This Week with Cinema Tropical, August 25 – September 9
In honor of Labor Day Long Weekend, we’re here to provide a special double feature of all Latin American film screenings happening in the next two weeks.
This Saturday head up to the New York Botanical Garden for the next installment of our ‘Cinema Brasileiro’ film series. We’re pleased to be paying tribute to botanical illustrator, environmentalist, and staunch defender of the Amazon, Margaret Mee, with Malu de Martino‘s sweeping documentary on one woman’s incredible life, Margaret Mee and the Moonflower. See the film, and then see if you can find any of Mee’s drawings or subjects in the Garden’s collections.
On Thursday, September 5, Cinema Tropical is pleased to present the North American premiere of Argentine filmmaker Alessia Chiesa‘s The Endless Day. Part of our series ‘If You Can Screen It There: Premiering Contemporary Latin American Cinema’ in partnership with Anthology Film Archives, The Endless Day follows three children as they learn to fill their time waiting in increasingly-confused solitude for their parents’ return.
Finally, the latest documentary from New York-based Mexican filmmakers Lindsey Cordero and Armando Croda opens on Friday, September 6 at the Maysles Cinema. A modern-day migration odyssey, I’m Leaving Now offers a twist on traditional narratives of US/Mexican immigration by subtly subverting the standard direction of the American Dream. The close-range documentary follows Felipe, a charismatic Mexican migrant who, like Ulysses, faces many challenges on his quest to go back home. Increasingly important and incredibly poignant.
MARGARET MEE AND THE MOONFLOWER
‘CINEMA BRASILEIRO FILM SERIES’
Saturday, August 31, 2pm
New York Botanical Garden
(Malu de Martino, Brazil, 2012, 78 min. In Portuguese and English with English subtitles)
The British-born artist spent more than 36 years in Brazil, completed fifteen expeditions into the Amazon rainforest, and produced over 400 illustrations of Brazilian flora, works that are now central to contemporary botanical science research. Drawing on her diaries, interviews, and narratives, the film reveals a tireless advocate for the preservation of Brazilian rainforests and an artist not afraid to command her craft in defense of environmental conservation.
‘QUO VADIS HAVANA’
Through Friday, August 30
Anthology Film Archives
(Azúcar Amarga, León Ichaso, Dominican Republic/USA, 1996, 75 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
One of the most accomplished of Cuban-American filmmakers, León Ichaso delivers a compelling love story derailed by the repressive and crumbling values of the surrounding society. Weaving together fiction and docudrama, the film is set in Havana in the midst of the “special period,” a term used by the government to define the country’s downward spiral after the collapse of the Soviet Union. René Laván and Mayte Vilán deliver engaging performances as two lovers on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum. León’s incisive look into the economic and moral nightmare is also complemented by a sensitive exploration of the treatment of AIDS victims in Cuba, with strong supporting roles by Larry Villanueva as the rebellious brother and Miguel Gutierrez as their father, a psychiatrist who moonlights as a jazz pianist to survive. Filmed in black and white, Bitter Sugar is suffused with images of natural beauty and political outrage. Filmmaker in person.
Monday, August 26, 7pm
HAVANA: THE NEW ART OF MAKING RUINS
(Florian Borchmeyer & Matthias Hentschler, Germany/Cuba, 2006, 86 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
The morbid yet romantic appeal that Havana’s ruins seem to have for visitors is seldom perceived by its inhabitants, who live in constant fear of their collapse. In this groundbreaking documentary, the filmmakers have pointedly interviewed four of those residents, whose decaying abodes are intrinsically interwoven into their lives: a young woman who writes about ideal worlds, an elderly couple sharing the inhabitable portion of their former mansion, a one-time janitor now living in the ruins of the theater where he once worked, and a divorced couple living in separate crumbling structures. In the midst of the decay, an underlying analysis of the ruins emerges, threaded throughout the film with clear-eyed perception by Cuban writer Antonio José Ponte. But the eloquence of the film’s images is even more powerful than the words, becoming a metaphor for Havana’s spiritual decline.
Filmmaker in person.
