21st LLAFF 2011

Jump to FILMS, DOCUMENTARIES or SHORTS

Goodbye Cruel World / Adios Mundo Cruel

Dir Jack Zagha Kababie, Mexico, 2010, 90 min, colour, subtitles
Cast: Carlos Alberto Orozco, Mónica Bejarano, José Montini, Lourdes
Villarreal, Sandra Sanchez Cantu, Carlos Aragón , Justo Martinez, Pedro Gamez, Rafael Amaya, Adriana Louvier, Emilio Guerrero

A very creative comedy in which innocent and simple-minded Angel loses his job in an insurance company and, with no job in sight, has to look for new ways to earn a living. Inadvertently, he becomes involved with a gang of thieves and a series of crazy money-making schemes they come up with. Naïvely, Angel doesn’t seem to be able to deduce that they are
anything more than well-meaning strangers, helping him out: or, even more to the point, that, as criminals, they are totally incompetent! He agrees to take the lead in a heist that promises to make him both rich and famous; or so he believes.

This uncompromising, hilarious, dark comedy has already won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature at this year’s Santa Cruz Film Festival, and deservedly so. Restrained and observant direction allows the
script and the highly talented cast plenty of scope to develop the wry humour which emerges from a basically desperate situation affecting millions worldwide, today.

Holy Cow / La Vaca

Dir. Mendel Samayoa, Guatemala, 2010, 95 min, colour
Cast: Tita Mendoza, Jorge Ramirez, Claudia Bpllat, Jorge Sanz, Monica Walter, Angelo Medina, Herbert Meneses

The death of a famous American archeologist, Albert Frederick Thomas Jackson, in his adopted home town of San Pedro El Bajo in Guatemala, triggers a bizarre chain of events. For a start, not one but two wives suddenly materialise (an American called Betty Hooter and Soledad, a Guatemalan) with competing claims on the substantial estate left by ‘Mr.
Thomas’.

Things take a stranger turn still when the will seems more concerned with the future of a cow (named Tracy) than the welfare of the wives. It appears that ‘Mr. Thomas’ wishes that, for the greater good, Tracy should become pregnant… and the disposal of his estate rests on this being achieved. For Betty and Soledad, the race is on to get Tracy ready for the bull and effectively serviced without delay…

An achingly funny screwball comedy from way leftfield, satirising the cultural schism between urban and rural Guatemala, as well as the evengreater gap between reality and the word.

Hermaphrodite / Hermafrodita

Dir. Albert Xavier, Dominican Republic, 2009, 96 min, colour, subtitles
Cast: Mariluz Acosta, Garibaldi Reyes, Isabel Polanco, Rafa Rosario, Olga Bucarelli
Awards: Audience Award, Chicago Latino Film Festival 2009 USA Best Caribbean Film, San Juan International Film Festival 2010 Puerto Rico

“Hermaphrodite” treats of the tragic consequences of intolerance, misunderstanding and fear still generated by the issue of sexual ambiguity in so much of the world. The protagonist Maria was born with the sexual organs of both a woman and a man and she has had to grow to womanhood guarding what seems a terrible secret. One day she meets La Melaza who is on the run from the law, hiding out in the countryside. She is attracted to him but cannot bring herself to tell him the truth: soon, he becomes frustrated with the lack of a physical relationship. It’s only a matter of time before her dual-sexuality must be revealed… but she can only guess at how he will react.

Strawberry Lips / Boca De Fresa

Dir. Jorge Zima, Argentina 2011, 100 min, colour, subtitles
Cast: Rodrigo de la Serna, Erica Rivas, Roberto Carnaghi, Maria Fiorentino, Juan Vattuone

Jorge Zima’s latest film is a wry, sure-footed comedy that extemporises on a classic Argentinean theme (the gap in understanding between the city and the country) with all the skill and bittersweet wit of a tango maestro. Hapless, lovable rogue, Oscar is at the helm of a music production company that is on the rocks. When, by chance, he discovers a
Norwegian band has had an international hit with a remix of a song by one of his former artists, Oscar has to convince his girlfriend Natalia to undertake the exhausting ride through the hills of Cordoba to find the singer (instead of the holiday in Miami he’d promised her). The hunt for the reclusive musician, however, proves to be far from straightforward and the couple become embroiled in a voyage of self-discovery, challenging, sensual and violent by turns, on which they are forced to re-evaluate their relationship, and, even, the very values by which they have been living their lives. Hilarious, moving and magical.

