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LatinBeat '06: Recent Films From Latin America

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***See below for mini-reviews of The Aura and Family Law and a link to the full review of Sólo Con Tu Pareja ***

(All films are in their original language with English subtitles)

*Opening Night*
The Aura / El aura
Fabián Bielinsky, Argentina, 2005; 138m
Fri Sept 8: 1 & 6:15; Sun Sept 10: 6:15

In Fabián Bielinsky’s award-winning second feature, Espinoza is a shy taxidermist who secretly dreams of executing the perfect robbery. In the calm of the Patagonian forest, on his first-ever hunting trip he stumbles upon the opportunity to make his dreams come true. Caught up in a world of complex rules and frightening violence, Espinoza's lack of experience puts him in real danger. And he has another complicated liability: he is an epileptic. Before each seizure he is visited by the "aura'': a paradoxical moment of confusion and enlightenment where the past and future seem to blend. These attacks appear without notice when he least expects them, just when he needs all his wits about him. An official selection of the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.

Mini-Review: Ricardo Darín gives an outstanding performance as the lead in this atmospheric thriller. Director Fabián Bielinsky masterfully creates tension through cinematography, sound and editing. The plot does feel a bit tedious and confusing as it unfolds and the sluggish pace slightly diminishes the entertainment value. The script doesn't provide much character development. With mostly dull supporting characters and some scenes where very little happens, The Aura doesn't captivate your attention for the entire, lengthy running time of 2 hours and 18 minutes. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: None. Opens November 17th, 2006. Released by IFC First Take.

Say Good Morning to Dad / Di buen día a papá Fernando Vargas Villazón, Bolivia / Argentina / Cuba, 2004; 107m
Fri Sept 8: 3:45; Sat Sept 9: 2; Wed Sept 13: 3:15

On October 9th, 1967, Ernesto "Che" Guevara was killed by Bolivian soldiers in the town of Vallegrande, where his remains were found and unburied thirty years later. “Di Buen Día a Papá” is both the code phrase used to order Che's execution and the Spanish title of this fascinating film. Throughout four episodes that take place between 1967 and 1997, Say Good Morning to Dad interweaves stories of love, conflict and reconciliation of three generations of Vallegrande women and, jumping from drama to comedy to parable, spins together the superstitions, town lore, local customs and history of Vallegrande since the death of Che Guevara until the present times.

Nine Queens / Nueve reinas
Fabián Bielinsky, Argentina, 2000; 115m
Fri Sept 8: 9; Sat Sept 9: 4:10; Tue Sept 12: 1

To celebrate the career of the late Fabián Bielinsky, LatinBeat also includes his astonishingly assured debut feature, Nine Queens (ND/NF 2001). Early one morning Juan is pulling a bill-switching scheme in an all-night deli when Marcos, a supposedly outraged bystander, pretends to whisk him off to the police. Marcos reveals later on that he is also a con artist and enlists Juan in a plot that he claims will set them up for early retirement. As the action moves from humble barrios to luxury hotels, it soon appears that the city itself is part of an elaborate plot. Wonderfully written and crisply directed, Nine Queens also features outstanding performances from its two con-artist leads, Ricardo Darín and Gaston Pauls. "The kind of movie that seduces you into becoming putty in its manipulative card-sharking hands and making you enjoy being taken in by its shameless contrivance."– Stephen Holden, The New York Times.

Family Law / Derecho de familia
Daniel Burman, Argentina, 2006; 102m
Sat Sept 9: 6:45; Sun Sept 10: 1:30; Mon Sept 11: 5:15

“Perelman Jr” (Burman's onscreen alter ego, Daniel Hendler) is a lawyer turned teacher, a loyal husband and good dad, who lives his life under the long shadow cast by “Perelman Sr,” his widowed lawyer father: the kindly, wise centre of their community and a tough act to follow. So what, exactly, is the good son to do? Effortless in its combination of shrewd observation, intimate detail and casual, apparently banal dialogue to communicate deeper truths, Burman's latest feature is a delightful, refreshingly understated comedy-drama, thick with the flavors of Buenos Aires street life, and an enviable sense of community. “A deft, witty and emotionally rewarding study of a thirtysomething man in his roles as father and son.” – Variety

Mini-Review:This film by writer/director Daniel Burman has a lively cast with a meandering plot fails to hold your attention. Some dramatic scenes work thanks to a convincing performance by Daniel Hendler. However, the stilted script and poor character development doesn't allow you to be emotionally invested in any of the characters' lives. Attempts for comic relief fall flat and the ending does leave you with a subtle message, but it's not explored enough to be as particularly moving or insightful as it tries to be. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Low. Opens December 8th, 2006 at the IFC Center. Released by IFC Films.

