What to Watch This Week on Cinema Tropical
This week, make sure to check out Maite Alberdi‘s Sundance-selected documentary, The Mole Agent —now available on VOD. A “unique meditation on compassion and loneliness,” (Sundance Institute) the Chilean film follows Sergio, an 83 year old would-be spy who infiltrates a retirement home in order to investigate a suspected case of elder abuse.
Heralded as “fresh and funny” by The Daily Beast and as “one of the most heartwarming spy movies of all time” by IndieWire, The Mole Agent is likely to worm its way into your heart and never let go.
Premiering This Week:
New York Film Festival:
(Nicolás Pereda, Mexico/Canada, 2020, 75 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
Protean filmmaker Nicolás Pereda always takes viewers on zigzag narratives whose complexities belie the sedentary nature of the characters at their center. His alternately ticklish and dark-toned latest feature mixes realism and light absurdity in the story of a young television actress who joins her estranged brother and new boyfriend—also an actor, though he has yet to graduate from bit player—to visit her family at her parents’ rustic home in the Mexican countryside. There, the couple deals with culture clash and familial rivalries, but Pereda has a metafictional trick up his sleeve that reveals the grim intimations of violence bubbling under the community. Fauna, taking its title from one of its characters, is a clever and entertaining inquiry into performance and the stories we tell.
Streaming September 19 – 24
I HATE NEW YORK
(Gustavo Sánchez, Spain, 2018, 75 min. In English and Spanish with English subtitles)
New York, 2007-2017. Over a decade, the director delves into the private world of Amanda Lepore, Chloe Dzubilo, Sophia Lamar and T De Long; four artists and transgender activists from the city’s underground scene. Little by little, their testimonies reveal fragments of a past –sometimes dramatic, always fascinating and simply extraordinary– that formed their identities and transformed their lives. Their words, fears and hopes take the audience from an outsider’s point of view to being emotionally invested in their destiny.
(Matías Piñeiro, Argentina, 2012, 65 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
Matías Piñeiro is one of contemporary Argentine cinema’s most sensuous and sophisticated new voices. In his latest film, Viola, he ingeniously fashions out of Shakepeare’s Twelfth Night a seductive roundelay among young actors and lovers in present-day Buenos Aires. Mixing melodrama with sentimental comedy, philosophical conundrum with matters of the heart, Viola bears all the signature traits of a Piñeiro film: serpentine camera movements and slippages of language, an elliptical narrative and a playful confusion of reality and artifice.
(Las olas, Adrián Biniez, Uruguay/Argentina, 2017, 88 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
The third feature film by Argentine-born, Uruguay-based filmmaker Adrián Biniez (Gigante, El Cinco) is a playful, imaginative, and existentialist time-traveling tale about a man’s misadventures. Exhausted after leaving work, Alfonso, a man in his late thirties, goes to the beach and dives into the sea. Coming to the surface, he finds himself on another beach, in another time. His parents are waiting for him, calling to him from the water’s edge. Alfonso sees and understands everything as an adult, even if they treat him like an 11 year old. So begins a fantastic, achronological voyage through the various holidays of his life, as he comes face to face with past girlfriends, teenage and childhood pals, his daughter, and his own loneliness.
JUAN OF THE DEAD
(Juan De Los Muertos, Alejandro Brugués, Cuba, 2011, 92 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
Juan is a survivor. He survived Cuba’s 1975 intervention in Angola, the 1980 Mariel boatlift and the island’s Special Period following the collapse of the Soviet Union. He WILL survive this new crisis: a pandemic that’s turning the residents of Havana into zombies. Juan will not let an opportunity go to waste and, alongside trigger happy Lazaro and his son California, opens a zombie exterminating business. Alejandro Brugués’ second-feature may wear its influences on its sleeve (its title is an obvious callback to Edgar Wright’s equally funny zombie masterpiece) but in its heady mix of gore, social and political satire, and affection for its ragtag warriors, Juan of the Dead, an official selection of the 47th Chicago International Film Festival, is the legitimate heir to George Romero’s throne. Juan of the Dead is also a celebration of resilience and of that very Cuban concept of resolver, of making do with what you have. Given our current crisis, we should all be like Juan.
(Guillermo de Toro, Mexico, 1993, 92 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
Guillermo del Toro made an auspicious and audacious feature debut with Cronos, a highly unorthodox tale about the seductiveness of the idea of immortality. Kindly antiques dealer Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi) happens upon an ancient golden device in the shape of a scarab, and soon finds himself the possessor and victim of its sinister, addictive powers, as well as the target of a mysterious American named Angel (a delightfully crude and deranged Ron Perlman). Featuring marvelous special makeup effects and the haunting imagery for which del Toro has become world-renowned, Cronos is a dark, visually rich, and emotionally captivating fantasy.
