Visiones Latinas: Filmfest München 2011 (selection + wonderful piece of writing)
A transvestite who works as a prostitute and a professor for gender studies devotes her free time to writing historical romances. A Hare-Krishna disciple, who, after his day job at a call center, turns into a screaming soccer fan. Two protagonists in the debut film of Brazilian Sérgio Borges. Given such bizarre characters one might be tempted to accuse this young filmmaker of having a wild imagination. But nothing could be further from reality. All of the characters really exist. They play themselves and take this theatrical film to the outer limits of documentary films. And to the perimeters of the metaphysical. The title is O CÉU SOBRE OS OMBROS (THE SKY ABOVE – literally, The Sky On Their Shoulders). What remains unclear is just who the title refers to: the protagonists and their burdensome search for identity and transcendence – or the cinema itself, as an allegory of Atlas attempting to carry the entire world on his shoulders. Or being damned to. Not a conventional definition of making films.
Carrying the sky on your shoulders lands you in hell fast, as Julio Hernández LAS MARIMBAS DEL INFIERNO (Marimbas From Hell) shows. Here too the characters play themselves to a great part for a crazy project: turning the marimba, Guatemala’s traditional indigenous instrument, into a heavy metal death instrument and a film that is somewhere between a social drama, black comedy and music mockumentary. Those who do not get justice on earth, rebel in Heaven. PORFIRIO demonstrates that with its paraplegic protagonist Porfirio Ramírez, the victim in a Colombian police and judicial scandal. Although in a wheel chair, he highjacked a commercial airliner with two hand grenades and tried to blackmail the government into paying him damages. But it gets even better. Porfirio, who, is serving his sentence at home because of his disability, he played himself in his own home-cum jail in the feature film debut of documentary filmmaker Alejandro Landes (COCALERO, Filmfest München 2007).
Three totally different films – but, in their non-acceptance of genre limitations such as reality and fiction, professional and non-professional actors, tragedy and comedy (and last but not least heaven and hell) they are similarly paradigmatic of contemporary Latin American auteur cinema. In the late Nineties, a young generation of filmmakers appeared on the scene and with their fresh took on the reality of telenovelas, Hollywood imitations and magical-realist kitsch stood up against mainstream cinema. Today, there’s a new avantgarde, conscious of being part of a film culture that – with figureheads such as Carlos Reygadas or Lisandro Alonso – is in a phase of maturity. These directors use nuances, subtle observation and the spiritual with stylistic confidence. Their reality of a continent of contrasts serves as artistic soil without encouraging trite imagery. So-called realistic (actually just flashy) portrayals of social injustice have long been major exports of Latin American cinema, as is proved by the bizarre boom of Mexican Narco-Cine, which grossly exaggerates the glamour and misery of the drug wars.
The two documentary film essays EL VELADOR by Natalia Almada from Mexico and VIGIAS by Marcelo Lordello from Brazil are the antitheses to those blood-drenched exploitation cash cows. Both observe urban violence from the perspectives of their observers: night watchmen. One in cemetery, where, day for day, mega-mausoleums for murdered drug lords are constructed, the other in a condominium where the upper middle class isolates itself from the intrusion of the poor in an architecture of fear. The painful history of the dictatorships of the Seventies and Eighties, exploited repeatedly in sentimental bestsellers, is also given new meaning from the points of view of characters such an assistant coroner who is confronted by the corpses during Pinochet’s takeover in Pablo Larraín’s POST MORTEM.
These young film auteurs develop their most impressive poetic force when they put the clichés of Latino Cinema behind them, both thematically and stylistically. When Théo Court accompanies the caretaker on his last rounds at a deserted manor in the foggy dreariness of southern Chile in OCASO; when Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas follow Haitian French teacher Jean Rémy Genty on his journey from the urban jungle of Santo Domingo through the island’s lush vegetation, the narrative has been replaced by the contemplative and deals with things beyond heaven and earth.
Many of this year’s locations are often what used to be blind spots on the map. Neither Guatemala nor the Dominican Republic has had a viable film industry for years. New film boom countries such as Chile and Colombia provide a third of the films in this year’s section because they have established a growing network of film institutions, schools and subsidy mechanisms. After a decade of exponential expansion, Latin America has established itself as a leader in world cinema. VISIONES LATINAS, with its admittedly subjective focus on creative auteur cinema, especially debut films, hopes to provide insights into this fascinating development.
Source: FLORIAN BORCHMEYER for Filmfest München
Entry filed under: FILM FESTIVALS, LATIN AMERICAN FILM. Tags: Alejandro Landes COCALERO, Carlos Reygadas, EL VELADOR by Natalia Almada, Julio Hernández LAS MARIMBAS DEL INFIERNO, latin movies, Lisandro Alonso, Marimbas From Hell movie, O CÉU SOBRE OS OMBROS film, OCASO by Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas, Pablo Larraín’s POST MORTEM, PORFIRIO pelicula, THE SKY ABOVE movie, VIGIAS by Marcelo Lordello, Visiones Latinas: Filmfest München 2011.