On Probation / Tiempo de valientes
Damián Szifron, Argentina, 2006; 112m
Sat Sept 9: 9; Sun Sept 10: 3:45; Mon Sept 11: 1

In this hilarious buddy movie / thriller, Mariano Silverstein (Diego Peretti) is a therapist who after a car accident is assigned to community service: he is allocated to counsel Alfredo Díaz (Luis Luque), a depressed police detective. Silverman, who must improvise an itinerant therapy session while accompanying Díaz on his rounds, becomes growingly immersed in the police universe. Further developments lead the odd couple to unforeseen situations that force them to confront great physical and emotional dangers. “Intelligently spiking themes close to Argentine cinema’s heart, namely the pretensions of psychoanalysis and institutional corruption, the script ably manages to keep its comic and thrillerish elements simultaneously afloat.” – Variety

In the Pit / En el hoyo
Juan Carlos Rulfo, Mexico, 2005; 84m
Sun Sept 10: 9; Mon Sept 11: 3:15

Mexico City, the world's largest urban sprawl, is a place where drivers have to crawl along wide, never-ending avenues. The city also boasts the “periférico,” a freeway that runs across the city and over the houses. In the Pit takes a look at the construction workers who toiled for years to build its second deck. The construction workers, who trust Rulfo's attentive and inspired camera, are the gripping human protagonists of the film but the main character is the city itself: ever present in the traffic and in noise of the construction site, and utterly unforgettable in the beautiful, futuristic final shot. - Adapted from Bafici catalog 2006. Nominated for 2005 Sundance World Cinema Competition, First Prize Buenos Aires Independent International Film Festival 2006.

Mi Mambo!
Pat Jaffe and Molly McBride, U.S., 2006; 57m
Mon Sept 11: 7:15 (Intro and Q&A with Pat Jaffe and Molly McBride); Mon Sept 18: 2

On the sidewalks of East Harlem kids bang out the complex rhythms of salsa on overturned cans and neighbors merengue to the sounds from a pulsing boom box, while around the corner study some of the city’s most accomplished and diversely talented young musicians. Mi Mambo! steps inside the Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts in East Harlem to explore the power of Latin music in the lives of its students and teachers. As one student described it, “Latin music is heart and soul. Latin music comes from the street.” Underscored by the syncopated rhythms of salsa, Mi Mambo! follows its young protagonists into their homes and captures the personal struggles and family life that they daily toil with while searching for a place in the uneven playing field of New York life.

To the Other Side / Al otro lado
Gustavo Loza, Mexico, 2004; 86m
Mon Sept 11: 9; Thurs Sept 14: 1 & 8:30

Writer/director Gustavo Loza brings the timely stories of three kids from Morocco, Cuba and Mexico who, despite their different backgrounds, share a sense of desertion and loneliness. Their fathers have left their homes in search of better job opportunities: Prisciliano’s dad leaves his family in Mexico to go work in the United States, Fatima crosses the Mediterranean from Morocco to Spain in an attempt to find hers, while in Cuba a boy dreams of meeting his own father, who left long ago. While focusing on the common theme of migration, the film also shows the social and emotional turmoils caused by the absence of a father figure. Featuring breathtaking shots of Michoacán, Mexico, the Havana coast, and the Moroccan desert, To the Other Side was Mexico's official selection for the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.

Solveig Hoogesteijin, Venezuela/Spain, 2005; 102m
Tue Sept 12: 3:30; Wed Sept 13: 1 & 9

In this moving and powerful film, eleven-year-old petty teen criminal Maroa lives with her violent grandmother Brígida in Caracas. After her boyfriend Carlos is involved in a shooting, Maroa is arrested and sent to a school where Joaquín conducts the youth orchestra, which he asks the naturally talented Maroa to join. Joaquín is immediately interested in the talented young girl who lacks all notion of discipline; as he becomes the only person to offer her hope in the midst of her rejection, he realizes that through Maroa his own world has also changed forever.

