Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, Oscar winner for Best Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Foreign-Language Film. If you haven’t seen it, this is the perfect opportunity. If you’ve only seen it at home, you haven’t really seen it. I initially saw Roma on the big screen and it has the kind of cinematic impact that can’t be replicated at home, regardless of how awesome your setup is (similar to Gravity, another Cuarón film). The cinematography, the sound design… ¡Ay, Dios Mío!
Roma screens on Friday at 9pm and Sunday at 6pm. Tickets here.
Writer/Director Ana Katz’s Florianópolis Dream is a mature comedy-drama from Argentina about an Argentine family who goes on vacation to Florianopólis, Brazil. It feels like going on a 106 minute vacation with the family in the movie. There’s no over-the-top antics or gross-out gags, just real people in real, sometimes complex situations. Lucrecia (Mercedes Morán) and Pedro (Gustavo Garzón) are both psychologists, officially separated, but kind of together, with the potential to get back to together officially, or to potentially see other people… Their son, Julián (Joaquín Garzon) and daughter, Flor (Manuela Martinez), both young adults, accompany them on the trip, and mean well, but their interests lie elsewhere. Humorous, with a sad undercurrent, Florianópolis Dream rings true. Screens Sunday at 3:30pm. Tickets.
The Good Girls is another fine film from a skilled female writer/director. Alejandra Márquez Abella tells the story of Sofía (Ilse Salas) a wealthy woman who enjoys a pampered life of luxury in Mexico City. She’s cold, she’s arrogant, and she puts forth a tremendous amount of effort in order to “effortlessly” impress her so-called friends. Much of her life is superficial and when the 1982 financial crisis hits, the reality she knows falls apart. The Good Girls is a character study with a strong lead performance by Ilse Salas and solid cinematography by DP Dariela Ludlaw that stylishly captures both the period and the inner turmoil building in Sofía as the movie progresses. Screens Thursday at 9:30pm. Tickets.
Writer/Director Arturo Infante’s The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia is one of the most fun and charming films of this year’s Wave. It’s a Cuban crowd-pleaser with a Sci-fi twist. María Isabel Díaz’s character Celeste is the opposite of Sofía in The Good Girls; she’s a warm, unassuming presence. When it’s discovered that friendly aliens have quietly inhabited Earth for years and a limited number of people will get to visit the aliens’ home planet, Celeste is keen to go. Does she have a taste for adventure and exploration (she does work in a planetarium) or is she running away from something? The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia has a likable cast and more-realistic special effects than many blockbusters. It screens Sunday, Cinco de Mayo at 8:30pm. Tickets.
Writer/Director Federico Veiroj is another Latin Wave 14 special guest. Belmonte is his fourth feature film, following The Apostate (2015), A Useful Life (2010), and Acne (2008). Belmonte is a Uruguayan comedy-drama starring Gonzalo Delgado as a painter named Javier with a lot on his mind. Despite selling paintings and having a successful career, he always seems on edge. The main source of his agony is his inability to spend more time with his daughter, played by Olivia Molinaro Eijo. Javier’s ex stands in the way of that and the fact that she’s pregnant with another man’s child just adds to the emotions. The film’s shot well, has a pretty color palette, and has a few guitar cuts that add to the vibe. See Belmonte on Friday at 5pm or Saturday at 6pm. Both with Q&As featuring Mr. Veiroj. Tickets.
The final Latin Wave guest to announce is Margarita Hernández, a promising filmmaker from Cuba. She’s a writer/producer/director who’s first feature Che, Memories of a Secret Year is a documentary about a little-known time in the life of revolutionary Che Guevera. I look forward to checking it out. Hernández’s previous films, Labertino, Filipe, and Pausas are embedded below for your viewing pleasure. Che, Memories of a Secret Year screens on Friday at 7pm and Sunday at 1pm. Both feature Q&As with Ms. Hernández. Tickets here.
Other films screening at Latin Wave 14 include Museo, an intriguing comic caper/thriller from Mexico, directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios and starring Gael García Bernal; Hilda Hidalgo’s Costa Rican film Violeta at Last about a recently-divorced 72 year-old (Eugenia Chaverril) trying to hang on to her childhood home; Miriam Lies, a Dominican film directed by Natalia Cabral and Oriol Estrada about teenage Miriam, her quinceañera, and the racial and social biases in the D.R.; and El Ángel, a film from Argentina about a baby-faced criminal graduating to more serious crimes, directed by Luis Ortega.
There you have it. As you can see, Latin Wave 14 has a little something for everyone. Check out the full schedule, plan your weekend, get tickets early to avoid lines and sellouts, and I will see you at the MFAH on Thursday!
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