Cine Las Americas

New Film Series: The Mexican Revolution Films of the 70s

Cine Las AmericasDid you know that 2010 marks both the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independence and the 100th anniversary of its Revolution? I didn't until this year's Cine Las Americas International Film Festival. 

To celebrate the dual anniversary, Cine Las Americas is programming related free movies and Mexican films in general for the rest of the year, starting with a four-film series co-presented by the Harry Ransom Center.

"The Mexican Revolution Films of the 70s" includes four rare features by influential directors that explorethe Mexican Revolution and other national realities from a period of unprecedented latitude. Here are the four films and the descriptions from the Cine Las Americas website:

  • El prinicipio (The Beginning), directed by Gonzalo Martínez Ortega. "Mexico is in the midst of Revolution when the protagonist returns after studying in Paris to find his native town in Chihuahua occupied by Francisco Villa’s revolutionary forces. He visits his deserted home and remembers people and events from his adolescence that provide glimpses of pre-Revolutionary society under dictatorship." (May 6)
  • Cananea, directed by Marcela Fernández Violante. "Colonel William Greene, in an expedition across the Sonoran desert, stumbles upon large copper reserves. Almost immediately he decides to set up mines and he quickly becomes one of the wealthiest men in the region. His ambition, however, leads him to mistreat and exploit the men working in the mines." (May 13)

Cine Las Americas 2010: Day 9, That's a Wrap


I'm feeling the post-fest blues already. Another Cine Las Americas is over. But it's less than a year til the next one. Chamaco (The Kid), the closing-night film played to a near capacity crowd, with a special introduction thanking festival staff for their hard efforts and announcing the winners of the competitions. I think I wrote them down correctly, but if not I'll correct it when the official announcement comes out:

Cine Las Americas 2010: Days 7 and 8


I'm sorry I missed updating you all about Cine Las Americas's Tuesday schedule, but I plead a case of Robert Downey Jr.-itis.  I would've only seen one movie anyway, as only one was scheduled at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar that night. Speaking of which, I have to give a shout-out to the Alamo Lamar staff, which handled not one, not two, but three special events that night on top of a weekly series event, meaning every single theater was filled with unique programming in the early evening.  What could have been a major cluster... mess, went off rather smoothly.  Thank you, Alamo Lamar for that.

Wednesday night, well, you should've been there.  Even with two more special screenings, including a special A Nightmare on Elm Street preview with Jackie Earle Haley in attendance and a marketing sneak of part of Toy Story 3 (college students only), things still seemed to run smoothly at the south Alamo location.

At Cine Las Americas, the theme for the night was twisted perceptions. Viajo Porque Preciso, Volto Porque Te Amo (I Travel Because I Have to, I Come Back Because I Love You) is a narrative collection of images turning a travel diary of a geologist into an insight on relationships and endings. The narrator is never seen, but through his travels on a field study for an upcoming canal development that will displace farms and villages, the loneliness of the road and what was left behind is heartbreaking. Unfortunately too many of the images are distractingly blurry, but it's still worth a watch.  

Cine Las Americas 2010: Day 6


Cine Las Americas is not quite ready to wrap up, with three more days remaining. That doesn't mean the films playing at the MACC, Regal Metropolitan and Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar are any less compelling.

Manuel Carballo's La Profecia De Los Justos (The Last of the Just) was a Mexican/Spanish joint effort religious thriller along the lines of The Da Vinci Code centering on a man who finds he's at the heart of an ancient prophesy. While it telegraphed the twists too much, and had some of the most frustrating subtitles I've seen in a while, it's the kind of film that makes one want to see more from these filmmakers. Based on the Q&A, they want to bring genre filmmaking back to Mexico and make the world stop seeing "Mexican" as a genre itself.  I wish I recorded the audio of the Q&A, it was worth listening to on its own. 

Rigoberto Pérezcano's Norteado (Northless) is probably my favorite narrative feature of Cine Las Americas so far.  A recurring theme has been "low and slow" this festival, and Norteado epitomizes that, with the the only musical soundtrack coming from jukeboxes or radios, save the beginning and the end.  The plot is simple: an Oaxacan man wants to cross the borders. Between his many attempts, the bonds he makes in Tijuana force him and his newfound friends to confront their relationships. It's a simple, beautifully told story that's deftly handled, as it could easily be tedious.

Cine Las Americas 2010: Day 5


Sunday ended up being a very short one at Cine Las Americas for me, but not for lack of good films to watch. I did catch Looking for Palladin, starring Ben Gazzara as a former actor working as a cook in small-town Guatemala when a slick Hollywood agent Josh (David Moscow) comes to town to sign him on to a new film. A "locals vs city slicker" premise is just the backdrop for complex relationships and backstories.  Moscow deserves recognition for playing to a bluetooth prop for the first half of the film, while usually in crowded scenes. Yeah, he plays That Guy.

I stuck around to re-watch some of the great shorts in the narrative competition. I said it on Twitter and I'll say it again; that's a reel worthy of a Fantastic Fest program, with provocative and genre stories, including Austinite Miguel Alvarez's Mnemosyne Rising and Joaquin Baldwin's short, intense Sebastian's Voodoo. I definitely want to see more of their work.