Monday, August 26, 9pm
ONE WAY OR ANOTHER
(De cierta manera, Sara Gómez, Cuba, 1974, 78 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
Considered a masterpiece of Cuban cinema, One Way or Another provides a glimpse into the art of Sara Gómez, an extraordinary talent whose untimely death from asthma at the age of 31 cut her legacy short. The film focuses on the poor black neighborhoods of Havana shortly after the 1959 Revolution.
Tuesday, August 27, 7pm
WE WERE STRANGERS
(John Huston, USA, 1949, 109 min. In Spanish and English with English subtitles)
Set in the Cuba of 1933, John Huston’s political thriller delves into the despotic rule of Gerardo Machado, a constitutionally elected president who refused to give up power after a prosperous and popular first term (1925-28). Although Huston takes dramatic license through a simplified historical overview, he faithfully captures the political repression and rampant violence unleashed by Machado after his imposed re-election, highlighting the patriotic fervor of the university students and the civic resistance of the Havana citizenry. Although not shot on location, the plot gains authenticity through iconic background views of Havana University, Colón Cemetery, and the Malecón. The cast boasts Jennifer Jones and John Garfield in the starring roles, with strong supporting performances by former silent-screen heartthrob Gilbert Roland as a poet-revolutionary and Pedro Armendáriz as a corrupt government official. Fraught with social overtones and allusions to U.S. complicity, the film’s suspenseful climate carries the day.
Tuesday, August 27, 9pm and Thursday, August 29, 7pm
(Fernando Pérez, Cuba, 2003, 80 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
Fernando Pérez’s poetic ode to Havana is a film of extraordinary pathos. The disjointed lives of ten ordinary residents of Havana are depicted in an eerily mundane silence, devoid of dialogue or a storyline. Only the sounds of crashing waves, honking horns, the flapping wings of pigeons, and intermittent songs hint at the relentless pervasiveness of urban life. Shot in cinéma vérité style, the film portrays these Habaneros with a sense of wonder, as they struggle stoically with their daily chores. We could be merely getting glimpses of a day in the lives of random individuals – a peanut vendor, a widower whose son has Down syndrome, a doctor aspiring to be an actor. But Pérez tugs deeply at the heartstrings and knows how to turn the audience, naturally prone to voyeurism, into compassionate witnesses.
Wednesday, August 28, 7pm
MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT
(Memorias del subdesarrollo, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Cuba, 1968, 98 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
Unquestionably one of the most highly regarded films by one of Cuba’s greatest directors, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s Memories takes the viewer on an introspective journey as its alienated protagonist idles away the hours wandering through Havana, with an ever-growing ambivalence toward the new order. Based on a novel by Edmundo Desnoes, the film is set in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Sergio, a disaffected intellectual, has chosen to remain behind after his wife and parents leave the country for Miami. He is curious to see “what happens,” but his multilayered ruminations, interspersed with striking personal flashbacks, amorous fantasies, and actual newsreel footage, ultimately lead him toward a collision course with himself. As the protagonist, Sergio Corrieri gives a compelling and nuanced portrayal of a man paralyzed by a deep sense of disengagement as he contemplates his own fate in a post-revolutionary Cuba.
Wednesday, August 28, 9pm and Friday, August 30, 7pm
(Lucy Mulloy, USA/UK, 2012, 90 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
“Nervous desperation is the energy of Una Noche, a sexually charged and tense film that takes place over the course of one very long day in Havana, as three teenagers scheme to put together a raft that will transport them the 90 dangerous miles across the ocean to Miami. The kids who play the leads are wonderful in their roles, with that superb naturalism and intuitive power that can come with non-professionals. Havana jumps off the screen in a visceral way. You can smell it, feel it, like a living presence. The entire atmosphere is jagged with rampant sexuality, street harassment, open prostitution, and cruel jokes. Every interaction takes on a sexualized tone, bordering on violence…. You can sense the exhaustion. [In her debut film] Mulloy has a great eye for the unique, the special, in this landscape.” –Sheila O’Malley.