Night On The Terrace / Noche En La Terraza

Dir. Jorge Zima, Argentina, 2001, 90 min, colour, subtitles
Cast: Soledad Alloni, Diego Freigedo, Gabriel Fernandez

“Night on the Terrace” oozes with implied eroticism. Paola and Diego live a sedate suburban life in Buenos Aires. In an attempt to divert their minds from their comfortable yet stale existence, the couple proudly host a lavish dinner party, which culminates in a tour of their luxurious home. However, it soon becomes clear that the fineness of the surroundings holds little meaning for the couple. Only when a mysterious stranger enters Paula’s lonely life is she reinvigorated, and a bizarre and intriguing love triangle forms, wrought with tension and lust. A film about hidden desire, “Night on the Terrace” brilliantly conveys the emotional chasm existing between our inner world and the outside reality in which our lives unfold.

Postales

Dir. Josh Hyde, Peru / USA, 2010, 80 min, colour, subttles
Cast: Guimel Soria, Martinez, Alan Cuba, Nadia Alexander, Megan Tusing, Ed Trucco, Annie Kozuch, Esidora Estrada, Humberto Chaparro

On the ancient cobblestones of Cuzco, Peru, a postcard-selling street kid, Pablo, encounters a 12 year old American tourist, Mary. Her fascination with the Andean culture and his desire to understand a life beyond his own helps them transcend the language barrier. As their innocent curiosity grows into young love, they soon find it isn’t the only connection they
share.

Days of Power / Dias De Poder

Dir. Roman Chalbaud, Venezuela, 2010, 105 min, colour, subtitles
Cast: Gustavo Capacho, Theylor Plaza, Paula Woyzechowsky, Gladys Prince, Manola Garcia Maldonado, Antonieta Colon, German Mendieta, Adriana Gavini, Fernando Moreno

An uncompromising account of the life of Fernando Quintero, from his rise as a revolutionary leader against the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez, to the betrayal of his ideals and his complicity in the repression that followed his rise to power.

The death of his son Ephraim, heir of his former revolutionary convictions is the event that triggers his awakening to the false reality in which he has become subsumed. Tormented by remorse for his son’s death and by the realisation of how badly he has betrayed his own people, he desires, finally, only to die. “Days of Power” is a telling parable treating of
Venezuelan society of the 1960s, as it passed from dictatorship to the new oppression of “representative democracy”.

Death in high contrast / muerte en alto Contraste

Dir. Cesar Bolivar, Venezuela, 2009, 100 min, subtitles
Cast: Erich Wildpret, Norelys Rodríguez, Juan Manuel Laguardia, Luigi Sciamanna, Carmen Julia Alvarez, Alberto Alifa, Nohely Arteaga, Manuel Salazar, Julio Alcazar, Juan Manuel Montesinos.

After more than a decade without having released a feature film, Cesar Bolivar, director of some of the most successful Venezuelan movies of the 1980s, returns with a classic tale of revenge.

“Death in High Contrast” is a political thriller-cum action film, that tells the story of Gabriel, son of leftist militants who were killed by a right-wing paramilitary squad known as Grupo Onza. Gabriel witnessed the massacre when he was a child: now, 20 years later he decides to take the law into his own hands. In his quest for justice, he is helped by a reporter, Pepe Grillo, who goes undercover in the search for information. Gabriel starts hunting down the members of the sinister organisation that killed his parents, one by one. However, in the course of his mission, he manages to
fall in love… with the daughter of a man responsible for his parents’ deaths!

Cesar Bolivar has cast the film from some of Venezuela’s greatest stars and most talented actors, while he, himself is among the most accomplished directors the country has ever produced. His skill and commitment is put to excellent use in telling, in an accessible form, the story of contemporary Venezuelan society, which is, in part, a story of polarisation, intolerance, a corrupt underworld and an inescapable cycle of violence.