El Caracazo
Román Chalbaud, Venezuela, 2005; 106m
Thurs Sept 14: 3; Fri Sept 15: 9:30; Sat Sept 16: 4:15; Tue Sept 19: 4:15

El Caracazo dramatizes the events that took place on February 27, 1989 in Caracas, which radically altered the political destiny of Venezuela. A protest against rising ticket prices at the Guarenas bus station sparked a popular rebellion that carried on to Caracas and resulted in a violent confrontation when the government of Carlos Andrés Peréz reacted violently, killing hundreds of people. El Caracazo is a powerful historical drama about a critical moment in Venezuela’s turbulent history.

Only God Knows / Sólo dios sabe
Carlos Bolado, Mexico, 2005; 114m
Fri Sept 15: 1 & 6:30; Mon Sept 18: 3:30 & 8:30

Road movie, love story and spiritual odyssey, Only God Knows follows the relationship of Mexican journalist Damián, played by Diego Luna (Y tu Mamá También), and Brazilian student Dolores, played by the luminous Alice Braga (City of God and Lower City). A Tijuana nightclub and a lost passport bring the couple together, and as they travel through the Mexican desert to Mexico City, their sexual attraction is palpable. But Damián begins to believe that fate has brought them together and when Dolores returns to Brazil he follows, and their relationship takes another turn. As their destinies unfold, the lovers explore the dreams, mysteries and religious rituals that are so much part of both Mexican and Brazilian cultures. With music by Brazilian sensation Otto and Mexican alternative rocker Julieta Venegas, Only God Knows is a voyage of discovery that is sensual, exhilarating and metaphysical. – Margarita Landazuri

Alfonso Cuarón Salute
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban
Alfonso Cuarón, U.K. / U.S., 2004; 141m
Fri Sept 15: 3:45

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) return to Hogwarts for a third adventure-and-magic-filled year in this follow-up to the first two blockbusters. The trio may be growing up, but some things never change: Harry finds his life in danger yet again. Convicted murderer Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped the Wizards’ Prison. Suspected of being one of Voldemort’s Death Eaters, Black is presumed to be coming after Harry to kill him. While learning to cope with the Dementors sent to protect Hogwart's, Harry discovers that the disturbing story of Sirius Black may shed light on his own past. Winner, Best Feature Film BAFTA Children’s Award 2004.

Alfonso Cuarón Salute
A Little Princess
Alfonso Cuarón, U.S., 1995; 97m
Sat Sept 16: 2

Sara Crewe is a wealthy, precocious and loving child. When her widowed father, Captain Crewe, is called to war, Sara is sent from her happy home in India to a strict New York boarding school — under the stern, disapproving stewardship of its headmistress, Miss Minchin. Sara must use her inner resources of warmth, imagination and principle to overcome hardship when she is informed that her father has been lost in battle, leaving her penniless and alone in the world. Miss Minchin's harsh treatment of Sara is tempered by the girl's friendship with her classmates, the bashful servant girl, Becky, and Miss Minchin's perpetually flustered sister, Amelia. Although she is unaware that she is under the watchful and protective eye of Ram Dass, the mysterious Indian manservant who lives next door, Sara ultimately discovers that she was never really far from home. Winner, L.A. Film Critics Association New Generation Award 1995.

Alfonso Cuarón Salute
Sólo con tu pareja / Love in the Time of Hysteria
Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico, 1991; 93m
Sat Sept 16: 6:30 (Intro and Q&A with Alfonso Cuarón)

Tomás, the protagonist of Cuarón first feature, is a very busy man. He has his current girlfriend in bed in one apartment, his female boss in bed in the next one, and is crossing from one to the other on a window ledge. Tomás juggling act becomes even more complicated when, from the ledge between the two apartments, he spots his pretty new neighbor. It's only a matter of time before one or all of these women give him his richly deserved comeuppance. Sólo con tu pareja introduced Mexican audiencies to a new kind of comedy. Winner, Silver Ariel 2002. Full Review