Thursday, August 29, 9:15pm
OUR MAN IN HAVANA
(Carol Reed, UK, 1959, 111 min. In Spanish and English with English subtitles)
An all-time favorite, Carol Reed’s classic is based on Graham Greene’s witty adaptation of his own novel. Shot on location just two months after the fall of the Batista regime, the story is set in pre-revolutionary Havana, and captures the unstable political period in which the film is set. The plot revolves around Jim Wormald (Alec Guinness), a vacuum cleaner salesman who is recruited by British intelligence as an unlikely spy. Reed captures the messy congestion of the old commercial quarter, as well as the ritzy side of Havana’s urban sprawl, rendering the city an unwitting accomplice to Jim’s improvised attempt at international espionage. His daughter’s expensive tastes demand his full compliance with his handler’s expectations, and he will concoct improbable reports to make ends meet. The superb cast includes Noel Coward, Ralph Richardson, Maureen O’Hara, Jo Morrow, and Ernie Kovacs as the murderous chief of police.
Friday, August 30, 9:15pm
END OF THE CENTURY
(Fin de siglo, Lucio Castro, Argentina, 2019, 84 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
In his alluring debut feature, Lucio Castro offers both a sun-soaked European travelogue and an epic, decades-spanning romance. When Ocho (Juan Barberini), a 30-something Argentine poet on vacation in Barcelona, spots Javi (Ramón Pujol), a Spaniard from Berlin, from the balcony of his Airbnb, the attraction is subtle but persistent. After a missed connection on the beach, a third chance encounter escalates to a seemingly random hookup. But are these two merely beautiful strangers in a foreign city or are they part of each other’s histories—and maybe even their destinies?
THE ENDLESS DAY
‘IF YOU CAN SCREEN IT THERE’
Thursday, September 5, 7:15pm
Anthology Film Archives
(El día que resistía, Alessia Chiesa, Argentina, 2018, 98 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
Alone in an isolated house in the countryside, Fan, Tino, and Claa (9, 7, and 5) wait for their parents to come back. Among games and tales, the waiting becomes unusually long while the solitude grows unsettling. In the midst of a strange and confusing atmosphere, the children’s apparently innocent and playful world begins to reveal its darker side.
‘PROGRAM-MERS’ NOTEBOOK: ON MEMORY’
BAM Rose Cinemas
(Memorias del subdesarrollo, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Cuba, 1968, 98 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
When Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s 1968 film was finally released here in 1973, it startled film critics and casual moviegoers alike. No one was expecting such a film out of Castro’s Cuba: a sharp, funny, pro-revolutionary period piece (the action is set in 1961, right after the Bay of Pigs) with a disaffected intellectual hero (Sergio Corrieri) who, as Vincent Canby wrote, “moves through Havana as if he were a scuba diver exploring the ruins of a civilization he abhorred but cannot bear to leave.” The English critic Derek Malcolm wrote that Memories of Under-development is “one of the best films ever made about the skeptical individual’s place in the march of history.”
Monday, September 2, 7pm
(Gregory Nava, US, 1995, 128 min. In English)
Gregory Nava’s novelistic epic traces the journey of a Mexican-American family across three generations, from the 1920s to the 1980s, as they put down roots in Los Angeles, face deportation, weather LAPD violence, strike out into the world, and, above all, endure. With touching sincerity and and a vibrant visual style, Nava crafts an openhearted, richly textured microcosm of the Southern California Chicano experience.
Tuesday, September 3, 9pm
Thursday, September 5, 7:30pm
Cinema Arts Center
(La camarista, Lila Avilés, Mexico, 2018, 102 min. In Spanish with English subtitles.)
A deluxe Mexico City hotel feels like an upscale prison for Eve, a chambermaid whose days are filled with making beds, cleaning bathrooms, and running interference for a panoply of guests demanding special attention. A fiction film that feels uncomfortably real, The Chambermaid posits Eve’s disciplined schedule – beginning her day at 4 a.m. and ending it with a class to fulfill a high school diploma – with the guests’ capricious whims. Lila Avilés’s film takes its inspiration from French artist Sophie Calle’s art project, The Hotel, in which she worked as a chambermaid and photographed objects left behind. Minimal and hyper-realistic, the film leaves the viewer with hope that Eve will not herself become mere detritus.
