Jenn Brown's blog

Cine Last Americas Day 8: Juan Frances, el Superstar

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Juan FrancesRecovering from the nine-day Cine Las Americas film festival has taken some time, and it's past time to finish up.

Wednesday night's lineup included Juan Frances: Live, a music mockumentary focused on identity and family. The film takes aim at stereotypes via its main subject, a balding white guy who was raised by a Mexican family. Born Jonathan French, and raised by his nanny after the news that his parents died, Juan was "blessed by the Virgin" with the gift of song. After being discovered at a talent show, he skyrockets to fame and fortune, only to face a crisis of identity.

Director Amy French co-wrote the script with her brother Spencer John French (who played the lead) based on their experiences growing up in the bilingual neighborhood of Echo Park. They were apparently fearless. Some of the humor would be brave for a Mexican-American to pen, but for two white people, it's exceptional. Juan working eight jobs, all classic work for Mexicans in America, is the mildest. When Juan is so far gone he defiles sacred images, instead of losing the audience, the laughs just got louder.

Cine Las Americas Day 7: Made in Texas

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Cine Las Americas MarqueeCine Las Americas began as a showcase of Latino film, and in a border state with a large Latino community, it's not surprising that the fest has established a category for films made in Texas. The Hecho en Tejas category included a shorts showcase and two feature length documentaries this year.

The shorts showcase contained a healthy mix of documentary and narrative, and featured productions by not a few students at UT Austin's Radio-TV-Film program.

Los ojos de Javier (The Eyes of Javier), is directed by Sergio Carvajal. Created for the The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities' Cinema Touching Disabilities festival, Los ojos de Javier is about a young man who wakes up to find his eyes have deserted him. In his quest to find his eyes, Javier encounters three wise men who guide him through his journey. It's an interesting take on experiencing disability and changing perspective. Shot around Austin with a four-man crew who also took on screen roles, with a budget of $50, it's a good example of the creativity afforded by a microbudget. You can read an interview with Carvajal and watch the short yourself on the Short Film Texas site.

Cine Las Americas Day 6: Chilean Cinema of the Post-Dictatorship Era

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Cine Las AmericasThis year, Cine Las Americas is starting a guest country retrospective and selected Chile as the inaugural guest country. Focusing on Chilean cinema from 1994-2004, the selection is as diverse as the rest of the festival's programming.

After the 17-year reign of General Augusto Pinochet, democracy was restored to Chile in 1990. The Pinochet era consisted of notorious oppression, censorship and torture. It's not surprising that post-Pinochet Chilean cinema reflects the context of the consequences of their recent history, as seen in Amnesia, directed by Gonzalo Justiniano in 1994.

Written by Justiniano and Gustavo Frias, Amnesia starts as a serious drama, but smoothly transitions into an existential exercise of torturer versus tortured, and to what lengths someone would, or should, go to avenge themselves, and forgive those who trespass against them.

Cine Las Americas Day 5: Different Kinds of Family Film

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Nora's Will

Normally when the word "family" is used to describe a film, it's used to describe a target audience that includes small audiences. At Cine Las Americas, it means the story focuses on a family, often with mature themes.

Two of the strongest films in the narrative feature lineup include Postales de Leningrado (Postcards from Leningrad) (dir. Mariana Rondon, Venezuela) and Cinco dias sin Nora (Nora's Will) (dir. Mariana Chenillo, Mexico), both of which are family themed, but which deal with family matters quite differently.

Postales de Leningrado is a whimsical interpretation of the darker consequences of living in interesting times, particularly 1960s Latin America and the era of rebels versus regimes. Instead of focusing on lovers, friends, or enemies, writer/director Rondon's story is told by a young girl and focuses on her cousin and her parents. The film could easily be a chaotic melange of first person, third person, animation and still images both past and present. However, the narration helps makes it an endearing tale that manages not to break your heart while telling heartbreaking stories.

Cine Las Americas Day 4: 18 Countries in 9 Days

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Cine Las Americas MarqueeFriday's lineup was a theme of extremes, starting with Cruzando (odyssey to confront a father at all costs), Stranded (survival in extremis), Gasolina (explosive teenagers), and the dark and twisty Breaking Nikki. I'm not entirely sure how good it all was, but it sure was dark, because the digital projection was not the state-of-the-art 4K at Alamo Village. The difference between old-school and new-school digital projection is astounding.