Films Available to Stream Now:
THE MOLE AGENT
(Maite Alberdi, Chile/USA/Germany/ Spain, 2020, 90 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
Sergio is a Chilean spy. Sort of. At least, he is offered the role of one after a casting session organized by Detective Romulo, a private investigator who needs a credible mole to infiltrate a retirement home. Romulo’s client, the concerned daughter of a resident, suspects her mother is being abused and hires him to find out what is really happening. However, Sergio is 83, not 007, and not an easy trainee when it comes to technology and spying techniques. But he is a keen student, looking for ways to distract himself after recently losing his wife. What could be a better distraction than some undercover spy action? While gathering intelligence, Sergio grows close to several residents and realizes that the menacing truth beneath the surface is not what anyone had suspected.
Virtual Theatrical and VOD Release:
THE GARDEN LEFT BEHIND
(Flavio Alves, USA/Brazil, 2019, 88 min. In Spanish and English with English subtitles)
The Garden Left Behind tells the story of Tina (Carlie Guevara in a breakthrough performance), a young Mexican trans woman who lives with her grandmother Eliana (Miriam Cruz) in New York City as she navigates her transition and the pair struggle to build a life for themselves as undocumented immigrants. As Tina begins the process of transitioning, Eliana struggles to understand Tina and fears that their life together in America is no longer what they bargained for. Tina finds camaraderie in a small but mighty transgender advocate group but soon ends up having to fight for the life that she’s meant to live—facing violent threats, seemingly insurmountable medical costs, questions about her legal immigration status, and increasing skepticism from the man she loves. As she begins to lose all hope, Tina has unknowingly become the only hope for a shy young man who has been watching her closely from afar.
(Alonso Ruizpalacios, Mexico, 2014, 111 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
A months-long student strike at the National University throws roommates Sombra and Santos into a droll sort of limbo in their shabby apartment in Mexico City, whiling away the hours pining for the girl from the pirate radio show and tricking their neighbor’s daughter into helping them steal electricity. Their idiosyncratic routine is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Sombra’s teenage brother, Tomás, who has been exiled from his home by their mother following an incident involving a baby and a water balloon. The trio sets out on a road trip in search of Tomás’s hero, fabled folk-rock star Epigmenio Cruz, traversing across the city through perilous slums and the rebellious halls of the university to the ritzy nightlife downtown. Director Alonso Ruizpalacios arrives as a bold new voice in Mexican cinema with his energetic and imaginative feature debut—a cool, retro, black-and-white portrait of Mexico City and of three restless young men searching for a purpose and identity in a city of millions.
(Ventos de Agosto, Gabriel Mascaro, Brazil, 2014, 77 min. In Portuguese with English subtitles)
Gabriel Mascaro’s first narrative work is a sultry, richly sensorial meditation on sex, death, and decay in the tropics. In a remote seaside village, a steamy love affair between a city girl (Dandara de Morais) and a country boy (Geová Manoel dos Santos) unfolds on a lush coconut farm—until their languor is interrupted by a chilling discovery. Though working from a script, Mascaro’s documentary impulse prevails in his attention to the tempestuous meteorology (the director himself plays a scientist researching the winds) and weather-beaten landscapes of coastal Brazil in the climate-change era. Through stunningly composed images, he creates a haunting portrait of a place where life can be washed away at any moment.
(Alexis dos Santos, Argentina/UK, 2006, 115 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)
Atmospheric and acoustically shot, and wonderfully acted by the entirely young cast, Glue apparently effortlessly evokes the many ambivalent feelings of puberty. We see the small world through the eyes of 15-year-old Lucas. His parents’ relationship is unstable at best, but he doesn’t want to think about that too much. Together with his best friend Nacho he makes friends with the wayward girl Andrea. They lead a life of hanging around and rocking – for the connoisseurs think of the Violent Femmes before they learnt to play. And, of course, they go through the early stages of sex and drugs, or what passes for these.
U.S. Latinx and Latin American Film Festivals: September 2020
Coinciding with Hispanic Heritage Month, September brings nine Latinx and Latin American virtual film festivals offering hundreds of recent films to American audiences. Some of the film selections are are available to stream across the country, while others are geoblocked to the festival’s state boundaries. In addition to the online screening, some of these events are also presenting outdoor screenings, plus conversations with the guest directors and panels.
Check them out!