|Memories of Underdevelopment
|Tomás Gutiérrez Alea
|La TETA ASUSTADA
|Estrategia del Caracol (Snail's Strategy)
|The City of God
|Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Quickly becoming a referent of renewed global interest in auteur cinema from the Latin American region, it marked Lucrecia Martel's bold entrance into the scene upon its release in 2001, with an inquisitive and formally daring look at the family dynamics of the disappearing middle-class: adults acting pretty much like damaged goods and the kids' unbridled energy near the discovery of the laws of attraction.
The rarefied landscape of the titular swamp (a neglected pool where a big family goes to spend a sweltering few days) imbues their strained relationships and a wider social malaise with an almost animalistic quality, a dense tension that's sometimes difficult to decipher, but impossible to stop following. A cinema of gestures, looks and stares, sound and a lot of things left unsaid or out of frame, from a master filmmaker who continues to impress two decades later.
Widely under-represented on screen for way too long – or rather unseen as a focus of any interest, not only by Hollywood but by a male-run industry worldwide – middle-aged women are now having a different moment both on cinema and TV, and it's all in no small measure because of contributions like the one made here by Chilean director Sebastián Lelio and his unforgettable star Paulina García, who as the titular Gloria brims with magnetic joie de vivre while she looks for, finds and survives love on a uplifting, realist and ultimately sublime comedy for people who don't care for run-of-the-mill, silly comedies. The movie also opened a path for Lelio to cross over and work with international names like Julianne Moore (on the English language remake of Gloria) or Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams (on Disobedience), continuing to craft rousing stories with strong female leads who are not afraid to assert their place.
Memories of Underdevelopment
Memories of Underdevelopment is a complex character study of alienation during the turmoil of social changes. The film is told in a highly subjective point of view through a fragmented narrative that resembles the way memories function. The film marked an era in Latin American cinema, not only because of its formal and stylistic approach, but also because of its way of looking at the Cuban revolution at a time when the Cold War was not so cold in Central and South America.
La TETA ASUSTADA
La Teta Asustada is a Peruvian film, directed by Claudia Llosa. The film premiered in Berlin (a rarity for Latin American films), and it told the story of an illness suffered by women raped during the terrorist war that ravaged Peru. The performance of Magaly Solier is moving, poignant. It's a film not only directed by a woman, but also tells the story of an indigenous woman with utmost sensibility. It's a very significant film in the history of Latin American cinema.
Estrategia del Caracol (Snail's Strategy)
This is a Colombian film that tells the story of a group of tenants in a rooming house in a colonial neighbourhood in Bogotá. The house used to belong to an aristocratic family, and was abandoned when rich people decided to leave the old colonial neighborhoods for more exclusive sites. After years living in the location, the tenants are being forced to leave. This dramedy deals with issues of class and oppression in a clever way. The film won prizes at the Berlin and Biarritz film festivals, and was Colombia's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 67th Academy Awards. However, its importance lies in the impact it had in the country and how it opened important conversations and reasserted the power of film to discuss such issues.
Selena is a 1997 American biographical musical drama film written and directed by Gregory Nava, which tells the story of Selena Quintanilla, a Mexican-American singer who at a very early age became an icon, not only because of her incredible talent and charisma, but also because she created a bridge between Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, who live in traditional rivalry. The film was released only a couple of years after Selena was murdered by her assistant, when she was only 23 years old.
Jennifer Lopez stars as Selena Quintanilla, in a groundbreaking performance. This is a very important film for Latinos in the USA.
The City of God
Propelled by raw performances from a cast comprising mostly young non-actors, this epic piece made a splash internationally, recreating life (and violent death) in a Brazilian favela ridden with gang wars during the 1970s. Lacking perhaps in emotional depth, due to its ambitious narrative structure and kaleidoscopic editing, it's nonetheless as thrilling and compelling as the best action movies out there, and even Robert Altman (who Meirelles cited as an inspiration to his filmmaking) stated it was probably one of the best films he ever watched.
Jayro Bustamante's feature debut is a hypnotic film that has at its centre an indigenous young woman, María, who lives by a volcano ("Ixcanul" in her Kaqchikel native language) with her parents. As she discovers desire (and how it clashes with her cultural traditions), her life goes into turmoil. Subtle and poignant, with a riveting performance by María Mercedes Coroy as María, this realist tragedy is also imbued with fable and the mystic culture that lives at the intersection between Mayan traditions and Catholicism. Ixcanul was the first film produced in the Kaqchikel language of the Mayan family.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Love can reshape one's sense of self, our identity. There can be a plasticity in finding and accommodating a new person into your tired old world. Your soul expands. But then the loss of true romantic love, one of the toughest things we can go through. And always Memory, reminding you everyday of who you are, where you are in life. Memories fade, we fade. This film feels like going for broke with these troublesome themes, and Gondry did it with Charlie Kaufman's script, daring mise en scène and camerawork, and two stars that truly shine as they go through that crazy arch. Unmissable, unforgettable.
Writer-director Jane Campion manages the feat of creating an entire cinematic universe out of a single woman's psyche and humanity in the face of unforgiving adversity – she's deaf, a lower member of a society that (because she's a woman) has clear rules and spaces designed for her, and married to an abusive man. But she's also full of desire to live and love a man she's not supposed to, and the deeply moving narrative captures her pain and strength. Everything about The Piano (the formal approach, the story, the performances, the script) is unforgettable.
Thank you very much for this opportunity! It was a very challenging exercise, so I decided to highlight Latin American cinema, except for two films which I find universal and which connect to the Latam films in their universality and power.