Alfonso Cuarón Salute
Y Tu Mamá También
Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico, 2001; 105m
Sat Sept 16: 9 (Intro with Alfonso Cuarón); Sun Sept 17: 4 (Intro & Q&A with Alfonso Cuarón)

Y Tu Mamá También centers on 17-year-olds Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna), whose lives are ruled by raging hormones, intense friendships and a headlong rush into adulthood. After trading heartfelt good-byes with their girlfriends, who are headed to Europe for the summer, Julio and Tenoch meet stunning 28-year-old Luisa (Maribel Verdú). Fueled by alcohol and her beauty, the boys invite her on a trip to a remote beach. A few days later, Luisa receives some heartbreaking news and needing a change of scenery tracks down the boys and accepts their offer. As they embark on an intense road trip winding their way through Mexico’s ever-changing social landscapes, the two best friends and Luisa experience and learn from the joys and pains of friendship, loyalty, sex, love and the world around them. Nomination, Best Original Screenplay Academy Award 2003; Winner, Best Screenplay Award Venice Film Festival 2001, Winner, Best Foreign Film Independent Spirit Award 2003.

Alfonso Cuarón Presents
Felipe Cazals, Mexico, 1976; 115m
Sun Sept 17: 9 (Intro & Q&A with Felipe Cazals and Alfonso Cuarón)

In 1968, shortly before the bloody massacre of students, farmers and factory workers by soldiers and police in Mexico City, four employees of the University of Puebla travel to nearby San Miguel de Canoa to go on a hiking trip. The priest of the small town spreads rumors that the four youths are Communists sent to murder him and disrupt their lives, provoking the townspeople to form a mob to protect their priest and their town from the four unsuspecting visitors. Using a docudrama style and a narrator who provides socio-economic information about rural poverty and priestly power of the time, Cazals forges a powerful indictment of Mexico’s political, religious and military officials. Winner Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, 1976.

The Girl on the Stone / La niña en la piedra
Maryse Sistach, Mexico, 2005; 85m
Sun Sept 17: 1:30 (preceded by a brunch at 12 noon and followed by Q&A with Maryse Sistach); Mon Sept 18: 6 (Intro and Q&A with Maryse Sistach); Tue Sept 19: 2; Wed Sept 20: 8:45

In a small town near Mexico City, junior high school student Gabino becomes obsessed with his adored and charming girlfriend Maty after she breaks up with him. After two months of begging her to return to his side and putting up with her constant humiliations, led on by his bully friends Gabino takes advantage of an opportunity to make her pay for her snubs and punish her vanity. The Girl on the Stone, the third film in the trilogy that Sistach began in 2000 with Violet Perfume and continued with The Comet, won the Golden Mayahuel at the 2005 Guadalajara Film Festival.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center and New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) invite you to join us for a brunch at 12 noon on Sun Sept 17 (free for ticket holders of the 1:30 show of The Girl on the Stone) in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery of the Walter Reade Theater. Box-office opens at 11:30am. Various filmmakers will attend.

For Rent / Se arrienda
Alberto Fuguet, Chile, 2005; 109m
Tue Sept 19: 6:30 (Intro and Q&A with Alberto Fuguet); Wed Sept 20: 2; Sun Sept 24: 6 (Intro and Q&A with Alberto Fuguet)
34-year-old Gastón Fernández has no money, job, girlfriend, friends or any ambitions in life. He´s a composer who doesn´t compose. The one-time "most likely to succeed" at Santiago´s Musical Conservatory has passed from promise to failure. Forced by his father to stop acting like the teenager he no longer is, Gastón Fernández gets a job as a realtor for his father´s business and soon he begins to see a new city. The empty apartments he shows begin to fill up with new people and new stories that will ultimately help him understand and value his own. This is the first film by writer Alberto Fuguet (Tinta roja), based on his novel by the same name.