RAÚL JULIÁ: THE WORLD’S A STAGE
‘CHANGING THE PICTURE (2019): SCREENING & LIVE EVENT’
Friday, August 30, 7pm
Museum of the Moving Image
(Ben DeJesus, US, 2019, 60 min. In English subtitles)
The feature documentary is a revealing portrait of the charismatic actor, who earned recognition across the world for his versatility on stage and on screen before his life was tragically cut short. From his early days on local stages in Puerto Rico to stardom on Broadway and in Hollywood, Raúl’s story is one of passion, determination, and a bit of magic – all qualities for which his performances were known. Before “diversity” was a buzzword, the man with the big personality and thick accent was able to amass a varied body of work that stands the test of time and that’s helped pave the way for many Latino actors today. Told in his own voice through archival interviews and in the words of those who knew him best, the film traces his personal and professional journey while showcasing his groundbreaking theater performances and scenes from his cinematic career.
LA CABEZA MATÓ A TODOS
‘FLAHERTY FILM SEMINAR: BLACK BEAUTY’
Wednesday, August 28, 8pm
The High Line at The Spur
(Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Puerto Rico, 2014, 8 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
A mesmerizing video featuring a mystical black cat that appears before a nonbinary person to relay the secrets of a powerful incantation that will end the military-industrial complex. This leads to an energetic, solitary rave in the jungle to the beat of a distant dog bark and crickets, and to the hope that the curse of violence would shatter if we could all come together to dance it off.
I’M LEAVING NOW
Opens Friday, September 6
(Ya me voy, Lindsey Cordero and Armando Croda, Mexico/USA, 2019, 75 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
The film follows Felipe, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, who has reached a crossroads: after 16 years in Brooklyn, working three low-paying jobs and sending the bulk of his earnings to his wife and children in Mexico, he’s decided to return home to the family he hasn’t seen in almost two decades. But when he informs them of his plans, he discovers that they’ve squandered the money, are deeply in debt and don’t want him to return. They need him to stay in the U.S. and continue to earn. Shot over two years in the heart of Brooklyn’s immigrant community, I’m Leaving Now is a searing and intimate portrait of one undocumented worker on the margins. The film brings a warm humanity to one of the most pressing political issues of our time, without sentimentalizing or trivializing its subject. In allowing the rhythms, emotions and sounds of Felipe’s day-to-day life to drive the story, Cordero and Croda open an impressionistic, cinematic window onto a life that might otherwise remain unseen.
TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID
(Vuelven, Issa Lopez, Mexico, 2015, 83 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
Abandoned and alone, ten-year-old Estrella is given three magical wishes. Her first wish is that her missing mother come back, and she does… from the dead. Fearful of the ghost she believes she’s invoked, Estrella escapes to the streets and earns her way into a gang of other children orphaned by Mexico’s brutal drug wars. But soon Estrella discovers you can never really leave the dead behind.
DIALOGUE WITH CHE
Tuesday, August 27, 7pm
(José Rodríguez Soltero, US/Cuba, 1968, 53 min. In Spanish with English Subtitles)
Newly Preserved with with an Avant-Garde Masters Grant through the support of the National Film Preservation Foundation. In 1967, José Rodriguez Soltero made Dialogue with Che (1968), starring Venezuelan artist, actor, producer and dancer Rolando Peña as Che. Warhol superstar Taylor Mead is also featured, in the role of a CIA agent. The film was partly underwritten by Andy Warhol, who gave a check to cover lab fees.Dialogue was seldom shown in the States – it is entirely in Spanish – but had some life on European screens. It had a modest run at the Cinémathèque Française, where it was championed by Marie Meerson and Henri Langlois, and played at the Berlin Film Festival in 1969.
‘ACUÉRDATE: THE FILMS OF PAZ ENCINA’
Through Friday, August 30
‘THE SHORT FILMS OF PAZ ENCINA’
I KNEW YOU WERE SAD (Supe que estabas triste, Argentina, 2000, 5 min.)
PARAGUAYAN HAMMOCK(Hamaca Paraguaya, Paraguay /Argentina, 2000, 8 min. In Guarani with English subtitles)
FAMILY (Familiar, Paraguay, 2014. 9 min. In Guarani and Spanish with English subtitles)
ARRIVAL (Arribo, Paraguay, 2014, 10 min. In Spanish with English subtitles.