Cheila, a house for maita / cheila, una casa Pa’maita

Dir. Eduardo Barberena, Venezuela, 2010, 90 min, colour, subtitles
Cast: Endry Cardeno, Violeta Aleman, Aura Rivas, Jose Manuel Suarez, Eloide Bernardeau, Luke Grande, Ruben Leon Nelson Acosta

Cheila returns to Venezuela from Canada to spend Christmas with her family in the beautiful new house she has worked so hard to buy for her mother ‘Maita’. She also brings the news that she is finally in a position to complete the operation to change sex and to realise her dream of “becoming a real woman”. All she needs, now, is the love and support that
only close family can provide. To her horror, she finds the house dilapidated and in a state of chaos, occupied by a crowd of siblings and cousins who quickly transform her dream into a nightmare and make her see her family and her life in a totally different light.

Two Times Ana / Dos Veces Ana

Dir. Sergio Giral, USA, 2010, 105 min, colour, subtitles
Cast: Elvira Valdes, Michelle Fragoso, Yvonne Lopez Arenal, Yesleer de la
Cruz, Isabel Moreno, Lili Renteria

In Florida, two Ana’s live in parallel realities, (or perhaps one Ana’s reality is the other’s illusion). The first Ana has to rise early to get to her soul destroying, low-paid job where she will be working all day. The other Ana is moneyed and able to lead an easy life focussed on self-expression through social status. Fantasy, reality, success, and deception blend in a brilliant comic drama that bends racial and social boundaries and where nothing is as it seems. What constitutes healthy aspiration for a people used to deprivation and toil? Is it worth sacrificing the comradeship and community
feeling that derives from shared hardship, just to accrue personal wealth? These are some of the deeper questions posed in the course of a deceptively simple story.

Kukuli

Dir. Luis Figueroa, Peru, 1961, 63 min, colour & B/W, subtitles
Cast: Victor Chambi, Judith Figueroa, Emilio Galli, Perez Aranibar

This first 35mm film in the Quechua language, beautifully restored, recently, by ZDF in Germany, presents a hallucinogenic mix of love story and animistic Peruvian mythology.

15 year old Kukuli lives a simple life in the high Andean mountains of Paucartambo ( a small village in Cusco, Peru). She sets off on a trip to participate in the local annual fiesta. On the way she meets Alako and they fall in love. The young couple encounter a witch, who predicts their premature death. During the fiesta Alako is killed by Ukuku, a legendary figure, half man, half bear, who also abducts Kukuli. In death, the lovers are transformed into llamas: one white and one black; and they fall in love… again…

Saraguro

Dir. Jose Paul Moreira, Ecuador, 2010, 84 min, colour, subtitles
Cast: Jose Gomez, Teresa Quizphe

Visually stunning drama-documentary that recreates the loves, lives, victories and defeats of the Inca people. Shot over ten weeks in the present day canton of Saraguro, the film employed a small cohesive crew working with both professional actors and local people. A compelling portrait is created of one of the oldest civilisations in the Americas. The art direction is stunning with the full vibrancy of Inca costume recreated and their ceremonial life enacted according to anthropological studies of customs that have endured, through the Spanish Conquest and down to today.

The ravishing landscapes and ancient sites used as locations are augmented with state-of-the-art 3D animation so that one feels immersed in this world that is so remote and yet so immediate and human. Not to be
missed.

Jump to FILMS, DOCUMENTARIES or SHORTS

A Dream Comes True / El Despertar De Un Sueno

Dir. Luis Ernesto Donas, Cuba, 2009, 45 min, subtitles

This documentary by Cuban director Luis Ernesto Donas is a tribute paid by ICAIC (Cuban Film Institute) to the Cuban National Ballet on the occasion of its 60th anniversary. However, most of all it is a tribute to its Founder and Director world-famous dancer Alicia Alonso. Now in her nineties and almost blind she continues to run her company with an
incredible spirit.

