23rd LLAFF 2013

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Casa dentro

Dir. Joanna Lombardi Pollarolo, Peru, 2012, 87 min, colour. English subtitles.
Awards: Conacine Best Producion Award, Lima Peru. Conacine Distribution Award, Lima Peru.
Cast: Elide Brero, Delfina Paredes, Stepnanie Orue, Grapa Paola, Annaliese Fiedler, Giovanni Ciccia.

Questions with no answers, emotional barriers and locked doors pervade Joanna Lombardi’s intriguing and mysterious feature film Casa Dentro. In the home of the aged Senora Pilar, who lives with her housekeeper and maid, a visit from relatives evokes strained emotions, buried histories and painful memories. These, however, go unvoiced, swallowed up by the deadening domestic routine of the house.

Lombardi makes every scene count: building the tension with lengthy tableaux, she uses day to day life as the backdrop for a complex and emotionally challenging exploration of mother- daughter relationships spanning four generations of women. A home, a refuge, a cage, a prison – what goes on inside this house is kept under lock and key.

A map for love

Dir. Constanza Fernandez, Chile, 2012, 81 min, colour. English subtitles.
Cast: Moro Andrea, Francisca Bernardi, Romano Kotto.

Roberta lives in Santiago with her young son and enjoys an intense relationship with Javiera, a free-spirited actress, philosopher, singer and erotic performer. Roberta’s life would be perfect if it were not for the fact that her conservative and domineering mother, Ana, does not really approve of her daughter’s life as a lesbian… and certainly does not approve of her relationship with Javiera.

In an optimistic attempt to remedy the situation, Roberta decides to invite the two women in her life to join her on a sailing trip. Trapped together in the confines of a tiny yacht with a Pacific storm raging around them, the three women are forced to confront their differences and try to work together to survive this calamitous, oestrogen-fuelled voyage.

With a cast of brilliantly delineated comic characters, a biting script and a dash of Latina flair, director Constanza Fernández entertainingly explores the struggles we go through to understand those we love and those who love us.

Adrift /A la deriva

Dir. Fernando Pacheco, Argentina, 2012, 65 min, colour. English subtitles.
Cast: Daniel Valenzuela, Juan Palomino, Julian Stefan, Mariana Medina, Monica Lairana.

Ramón lives a simple and serene life in the Argentinean countryside but faced with unemployment and family responsibilities he finds himself seduced by the promise of easy money that drug trafficking offers. Against a background of beautifully photographed landscapes a brooding drama emerges as Ramón attempts to navigate his own moral conflicts and, at the same time, maintain a troubled friendship with his partner in crime Antonio (a loose cannon who rapidly falls out of favour with their dealer bosses). A La Deriva raises stark issues of survival, family, masculinity and responsibility, played out in an atmosphere of uncertainty and lurking violence. The result is a compelling and subtly textured thriller.

Calloused hands

Dir. Jesse Quinones, UK / USA, 2013, 97 min, colour. English subtitles.
Cast: Andres Royo, Daisy Haggard, Indra Patel, Hans Howes, Luca Oriel, Sean McConaghy.

Bert dreams of being a baseball star, a millionaire, a success, a somebody. The reality is different: he is broke, insecure, addicted and his violent mood swings have a devastating impact on everyone around him. He tries to take twelve year old Josh, his partner’s son, under his wing, desperate to be the supportive and encouraging father figure he never had himself: but he only knows how to push Josh towards the goals he had hoped to achieve in his own life.

This oppressive and domineering character is brilliantly played by Andre Royo, who ably portrays the positive, as well as the powerfully negative, aspects of Bert’s personality, creating a fully rounded and convincing character and adding immense emotional weight to the unfolding story.

What could be a thoroughly depressing tale of violence, broken homes and shattered relationships, gradually transforms into a narrative of redemption, love, commitment and support. Uncomfortable, unsettling, sobering and, at times, genuinely uplifting, Calloused Hands is a masterpiece of emotive storytelling.

