Smile Politely

Latin American Film Festival at the Art

Every time I drive by, walk past, or step into the Art Theater Co-op, I feel genuinely lucky. The reason for this fortunate feeling is that I can remember what it was like growing up in a town without a moviehouse. When I was a little kid, going to the movies meant an hour-long trek to the nearest multiplex (or what passed for one back then). And even then, there were no international film offerings. I got whatever Hollywood gave me, and—as in the stories about walking uphill to school in a blizzard—I was grateful.

Imagine my joy, as an adult, living in such a culturally vibrant and intellectually stimulating community. Imagine my delight to be able to patronize the Art and enjoy independent film releases and foreign films to my heart’s content.

And starting this Friday at the Art, there is plenty to delight me (and you) as the Latin American Film Festival returns. Seven acclaimed films from all over Latin America and one deliciously cheesy American genre exercise will play over the next week in a round-robin schedule. The mix of thrillers, comedies, and documentaries should include something for everyone, and yes, just in case you wondered, there will be English subtitles for each and every film.

The selections for this year’s Latin American Film Festival are as follows:

White Elephant (Elefante blanco) (NR) screens Friday at 6 p.m., Sunday at 7 pm., and Wednesday at 6 p.m.

In Villa Virgen, a poverty-stricken and dangerous slum in Buenos Aires, two dedicated and deeply respected Catholic priests–the Argentinian Father Julian and the French Father Nicolas–take very different paths in their struggle against violence, corruption and injustice. They must battle conservative church elders and political corruption in the course of serving their parishioners, trying to build a hospital, and attempting to make peace between rival drug gangs.

Machete (R) screens LATE NIGHT Friday & Saturday at 11:59 p.m.

Smile Politely’s own Chike Coleman described Machete thusly: “This is a Robert Rodriguez grindhouse feature that features Danny Trejo as an ex-federale out for revenge against those who tried to kill him.” As if that weren’t enough to get you into a seat at the Art, Chike continues: “Basically a man’s fantasy. A mantasy, if you will. A lot of violence, a thin plot, and pretty girls. It was Lindsay Lohan’s first attempt to save her career, and Jessica Alba got a little credibility and reminded people that she was in Sin City. Trejo is the perfect leading man for this muddy franchise; he’s like the less-thinking-man’s Liam Neeson. That makes it fun to watch.”

Neighboring Sounds (NR) screens Friday at 8:40 p.m., Monday at 8:30 p.m., and Thursday at 5 p.m.

From the New York Times review:

The characters in this densely populated movie can be roughly divided into masters and servants, and you notice just how much labor—ironing clothes, refilling water coolers, delivering packages, opening doors, selling drugs—goes into maintaining the leisure class in its life of ease. But Mr. Mendonça, a former film critic whose command of the medium is both formidable and subtle, is up to something more than the usual upstairs-downstairs comedy of colliding destinies in a small place. The scope of his movie is narrow, but its ambitions are enormous, and it accomplishes nothing less than the illumination of the peculiar state of Brazilian (and not only Brazilian) society.

7 Boxes (7 cajas) (NR) screens Saturday at 5:00 p.m., Sunday at 9:30 p.m., and Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Victor, a 17-year-old wheelbarrow carter, fantasizes about being a TV heartthrob when he should be hustling for more work in Market No. 4, the bustling eight-city-block trade center in Asuncion.

Victor’s rival carter Nelson has arranged a deal to transport seven boxes of unknown goods to a predetermined drop-off point for a nice payday. When Nelson, who needs the money to pay for medicine for his sick child, is late, Victor subs in for him. And then we’re off to the races.

Suddenly Nelson is after Victor and other, more shadowy figures are after the contents of the boxes. With the market serving as a videogame-like maze, this is a chase comedy that should keep you on the edge of your seat.

El fantastico mundo de Juan Orol (NR) screens Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday at 5 p.m., and Thurday at 7:45 p.m.

Juan Orol was considered an “involuntary surrealist” in his career as Mexico’s answerto Ed Wood. A self-made man with a love for film and fantasy.

The film, which unspools in a series of cinematic flashbacks, begins with Juan Orol, deep in his old age, sitting outside a movie theater, telling his story to a young usher. What follows is a glorious black-and-white flashback mingling movie-tainted memories of his childhood, his forced exile to Cuba, and his eventual arrival in Mexico. He pursues various careers as a baseball player, a boxer, a bullfighter, and a gangster (all to disastrous results) before landing in the movies—where failure kind of works for him. A B-movie star is born.

I’m From the Andes (Soy Andina) (NR) screens Saturday & Sunday at 3:15 p.m.

Mitchell Teplisky writes, for imdb: “Two New Yorkers journey to Peru to reconnect with roots and dance. Folk dancer Nélida Silva returns to her Andean birthplace to host the patron saint festival. Modern dancer Cynthia Paniagua embarks on her own journey after meeting Neli—determined to “quench a burning desire to know the real Peru, and unearth the mystery of the dances.” Soy Andina is a story about crossing cultures and affirming identity in a globalized world.”

Rock, Paper, Scissors (Piedra, papel o tijera) (NR) screens Saturday at 9:40 p.m., Monday at 6 p.m., and Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

This Oscar winner from Venezuela follows the violent and surprising events that take place when a wealthy couple’s son is kidnapped by a poor working man. The pressures of modern life and the uncertainty of fate combine in a pressure-cooker of a movie about life in Caracas. Kidnapping films have a built-in tension, and this film capitalizes on the additional tragedy of haves vs. have-nots.

Sofia and the Stubborn Man (Sofía y el terco) (NR) screens Sunday at 5 p.m., Tuesday at 9:30 p.m., and Thursday at 9:45 p.m.

The film centers on Sofia, a woman in her sixties, who leads a quiet and predictable life with her husband in a village in Colombia. She has always dreamed about going to the sea, but her stubborn husband, who is set in his ways, always finds an excuse to postpone. Finally, following a great personal loss, she decides to leave her morose mate, travel to the sea, and fulfill her long-cherished dream. The audience follows her on an adventure full of unexpected meetings.

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