Her old body cannot dance anymore but Alicia Alonso is still dancing with her hands and her words. In a way when her students dance, she does. A Dream Comes True portrays Alonso during rehearsals for “The Sleeping Beauty”, a classic ballet, part of traditional repertoire, but also one of the most important pieces choreographed by her during her amazingly long career. The film explores the various processes of preparation (choreography, scenery, costumes, lights) interviewing not only Alonso but also a new generation of young talented dancers and all the people involved in staging the performance, stressing how important is the work of the whole team.

There are many beautiful ballet sequences from both the stage and the rehearsals interwoven to build a compelling picture of the discipline and sacrifice that goes into staging the final production. A visual treat, not only for ballet aficionados.

The Cigar Out Of The Humidor

Dir. Mary Dickinson, UK, 1997, 60 min, subtitles

This excellent documentary deals with the high art of savouring cigars, the position of women smokers, the history and tradition of cigar production, and the economic issues revolving around Cuba, the USA and the latter’s embargo on Cuban products.

La Hortua

Dir. Andres Chavez, Colombia, 2010, 24 min, colour and B&W, subtitles
Awards: Best Documentary, Barichara Film Festival 2010, Colombia

What once was the most important hospital in Colombia is now crumbling while its inhabitants, as observed in their daily routines, become muted phantasmagoric beings wandering in solitude through the silence and the dusty memories preserved within its bounds.La Hortua

Voices That Heal / Esas Voces Que Curan

Dirs. Delia Ackerman and Heather Greer
Peru, 2011, 45 min, colour, subtitles

The film documents the life of Herlinda Augustine, a shaman from the Peruvian Amazon. It offers an intimate insight into the world of shamanism, the ancestral knowledge of indigenous people, their sacred songs, plants and rituals, and the way they tackle disease.

Bahia Of All The Saints

Dir. Jana Bokova, UK, 1994, 107 min, subtitles

This classic film from the BBC Arena strand must be ranked one of the most magnificent examples of the art of observational documentary making ever committed to celluloid.

Bahia of all the Saints was Brazil’s major port for nearly three centuries and it still maintains its legacy of African traditions, with a Black population of over eighty percent, descended mainly from the slaves brought over by
the Portuguese, from West Africa. Presenting a portrait of the Bahian people, this documentary captures their spirit, music, culture and religion, Candomble, which combines Catholic and African beliefs. The everyday
life of the port city and its hinterlands is alive with rhythm, ceremony and spirituality, an atmosphere that has been captured on film with an intimacy and attention to detail that is sometimes overwhelming: as well as gathering amazing footage of local religious festivals and carnivals, the production team gained permission, which is rarely granted, to film the
most sacred of Candomble ceremonies.

The film explores, with breadth and power, the effect of this unifying culture and religion, its ability to maintain social cohesion in a region where institutional racism and poverty have ruled for centuries. This one of the top highlights of the Festival: Superb and thoroughly recommended.

Bolivar / Bolivar, Ese Soy Yo

Dirs. Edmundo Aray & Raiza Andrade, Venezuela, 1994, 59 min, colour,
no subtitles

Simon Bolivar is one of the biggest, if not the biggest hero in Latin America: his name is on everyone’s lips, today, and his life story has become a founding myth of the independent continent, used for divers political purposes.

Venezuelan filmmakers Raiza Andrade and Edmundo Aray have tried to dispense with the clichés and look at this immense figure from slightly different perspective. Their animated “Liberator” loses some of his gravitas and, even though he’s made of clay, appears much more human than he does in the history books. Absorbing and a delight to watch.

“Simon Bolivar, ese Soy Yo” was the first part of Edmundo Aray’s trilogy based on lives of iconic Latin American heroes, followed by “Jose Marti, ese Soy Yo” and “Simon Rodriguez, ese Soy Yo”

Another Carmen / Otra Carmen

Dir. Rolando Almirante Castillo, Cuba, 2010, 35 min, colour, subtitles

“Another Carmen” is a documentary by Cuban filmmaker Rolando Almirante, inspired by the new “gay version” version of the classic dance, choreographed by Tania Vergara, head of the Endedans, Contemporary Ballet Company from Camaguey. A bold, provocative and intelligent take on the well-known French novella by Prosper Merimee (which became the basis of Bizet’s opera in 1875) covers the delicate subject of sexual diversity. By assigning the role of the sensual and seductive gypsy Carmen to a young, openly homosexual boy that is alluring other men, the drama explores the complex world of human relationships, love, jealousy, marginalisation, violence and society intolerance.

