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      Caminantes in La Cinema Fe
    Eyes on Latin America

    Dozens of documentaries and features from Latin America, Spain and the United States can be seen in five venues in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx as part of the second annual La Cinema Fe festival.


    One week is all you have to catch the over one hundred of the latest films from Latin America with a few from Spain thrown in. From February 10 through 17th spread across five venues in three boroughs, it's an ambitious schedule. Check out the details at

    Second annual festival of films from Latin America, Spain and the United States.

    Related links: Official site
    Anthology Film Archives, 32 2nd Ave
    Clearview Cinema, 59th St. near 3rd Ave
    AMMI, 35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria
    Hostos Center, 450 Grand Concourse, Bronx
    Queens Theater in the Park, Flushing Meadows

    LaCinemaFe festival (2003)
  • Overview
  • Sudor Amargo

  • La CinemaFe 2004
  • Official site
    Virtually all of the films you'll see will be having their first local screening, most also their first U.S. showing. There are a few world premieres, too. Even though Hollywood's influence is lurking around, the themes and viewpoints are fresh. So fresh that you might get hooked. By the way, don't go expecting to find a lot of magical realism. It's in short supply here and maybe in Latin America as well.

    Here's a rundown of the various sections. The features competition (13 in the running) and documentary part (17 total) offer a Manzana de Oro (Golden Apple) for best film, director, actor and actress. Uruguay is in the spotlight with eleven features and shorts. A Human Rights documentary section is perhaps the most conventional in theme and viewpoint. There is a gay/lesbian group of shorts and features, mostly from Brazil. Nuyorican Cinema, the Dominican political documentaries of Rene Fortunato and a Special Presentation grouping round out the choices.

      Cama de Gato in La Cinema Fe
      Cama de Gato
    The Official Competition section is rich and varied. The following summaries can only give a sample of what you'll find.

    Cama De Gato / Cat's Cradle (Brazil, 2001) dir. Alexander Stocker. This shocking film may turn out to be the most talked-about of the entire festival. What was supposed to be a night of fun for three friends to celebrate Cristiano's first day at university becomes a tragedy as events get out of control. Suddenly they're in deep shit. There's a lot to cover up, namely two accidental deaths, and the webcam was going all the time! This is the Brazilian MTV generation close-up, where money rules and anything goes if you can get away with it. Maybe the trio is desensitized from seeing too many murder mysteries or what flies in the adult world. Amid talk about free will, they are more and more checkmated by their choices. Stocker amazingly keeps his distance so that we are voyeurs to the events. He reruns key moments to simulate the kids' wishful thinking and uses split screens to show their confusion. No less interesting is the in-your-face writing.

    El Bien Esquivo / The Good Bastard (Peru, 2001), dir. Augusto Tamayo. A hot-headed, mixed-blood adventurer is back in Peru to prove he's not illegitimate in Tamayo's brooding costume film with striking authentic settings. Audacious Spanish soldiers, repressed nuns and the Peruvian Inquisition with a Taliban-like drive to destroy the prior Indian culture make for a gruesome intersection. Tamayo captures the complex interplay between the Spanish conquerors and native Indians.

    El Cumple (Argentina, 2002), dir. Gustavo Postiglione. Out of analysis comes honesty, and sometimes there's too much of it for comfort's sake. Lacking even a shred of discretion, disillusioned boomers get drunk and take it out on each other with the directness they've learned at their shrink. With reputedly more psychoanalysts per capita than any other city in the world, Buenos Aires has likely spawned many a birthday party like this one. Unrealized dreams, regrets and post-marital squabbles nearly outflank some great bitchy humor, guaranteed to ignite the right audience.

    El Tigre De Santa Julia / The Tiger Of Saint Julia (Mexico, 2001), dir. Alejandro Gamboa. "The legend lives!" proclaims this charming proto-PC tale of a provincial Robin Hood type with an all-female group of followers (with all the benefits). As dumb luck would have it, José de Jesus stumbles onto a willing journalist that in no time creates a storm of publicity. He loses out to the establishment, but that's part of Gamboa message about Mexico.

    El Último Tren / The Last Train (a/k/a Corazón de fuego and Los Durmientes Uruguay / Spain / Argentina, 2002), dir. Diego Arsuaga. Anti-global thinks local in this tale of resistance to American domination. Aging steam train buffs hijack historic Engine 33 rather than let an Argentinean entrepreneur ship it to a Hollywood studio. As the anarchists chug across the Uruguayan pampas, they talk philosophy. If this were an Argentinean film, the media circus aspect would have been primary. Instead, human values take center stage. Features (yet again) the most overexposed film actor in Latin America, Héctor Alterio.