Today I wish I could clone myself to be at both the Regal Metropolitan and at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. But I can't. That doesn't mean I don't have recommendations for you:

Cine Las Americas 2010: Day 4


I think I may have made another convert for Cine Las Americas tonight. Well, technically this morning.  I took a cab home because I use public transport and Capital Metro stops running near the Regal Metropolitan before the 8 pm is out, so I had to cab it back home. I missed tonight's party, but I like my sleep, something I've been missing a lot of lately. On opening night I had been Miz Cranky Pants big time, and I don't want to do that again.

Anyway, the cab driver was interested in the marquee sign, so I told him about it and he seemed very interested. Maybe he'll be at the Regal Metropolitan on Sunday, or he may go to the Mexican American Cultural Centers for the free screenings there. 

It was a good day; I caught most of the Hecho en Tejas shows, from The Red Queen to Shades of the Border, a documentary that started off focusing on the problems of adopting orphans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic, but ended up covering the racial and ethnic issues on the Dominican side of that border. 

Cine Las Americas 2010: Day 3


There's a phenomenon I've noticed at the smaller festivals in town: audiences generally don't applaud when the credits start.  So when the audience at my first film of the day erupted into enthusiastic applause when the credits started, you know it was a crowd pleaser.

That film was El Regalo (The Gift), a Chilean comedy about a freshly retired professor who's taken against his will on a seniors' vacation just after his birthday. An exploration of love in a group that the western world assumes are past passion, it's often as insightful as it is funny. Even with the cheesy ending, it was quite fun, and obviously a crowd pleaser.

Which brings me to the bumpers at Cine Las Americas; the theme is again, "If this is our reality, imagine our films," using soundbites from authorities and other news sources as inspiration. I really wish the one of Argentinean president Cristina Fernandez urging people to eat pork because it's better than Viagra played in front of El Regalo, because it would've been perfect. They have one with a rambling beauty queen, and another with Hugo Chavez about taking a shower with a cup of water, the latter being available on the Cine Las Americas website and YouTube. The series is created by LatinWorks.

Cine Las Americas 2010: Day 2



Partly because I just love Alamo South Lamar, and partly because it's so close to my home, tonight was an Cine Las Americas Alamo night. I started with Tom Zé: Astronauta Libertado, a chaotic documentary about a pioneering pixie in Brazilian music. At 72, Tom Zé has more energy than a sugar-doped child, and makes for a fascinating subject, despite some speaker flaws (that were resolved, thanks Alamo staff).

The next screening started with the Mexican Academy Award winning short Jaulas (Cages). Juan José Medina's twisty and dark animated fairy tale (pictured above) is worthy of a Fantastic Fest slot, but to say more would spoil it for you.

It was an excellent setup for El Bosque (The Forest), another creepy fairy tale-esque film.  El Bosque is a slow-burn feature, and not for the ADD crowd. But if you have some patience, it's worth the watch. 

Cine Las Americas 2010: Day 1


The 13th annual Cine Las Americas International Film Festival kicked off last night with Amorosa Soledad (Lovely Loneliness), an Argentinean answer to mumblecore featuring a broken-hearted hypochondriac taking a vow of solitude but finding that life gets in the way. Starring Inés Efron, nothing much happens, but it's a pretty 82 minutes anyway. Amorosa Soledad features a cameo by Ricardo Darin (Nine Queens), who also stars in The Secret in Their Eyes, which will have a theatrical run in Austin this summer. 

Today's Cine Las Americas lineup includes screenings at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, the Mexican American Cultural Center and two screens at Regal Metropolitan. The Regal Metropolitan is the place to be today, and here's a preview of the choices you'll have to make there:

Cine Las Americas Announces 2010 Fest Lineup


On Saturday night, the Cine Las Americas team made most of their festival lineup public, with 100 films from Latino and indigenous filmmakers around the world. The 13th Annual Cine Las Americas International Film Festival (CLAIFF) runs April 21-29 at three different venues around Austin. The opening-night and closing-night events are still yet to be announced.

CLAIFF is one of the smaller festivals around town, at least in terms of visibility to Austin's film geeks.  Despite being in the shadow of SXSW, CLAIFF has an international film festival, with submissions coming from 23 countries. But it's not just a festival about the Latin experience, it's a celebration of indigenous culture as well. 

I've seen some of the films that were accepted in the CLAIFF program this year, and I have to say that if you think you’re an Austin cineaste and you haven’t yet attended Cine Las Americas, you really need to correct that shortcoming. The mix of documentaries and narratives includes a little something for everyone, and you will likely find yourself pleasantly surprised, and in some cases have your worldview changed.

Vigils against alien invaders. Haunting memories overshadowing current experience. Struggling to survive in Haiti prior to the earthquake. Musical traditions unheard of by the outside world. People chosen to maintain balance in the world. A homophobic son who learns his father is gay.  A musician returning an instrument to his elderly teacher. These are just a few of the stories in the narratives and documentaries accepted into the 14 programs at Cine Las Americas this year. 

The Oscar and Spirit Award nominated documentary feature Which Way Home, an eye-opening look at the struggles of children from South and Central America trying to cross into the U.S., is among the nine films in the Documentary Feature Competition program.

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