Yet “Another Carmen” goes beyond a simple “making of” piece. Almirante tries to explore how the dancers, actors and actresses, see the phenomenon that Tania’s ballet illustrates. He wants to see what is behind the thinking of people who embody the characters of “La Carmen”. The revelation of the sincere feelings of young members of the dance company proves that old prejudices still exist today, not only in general in Cuban society, but also among the artistic community. In response to questions raised by Almirante some of them, especially boys, are unable to escape the influence of homophobia and sexism. Casting a man as Carmen, throws into sharp focus the need Cuban society still has to process those issues, to face up to them. Perhaps one of the most important outcomes of the production is that the girls and boys interviewed at last share the understanding that sexual diversity is a fact that must be accepted in any harmonious society.

Both “La Carmen’ by Tania Vergara, and “Another Carmen” by Rolando Almirante promote reflection and debate on the issues of sexual diversity. They are bold and commendable efforts to open up minds trammelled by narrow concepts. They both help eradicate prejudice and myths that stigmatize and diminish people who do not fall into the rigid patterns
historically set for gender roles and sexualities. Fascinating and provocative viewing.

Jump to FILMS, DOCUMENTARIES or SHORTS

Farewell To Cuba / Adios A Cuba

Dir. Rey Rodriguez, Cuba, 2010, 37 min, subtitles
Award: winner Cuban pianist Adonis Gonzalez plays works by Sergei
Rachmaninoff, Ernesto Lecuona, Fryderyk Chopin, and a beautiful version
of “Adios a Cuba”.

He talks about music, Cuba and what it’s like to be away from your homeland, in an incredibly touching conversation.

Absence / Ausencia

Dir. Armando Capo, Cuba, 2011, 10 min, no dialogues

A mother and her son make a living from the sea from their quayside home on Santiago de Cuba Bay. In the course of the film, their very strong and strange relationship is revealed in all its complexity.

The Football / La Pelota De Futbol

Dir. Laura Gonzalez Fernandez, Uruguay/Spain, 2009, 10 min, subtitles
Awards: Audience Award, SOS Against Racism 2010. Madrid, Spain
Best Short Film, Trama Women's Short Film Film Festival 2010. Spain
Best Uruguayan Short, Malcine International Film Festival 2010. Uruguay
Special Mention, Cine Ojo International Film Festival 2010. Madrid, Spain
Tikino Prize, Gipsy International Film Festival 2010. Granada, Spain

A Latin American boy, a Moroccan boy, and a Spanish girl want to play football together but their parents do not want to let them to get to know each other. A touching and optimistic story of friendship that transcends social and cultural differences.

Panela Project / Proyecto Panela

Dir. Omar Castaneda, Colombia, 2011, 9 min, subtitles

Panela is a native South American product that is made from sugar cane. It forms an essential element of the staple diet of millions of Latin American people as well as being used widely as a sweetener in food. The production of Panela is, along with corn, the cornerstone of the food supply in Colombia.

However, Panela is slowly being forced into extinction due to the demand for bio-fuel, which is taking over from the production of crops for human consumption. In large areas of Colombia, too, drug cartels are eradicating
Panela to make way for plantations of coca. Panela Project is a documentary about a video art project which allows us to contemplate the visual richness of village life in areas of Colombia where Panela production carries on as a natural community occupation.

Galaxy / Galaxia

Dir. Albert Xavier, Dominican Republic, 2011, 11 min, subtitles

A poetic and romantic film about a couple that fall in love within the space of 24 hours. Set in the picturesque colonial city of Santo Domingo, where Columbus first settled in the Dominican Republic, the film centres on how
these two characters embark on a journey of passion for one another as they conquer every historical landmark in the city. This short is based on a poem written by Cristiane Grando.