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Concoction / Mejunje

Dir. Juan Manuel Gamazo, Cuba/ Chile/ Spain, 2012, 71 min, colour. English subtitles.

Mejunje: a mix of various ingredients to form a substance.” Director Juan Manuel Gamazo, Spanish, educated in Cuba, makes the cultural centre in the Cuban town of Santa Clara the focus of his film, and invites us into the lives of a variety its patrons, ordinary people who help to make up the great cultural and social melting pot that is Cuba. The examination is intense and intimate capturing, through small gestures, the textures of everyday life and Gamazo establishes a perspective that steers well clear of both the critiques and the idealisations that are common in films that try to anatomise Cuban society.

What comes across powerfully is the need of the people to communicate, through music and other means, interpreted with insight and respect by the director in a quiet observational style that allows him to avoid a glib overview and, instead, delve deeply into the experiences of his subjects, perhaps even offering them new modes of expression in the process.

Stone of memory / Pedra de memoria

Dir. Renata Amaral, Brazil, 2012, 58min, colour. English subtitles.

Based on a fifteen-year research programme and the huge archive it has amassed, Stone of Memory vividly portrays the historical connections between Benin and Brazil, in large parts of which the vibrancy of West African tradition is still a major cultural force. The film reveals these intricate traditional bonds in a poetic dialogue featuring, most notably, the extraordinary memories of babalorisha Euclides Talabyan, one of the foremost guardians of the old religion in Brazil.

Through their eyes

Dirs. Bill & Esther Gentile, Cuba/USA, 57min, 2012, colour. English subtitles.

Bill Gentile, a US university lecturer, took advantage of the recent loosening of travel restrictions by his government, to take six of his students to study in Cuba for four months in late 2011. Together with his Cuban-born wife, Esther, he made Through Their Eyes, a documentary record of their experiences.

We get to know this diverse group of students as they explore Cuban society. Each changes in subtle but profound ways as the result of the time spent on the island — forbidden to most North Americans because of the decades-old economic embargo against Cuba.

Now, as the US administration starts to lift its bans on travel and trade to Cuba, and as the Cuban government opens its doors to capitalism, this film and the students’ experiences are a pertinent sign of things to come.

Unseen Colombia

Dir. Unai Aranzad, Colombia/Spain, 2012, 63min, colour. English subtitles.
Awards: Best Human Rights Film at Pasto Film Festival, Colombia.

President Santos inaugurates an international mega-project with champagne – while, just metres away, children who have been displaced by it die. General Reyes boasts that a guerrilla leader has been executed little knowing that, a few hours later, he will be forced to admit that it was the leader of an indigenous community who was put to death. A judge investigating members of the military for the rape and murder of children, dies mysteriously. Workers at a banana plantation have to risk their lives to assert their human rights. This brave and hard-hitting documentary attempts to challenge the impunity of these outrages against the people of Colombia.

Somewhere near Tapachula

Dir. Stefan Hunt, Mexico, 63 min, colour. English subtitles.
Awards: People’s Choice Award at Yallingup Surfilm Festival.

Somewhere Near Tapachula depicts the importance of love and support in the everyday lives of our youth. It provokes emotions ranging from sadness to joy, allowing for an instant connection with the story and its characters. An inspirational film that defines what it truly means to be given a second chance in life.

Pam and Alan, two natives of Australia are faced with a major decision whether to return to their native home or remain in Mexico to continue aiding with the street children problem of Mexico. Pam and Alan decide to remain in Mexico and they create Misión Mexico, which functions as an orphanage/refuge for children. This establishment provides the essential elements for children: love, education and support. Somewhere Near Tapachula focuses on how having a secure place has positively affected the lives of the children. In addition, it also spotlights on the development of surfing within the community and how it is used as an escape for the children to forget their past.

We women warriors

Dir: Nicole Karsin, USA / Colombia, 2012, 82 min, colour & B/W. English subtitles.

In Colombia’s war-torn indigenous villages, three brave women use non-violent resistance to ensure their peoples’ survival. Battles between guerrillas, paramilitary forces and the army particularly endanger Colombia’s one hundred and two aboriginal groups, dozens of which are even on the brink of extinction because of the violence.