SORROWS OF THE STRUGGLE (Tristezas de la lucha, Paraguay, 2016, 7 min. In Spanish and Guarani with English subtitles)
A WIND FROM THE SOUTH (Viento sur, Paraguay, 2012, 23 min. In Spanish and Guarani with English subtitles)
Wednesday, August 28, 7:30pm
EJERCICIOS DE MEMORIA
(Paz Encina, Paraguay, 2016, 70 min. In Spanish and Guarani with English subtitles)
Part documentary, part testimonial, part fiction, Paz Encina’s second feature Ejercicios de Memoria focuses on one of former Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner’s most prominent opponents, through the memories of his children. Agustín Goiburú, a politician and doctor, planned a failed assassination attempt on Stroessner and later disappeared while in exile in Argentina in 1976. 35 years after his disappearance, his children are asked to return to a specific moment in their childhood but also a brutal period for the country and the majority of Latin America. Encina’s recent work is informed by the Archives of Terror, which collected documents chronicling the human rights violations by the Stroessner dictatorship’s secret police force and was used to prove the existence of Operation Condor. Ejercicios de Memoria recontextualizes the history of the nation by excavating the memory of those affected by it during its most oppressive time, forming a haunting poem that demands reflection.
Thursday, August 29, 7:30pm
(Paz Encina, Paraguay, 2006, 78min. In Guarani with English subtitles)
Paz Encina’s debut feature focuses on elderly couple Ramón (Ramon Del Rio) and Cándida (Georgina Genes) as they spend their days on an isolated hammock in the woods, awaiting on news from their son who’s off at war. Set during the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay, the film shows the two conversing about anything but the actual details of the war, of which they know little about. Instead, conversations about whether it’s going to rain and how to shut their son’s dog up take up their time. Between these conversations we hear flashbacks of the conversations that led up to their son leaving, juxtaposed with moments of labor and inaction. With its static long takes and atmospheric setting, Hamaca paraguaya invites viewers into a space where our understanding of the temporal and spatial are vague, and campesino life become as abstract as any work can dare to be.
Friday, August 30, 7:30pm
MUJER EN DÍA
‘SHORTS OF ALL SHORTS’
Monday, September 2, 5pm
(Juanita Umaña, US, 2019, 2 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
A portrait of a woman’s hands throughout her day.
Screening followed by Q&A with the filmmaker.
‘MOVIES UNDER THE STARS’
Thursday, September 5, 7pm
James Weldon Johnson Playground
(Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina, USA, 115 min. In English and Spanish with English subtitles)
Despite his family’s generations-old ban on music, young Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead. After meeting a charming trickster named Héctor, the two new friends embark on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
SOLANO, EL DOCUMENTAL
Saturday, September 7, 7pm
CUMC Alumni Auditorium
(Patricia Solano and Juan Basanta, Dominican Republic, 2018, 89 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
Rafael Solano, singer-songwriter and composer of “Por Amor”, a song that has been recorded by more than one hundred different voices by such artist as Gloria Estefan, Lucho Gatica, Marco Antonio Muñiz, Vikki Carr, Jon Secada, and Plácido Domingo, among others, reproduced in dozens of languages and obtained success in more than 60 countries.
Through Tuesday, August 27
(Iván Osnovikoff & Bettina Perut, Chile/Germany, 2018, 72 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
In Santiago, Chile, Chola and Football are two homeless dogs – who aren’t homeless at all. Scrappy, adorable mutts, they live in Los Reyes, the city’s oldest skateboard park, kept company by dozens of teenage boys who are constantly in motion. (Surely the film’s title also refers to the dogs, truly kings of their quirky world.) One dog constantly schleps around a deflated football (or golf ball or empty soda bottle); the other romps alongside him day and night. The voices of the young skaters, set against the noises of the city, form a soundscape: bragging, complaining, joking, sharing the daily experiences of working-class kids. One day, two dog houses miraculously appear in the park – just in time to provide shelter for the coming winter. A touching film about the mysteries and joys of friendship: 2-legged on wheels and 4-legged on the ground.
DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD
(James Bobin, US/Australia, 2019, 102 min. In English)
Having spent most of her life exploring the jungle with her parents, nothing could prepare Dora for her most dangerous adventure ever: high school. Always the explorer, Dora quickly finds herself leading Boots, Diego, a mysterious jungle inhabitant, and a ragtag group of teens on a live-action adventure to save her parents and solve the impossible mystery behind a lost Inca civilization.