Revolución: Five Visions
Nicole Cattell, U.S./Cuba, 2006; 56m
Tue Sept 19: 9 (Intro and Q&A with Nicole Cattell); Thurs Sept 21: 4:30; Fri Sept 22: 6:15 (Intro and Q&A with Nicole Cattell)

This timely documentary reframes the Cuban revolution through the lens of five Cuban photographers whose lives and work span nearly five decades of revolution in Cuba. From Havana to Miami, photographers on both sides of the political divide reveal the defiance of revolutionaries and artists alike, and discover the power of art to liberate.

preceded by

The Asphalt Virgin / La virgen del asfalto
Fernando Frias and Paulina Lasa, Mexico, 2005; 8m

One night an image of “La Virgen de Guadalupe” appeared on a street in a poor neighborhood in Mexico City. The next day the street was closed, candles were placed everywhere and people prayed at all hours of the day. A miracle or not?

Through Your Eyes / A través de tus ojos
Rodrigo Furth, Argentina, 2006; 104m
Thurs Sept 21: 2 & 8:15 (Intro and Q&A with Rodrigo Furth); Fri Sept 22: 4; Sat Sept 23: 6:30 (Intro and Q&A with Rodrigo Furth)

Argentina’s economic crisis is in full swing when Lito and Nilda travel to New York to fulfill Nilda’s lifelong dream of seeing “The Big Apple.” During their visit, they also plan to get a medical check up for Nilda, who suffers from a kidney illness. But once in New York and despite Lito’s warnings, Nilda neglects her diet and has to be hospitalized when her condition worsens. Lito is overwhelmed. On his own and penniless, he will get to know an unexpected side of New York. While his life in New York starts to undergo a freeze, the ice factory he owns in crisis-ridden Buenos Aires starts to melt. With stellar performances by award-winning Argentine actors Pepe Soriano and Adriana Aizenberg.

Celebrating 40 Years of Tropicália Other (Sweet) Barbarians / Outros (doces) bárbaros
Andrucha Waddington, Brazil, 2002; 75m
Thurs Sept 21: 6:30; Fri Sept 22: 2:15; Sun Sept 24: 8:30

In 1976, four prominent Tropicália singers, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Maria Bethania, and Gal Costa went on tour in Brazil with their artistically and politically vibrant brand of Bahia-based music; the concert led to the famous album and documentary Os Doces Bárbaros (also shown in this sidebar). In 2002, the four reunited to perform their daring and wild style of Tropicália. This documentary, directed by Andrucha Waddington (House of Sand), captures their two live concerts in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and includes fascinating footage of the reunited group, clips from the 1976 documentary, and interviews in which the members of the group discuss their involvement and relationship to the politics and sounds of Tropicália.

Celebrating 40 Years of Tropicália
Brazil: the Tropicálist Revolution / Brésil: La revolution tropicaliste
Yves Billion and Dominique Dreyfus, France, 2001; 52m
Sat Sept 23: 4; Sun Sept 24: 1

This French TV documentary traces the history and politics of Tropicálism and the impact its music has had on Brazilian society through the eyes of two of its greatest song writers and poets, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. Interspersed with original concert footage from the 60s and 70s, Veloso and Gil recount the emergence of the Tropicálist movement and how it triggered a transformation of moral rules, ways of thinking and even the very idea of Brazilian identity.

preceded by

Caetano Veloso 50 Years / Caetano Veloso 50 anhos
Walter Salles and José Henrique Fonseca, Brazil, 1993; 58m

Originally conceived and made as a five-part TV special on the occasion of Caetano Veloso’s 50th birthday, this version is a “best of” edit of the five parts that documents Veloso’s career from his humble beginnings in Bahia to international stardom. Co-directed by Walter Salles, who later went on to helm Central Station and Motorcycle Diaries, and José Henrique Fonseca, who made the box office hit Man of the Year in 2003.

Celebrating 40 Years of Tropicália
The Sweet Barbarians / Os doces bárbaros
Jom Tob Azulay, Brazil, 1977; 110m
Fri Sept 22: 8; Sat Sept 23: 9 (Intro and Q&A with Jom Tob Azulay); Sun Sept 24: 3:30 (Intro and Q&A with Jom Tob Azulay)

The Sweet Barbarians is a gorgeously shot, skillfully edited documentary about the year-long process of making the now classic album “The Sweet Barbarians” featuring the mid-70s supergroup Os Doces Bárbaros (The Sweet Barbarians), composed of musical legends Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Maria Bethania and Gal Costa. This recently re-released print with remasterized Dolby Stereo 5.1 surround sound includes scenes that had been cut by the Brazilian military regime when the film was first commercially released in 1978.

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