Despite being trapped in the middle of a long drawn out genocide financed by the drug trade, native women in Colombia are creating and leading a transformation, imbued with resourcefulness and hope.

We Women Warriors bears witness to human rights catastrophes that have long been ignored and interweaves extraordinary character-driven stories of female empowerment, unshakable courage, and faith in the endurance of indigenous culture.

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Eva

Dirs. Adrienn Vass & Silvia Rothlisberger, UK/ Colombia/ Cuba/ Hungary, 2013, 13 min, colour. English subtitles.

The story of feisty Cuban powerhouse Eva Tarr-Kirkhope, from her arrival in 1970s London with a mission to spread Latin American culture through cinema, to her status today as the unassailable doyenne of the London Latin American Film Festival. A documentary that mixes animation, actuality, a little bit of Cuba and a little bit of London, to unfurl a compelling story of determination and the love of art.

Market symphony / Sinfonia de mercado

Dirs. Helena Salguero Velez & Jimena Prieto Sarmiento, Colombia, 2012, 27 min, colour. English subtitles.

A beautifully crafted short about a day in the life of a Colombian marketplace. Vélez and Sarmiento interweave an original musical score with vibrant documentary footage to create a compelling and dynamic montage. Exhilarating and hypnotic by turns, a cinematic tour de force.

Paal / Child

Dirs. Christoph Muller & Victor Vargas Villafuerte, Mexico, 2012, 21 min, colour. English subtitles.

With Benjamin as our guide, we explore the enchanting, hidden world of the Mexican jungle through the eyes of an innocent child. In the course of the adventure, we learn the creation myth of Paal – The Child, protector of wild places. Muller and Villafuerte have created a charming, uplifting film that invites us to respect our natural surroundings, as Benjamin does, and to see beauty in the simplicity of his gaze.

Shooting the tribe

Dirs. Fat Rat Films, UK, 2013, 9 min, colour. English subtitles.

Set in the Colombian jungle, this short film is a brutal critique of “ethnographic” film. In a seemingly formulaic documentary about an indigenous tribe, the conventions are manipulated to reveal the tensions underlying the relationship between subjects and filmmakers, in a style that transcends mere clever self-reflexiveness. Challenging and spiky viewing, indeed.

Every time I remember, I forget

Dir. Laura Gonzalez, Uruguay/Spain/ UK, 2011, 14 min, colour. English subtitles.
Cast: Melissa Cardona, Lola Rodil, Flora Lopez

Maria is a Spanish old lady suffering from Alzheimer, who keeps returning to her childhood during the Spanish civil war. Rosa, as a young Colombian, has lived through war. When she starts taking care of Maria, it is the beginning of a special relationship.

De las casas blancas

Dir. Agustin Banchero, Uruguay, 2012, 15 min, colour. English subtitles.
Cast: Martin Despaux, Bruno Pereyra.

Augustín Banchero’s short drama is a beautifully crafted tale of one man’s attempt to confront the memories that have marred his life as an adult. Pablo’s return visit to his childhood home, and the increasingly sinister ‘game’ he plays with his cousin, are unfolded through a series of masterly visual images.

Goppi, the Cuban indian

Dir. Sonum Sumaria, UK, 2013, 6 min, colour. English subtitles.

Cutting through the tired, old received wisdom about the nature of Cuban society, director Sonum Sumaria has created a simple and refreshing film: Indian Chef Goppi, living in Havana offers his perspective on Cuba as an open, multicultural society… while he prepares a traditional Indian meal. As he recounts the move from India and his subsequent life on the island, we hear (for once) all the positive reasons for wanting to migrate to Cuba! Appetising fare.

My friend Nietzsche

Dir. Fauston da Silva, Brazil, 2012, 15 min, colour. English subtitles.
Awards: Canal + Best Short at 29th International Valencia Film Festival, Spain.