The Sugar Cane Hedge / Acercadacana

Dir. Felipe Peres Calheiros, Brazil, 2010, 20 min, colour, subtitles
Awards: Best Film Editing and Best Short Film, Brasilia Film Festival 2010. Brazil

Over decades, giant sugar and bio-fuel interests have forced 15,000 families off their land in the Pemambuco region of Brazil. This film by the independent producers ‘Coletivo Asterisco’ follows the struggles of Maria Francisca, one of the handful of remaining small farmers, boxed in all around by a wall of sugar cane, but still holding out against the corporations.

Maria Francisca, outraged by the way her father was treated, decided to oppose the big ethanol refinery and refused to leave the house she had lived in for more than 40 years. Most of her neighbours, local people who inherited their land from their parents, have been threatened and forced away, letting their farms be destroyed in order to make more space for sugar cane plantations.

Mammoth / Mamuth

Dir. Oli Quintanilla, Mexico, 2005, 37 min, colour, subtitles
Cast: Vanessa Michel, Luis Felipe Tovar, Silvia Mariscal, Jaime Gener,
Marissa Rubio, Sabina Baksht, Valeria Becerril
Awards: Best Short Fiction, Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts 2006. Mexico

The dramatic story of the relationship between a young mother Renata and her daughter Christine. Through flashbacks, we see that Renata has a serious problem with drugs, the reason why her child was taken from her. Christine has been brought up, largely, by her paternal grandmother, who despises Renata and has influenced the child to feel the same way. Renata is haunted by memories of happy, past times she spent with her daughter, but also of all the mistakes she has made. She tries to regain contact with Christine, only to find out that she is not wanted at her 15th birthday party. Only if Renata can accept her loss and get her own life in order, will she be able to fix their relationship.

Napoleon’s Funeral

Dir. Olimpia (Oli) Quintanilla, Mexico/USA, 2008, 20 min, colour, subtitles

With the advance of the years, Adela starts to be plagued by dreams of death, peopled with surreal characters, and filled with macabre images. Fearing that her time has come, she seeks to reunite her family and to heal the rift between her and her sister that has lasted so many years. Her wish comes true and death, when it comes, has a surprise in store. After collecting several awards in Mexico for her documentary “The Creator” and short fiction piece “Mammoth”, Oli Quintanilla, writer-director and a Fulbright scholar, received a National Endowment for the Arts grant that funded “Napoleon’s Funeral”, her American Film Institute thesis project.

RETROSPECTIVE 25 YEARS OF HAVANA FILM SCHOOL EICTV PARTS 1 & 2

Dirs. Benito Zambrano, Susana Barriga, Elsa Cornevin, Orisel Castro, Marcel Beltran, Claudia Calderon, Terence Piard, Ricardo Fontana, Janaina Marques, Jaime Rosales, Clara Albinati, Argenis Mills, Cuba,1993 - 2010, 88 min Part 1, 78 min Part 2, colour & B/W, subtitles

Cuban filmmaking has always been characterised by a high artistic level, while at the same time reflecting the contradictions and problems of the national reality.

The Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV de San Antonio de los Banos (EICTV) is considered one of the most important institutions of its kind in the world. Founded on December 15, 1986, with its founders including Colombian writer and journalist Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Argentinean filmmaker Fernando Birri, EICTV is celebrating its 25th. Anniversary this year.

The Havana Film School has played a vital role, over the past quarter century, in developing the best of young Cuban filmmaking talent. The School uses established filmmakers as mentors, capable of transmitting their knowledge and experience of practice and helping to ensure the remarkable artistic standard and social relevance of the students’ work.
This year LLAFF is happy to present a wider retrospective to mark its 25th anniversary.

Subject matter ranges across illegal immigration, bullying, and corruption in the army, Chinese cuisine in Havana, and an extraordinary observational piece on the work of wedding photographers. Must-sees include “Those Who Stay”, based on a riveting interview with a mother who cut contact with her son after the dramatic events at the Peruvian Embassy in Havana in 1980, and has not seen him since, while “Neighbour” develops a basic scenario using an unrelenting audio-visual logic, building into a shattering commentary on the plight of immigrants everywhere. Marvellous stuff.