Fantastic Fest is co-sponsoring a screening next week of a Fantastic Fest favorite, Santos, but in the meantime more fantastic style goodness occurs tonight. Perro Come Perro (Dog Eat Dog) is a gangland thriller mixed with black magic that plays at Regal Metropolitan at 10 pm). It's followed at midnight by Sangre eterna (Eternal Blood), a 2002 Chilean vampire flick -- with the filmmaker in attendance, Austin's horror fans should go.

The Austin Jewish Film Festival is co-sponsoring a screening tonight of Cinco Dias sin Nora (Nora's Will), a comedy from Mexico in both Spanish and Hebrew. The film screens at Metropolitan at 8 pm.

Cine Las Americas Day 3: Don't Fear the Subtitle

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Sangre EternaIt's day three of Cine Las Americas, and the start of the weekend. If you're considering seeing films this weekend, why not check out the festival? This weekend alone brings us 74 films representing 14 out of 18 countries, and a lot of different genres, so there's something for everyone.

If you want to get your horror on, there's Sangre eterna (Eternal Blood), one of the Chile retrospective films. The film (pictured at right) includes an abandoned house, vampires and a character named Dahmer. Sangre eterna is playing Saturday at Regal Metropolitan at 11:59 pm.

Are veterans' affairs important to you? Check out Animas perdidas (Lost Souls) tonight at 7 pm at the MACC. The film is free and the filmmaker will be there.

Nueva Onda Summer Film Season Starts Tonight

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Nueva Onda hosts a series of films in the warmer months, and tonight they seem to be celebrating the spirit of Cine Las Americas with the short Danzak, an Andean tale that earned director Gabriela Yepes an Austin Film Festival award. The lineup also includes an episode of Austin Stories and The Bickersons.

The screenings happen on the patio at Nuevo Onda rain or shine, at 8 pm -- the restaurant opens at 6:30, and you can get some great Mexican food beforehand. Admission is free. Nuevo Onda is located at 2218 College Avenue. More information at the Nueva Onda website.

Cine Las Americas: Opening Night, and a Thursday Preview

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All InclusiveCine Las Americas opened with All Inclusive and an appreciative audience. While many filmmakers are in town for the fest, All Inclusive, picked up by Lionsgate last year, is opening in Mexico and the press junket is underway there.

Director Rodrigo Ortuzar's drama focuses on a family on vacation at an all-inclusive resort during hurricane season. The approaching hurricane parallels the emotional tempests each family member keeps hidden from the others, reaching the predictable climax at the height of the storm. That's not to say it's not an enjoyable film; it balances serious and silly quite well. It also uses closeups on faces extremely well, with some very memorable images. The cast will probably seem familiar to mainstream film audiences; lead Jesus Ochoa has been a featured actor in Quantum of Solace and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Martha Higareda, who played the sulky Camila, was in Street Kings and will appear in the upcoming sequel to Smoking Aces.

Cine Las Americas Starts Tomorrow

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Cine Las AmericasYou might assume that Austin's film fests are limited to SXSW and Austin Film Festival ... okay, and Fantastic Fest too. But this town supports a number of other great festivals, including Cine Las Americas, which starts tomorrow.

The 12th Cine Las Americas Festival, a 10-day celebration of cross-cultural media arts, includes a diverse selection of films in different genres. Slackerwood will be covering Cine Las Americas, so watch this space for reviews and previews of films screening during this international festival. The films are from all over the world, but emphasizing the Americas, with a special focus this year on movies from Chile.

Austin Film Society has pointed out films that feature AFS/Texas Film Production Fund alumni, including Bracero Stories, The Least of These, and two shorts in the Hecho de Tejas (Made in Texas) category, Los Ojos de Javier and Duplex.

Festival passes are $70, and AFS members get a discount. Opening and Closing Night film tickets are $10. Some films are free; check the schedule for details, but it looks like most if not all the films screening at the Mexican American Community Center (MACC) are free. Other venues include the Paramount, Regal Metropolitan, Alamo Village, and Alamo South.

Governor Will Sign Film Incentives Bill at Troublemaker Studios

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As previously mentioned, the Texas legislature recently passed HB873, a bill about moving-image incentives. This bill improves the previous state law about incentives for filming in Texas.

On Thursday, April 23, Governor Rick Perry will sign the bill into law at 10:30 am at Troublemaker Studios (Studio B, 4900 Old Manor Road). We received this news from an email that TXMPA sent to their mailing list; check with them for more information about the signing ceremony, which appears to be open to the public.

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