Lucas follows his teacher’s advice to do more reading, in an attempt to improve his appalling grades. He stumbles across a copy of Friedrich Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ at a local dump, sparking an epic journey of growth and discovery. Lucas’ mission is not a solo endeavour as the whole community is brought in to the fray, raising as many questions as answers to engage his inquisitive mind.

An atmospheric, delightfully light hearted yet thought provoking film, My Friend Nietzsche, playfully invites us to explore the amazing potential for learning possessed by the young. Director, Da Silva, creates an engaging narrative using broad characters and settings to explore complex themes in hugely enjoyable style.

Kyaka la na / Red wool

Dir. Adrian Cepeda Espinosa, Colombia / USA / Guatemala, 2012, 12 min, colour. English subtitles.
Awards: Best Short at Toulouse Film Festival, France.
Cast: Paula Pau, Lucero Guinea Chamorro, Maria Garcia

An adolescent girl, recently orphaned, is torn between her grandmother’s desire that she rediscover her Guatemalan roots, and her late mother’s ambition for her to start a new life in New York. How can she find her freedom without tearing her family apart.

Ana, where are you?

Dir. Flavia Fontes, Brazil/USA, 2023, 14 min, colour. English subtitles.
Cast: Ken Jansen, Jose Sonera.

When Tom meets Ana on a holiday in Brazil, he is keen to develop the relationship and they plan to see each other again in New York. When he realizes that he has lost her address, he resorts to posting flyers all over the city, trying to track her down. A charming, romantic short on the perils of not being connected!

I’ve got something to tell you / Tengo algo que decirte

Dir. Ana Torres Alvarez, Spain, 2009, 8 min, colour. English subtitles.
Awards: Best Short at La Jolla Film Festival, California USA, Gold Remi for Best Original Comedy at 43rd Houston International Film & Video Festival, USA, RTVA for Best Andalusian Short at 3rd Higuera Film Festival, Spain.
Cast: Miguel Nadal, Pablo Fortes, Teresa Martin, Adrian Lopez, Federico Dossena

Susana is Pablo’s girlfriend but Pablo has come to the realisation that he’s gay and has, in fact, fallen in love with Javi, his best friend… with whom, as it happens, Susana is two-timing him. Confused? Maybe I haven’t explained it right. You see, Susana is Pablo’s girlfriend… never mind. They’ve all got something to tell someone. How will all this end? It’s going to be a snug fit but I’m sure they will work it out, eventually!

Linear

Dir. Amir Admon, Brazil, 2012, 6 min, colour. No Dialogues.
Awards: Special Jury Mention at International Film Festival Mar del Plata, Argentina. Audience Award at Sao Paulo International Short Film Festival, Brazil. Best Animation at Alucine Toronto Latino Media Festival, Canada. Best Experimental Short at Lambayeque, Peru.

The line is a dot that went for a walk. This is a fabulous animation, winner of no fewer than twenty-five international awards.

Oslo

Dir. Luis Ernesto Donas, Cuba, 2012, 13 min, colour. English subtitles
Cast: Carlos Perez Pena, Nilda Collado

Amidst the searing heat of the Cuban countryside, an old couple lives in an isolated farmstead. Amanda’s impossible obsession: to experience the snows of winter. Finally exhausted and unable, any longer, to care for Amanda in her growing confusion, Raúl summons all his love and ingenuity to help her realise her dream.

With extraordinary performances from Carlos Perez Pena and Nilda Collado under the compassionate and inexorable gaze of Luis Ernesto Donas’ camera, the profound beauty of this little film is, literally, indescribable: so I won’t even try. See it if you possibly can.

The broken woman / La mujer rota

Dir. Jeremias Segovia, Uruguay, 2012, 8 min, B/W & colour. English subtitles.
Awards: Best Short Narrative at San Diego Latino Film Festival, USA.

A seriously injured woman takes a rusty elevator from ground level to the sixth floor in an apartment building. She is bleeding and covered in glass. A fractured narrative uncovers the events leading up to the enigmatic opening, in this intense and stylish short thriller.