    Negocio Redondo / Monkey Business (aka A Sure Deal, Chile, 2001), dir. Ricardo Carrasco. Superb casting makes this a gem of a film. Three buddies hope to turn a fast buck by whisking shellfish in Guaton's old Chevy pickup from the coast to grace Easter dinners in a mountain town. Even if things don't work out exactly as planned, they manage to rev up their love lives along the way. A return stop at Paraiso Perdido (Paradise Lost) nightclub/bordello leads to a mushy happily-ever-after end but doesn't detract from some great performances. Note the club's arch madam as well as the happy-go-lucky trio — Sergio Hernández, Luis Dubó, Emilio García. In the plot they represent capital, labor and management in the mission. Carrasco shows they have to work together to make it happen. Note especially José Luis Arredondo's superb photography of southern Chile.

    El Juego de Cuba in La Cinema Fe  
    El Juego de Cuba
    There are seven other features in competition for Best Film.

    If documentaries are your thing, be sure to catch El Juego de Cuba / Cuba's Game (Spain / Cuba, 2002), Dir. Manuel Martín Cuenca. Cuenca intertwines Cuba's stormy political history with its favorite sport. That's baseball, of course. The sport's popularity dates to the mid-19th century, when it doubled as a protest against the Spanish occupiers. And it still functions as such — witness the overwhelming 12-3 win by the Cubans over the Orioles in Baltimore. Neither hurricanes nor embargoes stop the non-professional players. Nor have the guisanos (worms — the name given to Cuban exiles) had much impact, but defections are another story. Archival footage and many shots and interviews in contemporary Cuba bolster the visual side. While not cool and impersonal, the tone the Spanish director and crew achieve is remarkably free of polemics pro and con that are standard fare in the U.S.

    Ciudad De Maria / Mary's City (Argentina, 2001) Dir. Enrique Bellande. On September 25, 1983, one Gladys Quiroga de Motta had a vision of the Virgin Mary. A friend once noted that the appearances always seem to be in the most out-of-the-way spots. This one in rural Argentina sparked a furor of devotion. Pilgrims descended on the town to leave prayer requests and tourist expenditures — just in time, because the sole industrial employer had just shuttered the steel plant. Riding the crest of a newfound service economy, the townspeople rapidly switch to selling overpriced souvenirs. Bellande manages to tell the story with respect to all, minus cheap shots at the faithful or townspeople. The events take place on the only day in the year during Holy Week that Motta does not leave her house.

    Caminantes / Walkers (Spain / Mexico, 2002), dir. Fernando León de Aranoa. Whatever became of Subcomandante Marcos of Zapatista fame? This past summer rumors were flying that he was in a compromised state of health or vacationing in Italy. Then in December, Marcos set off a furious challenge to the Spanish judge Garzón (who both tried unsuccessfully to get Pinochet extradited from England and further marginalized ETA Basque separatists — presumably the latter action got Marcos's goat). In this documentary he is in good spirits as the Zapatistas' march to Mexico City got under way in rural Chiapas.

    The film covers preparations and final celebrations in a small town toward the beginning of the endeavor. Everyone's in high spirits as a stage and seating go up, litter is collected and stage presentations rehearsed. The big day goes off without a hitch if you don't count the rain. Charismatic Marcos himself speaks at length in his Derrida-esque phrases, always in siguature pasamontaĖa (ski mask) despite full beard. Others chime in, from fellow Zapatistas to the leader of the brass band.

    Despite the euphoria, not much has come of the march yet. The Mayan descendants of Chiapas are economically no better off than before the 1/1/94 uprising, but at least the Mexican army has largely backed off. Spanish band music and Roman Catholicism have made more inroads into the local culture than has the reverse happened. At least political awareness and articulateness has dramatically improved in Mexico. The end of "Caminantes" has the "walkers" taking off their ski masks one by one to reveal a group of all ages and social status. Marcos does as well, but it's offscreen.

    Festival articles



    Sudor Amargo

    A moderately effective story about labor, love, jealousy and murder among the female workers and male managers in a failing Puerto Rico fish processing plant.

    FEBRUARY 10, 2003

    Reader comments on La Cinema Fe:

  • Don't miss MATANZA   from Emiliano, Feb 12, 2003
  • Re: Don't miss MATANZA   from , Feb 22, 2003
  • LOOKING FOR DOCUMENTARY   from RINA, Sep 5, 2003

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