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Expecting Better Days through New Latin Cinema


By Roger Costa


Argentinian actress and author Romina Paula’s debut feature is a delicate, touching and humanistic look at the cycle of life, its ups and downs, and its need to reinvent itself throughout the journey. Dealing with a complicated existential crisis, and an unbalanced marriage, a woman returns to her mother’s home along with her 3 year-old son seeking to overcome the situation. She does everything possible to enjoy that “vacation”, meeting up with old friends, attending parties, working on a teaching gig, and finding comfort in a couple of enthusiastic flirts. But mostly, she’s reconnecting to her roots, to her mother, discovering and preparing her son, and also examining herself as an important piece of the family tree and as a loyal partner. Filled with charismatic performances, truthful dialogue, and brilliantly blending documentary and fiction, Paula conceived a sensitive, utterly feminine and rich meditation on motherhood and the responsibilities of family. Bravo! (Screens 2/17).


Visually hypnotizing, utterly erotic, timely and outrageous, Pablo Larrain’s latest film explores the turbulent passions of a young dancer in contemporary Chile, as she pursuits the idea of having children. A bitter love story, atmospheric and filled with deeply aggressive confronts addressing moral issues, Larrain follows the protagonist without any judgement, only presenting the extreme interest of her heroine in sex, dance and family. After returning their adopted child to the authorities, Ema and her husband (Gael Garcia Bernal) face dilemmas with each other, and with people who had developed a connection to the child, including the entire group of dancers forming their company, and their close relatives. With focus on the effects of one’s choice over children and community, this psychological thriller is a twisted, intense and sexually-charged look at dysfunctional youth. (Screens 2/16).


A hard-working, decent and helpful construction worker is tested by his own concepts and integrity, when his brother fatally dies at a work accident and is unable to get any compensation for his pregnant and widowed sister-in-law. In an abrupt spin, the rich owner of the semi-built house dies, abandoning all services in the place. He decides to break in and invites an entire community to live in with him, sharing the expenses and privileges alike. Director David Zonana’s feature film debut puts him on the radar as an emerging force in Mexican contemporary cinema. The stylish neo-realism approach, acting coordination and profound examination on social issues, demonstrate his caliber and brilliance. Actor Luis Alberti has a strong, firm presence in the protagonist role, a man struggling with financials, an unfair capital system, bureaucracy, and personal conflicts, but silently suffering from the inside with his loss. He deservedly was named Best Actor at Morelia International Film Festival. Raw, candid and inclusive, it’s a compassionate tale of human and working rights. (Screens 2/15).


A devastatingly moving doc investigating human nature, vice and compulsion through the lenses of accomplished Brazilian filmmaker Maíra Bühler. She’s granted exclusive access into the lives of the residents of a building in downtown Sao Paulo, where everyone is addicted to crack. Penetrating inside their homes, exposing private moments, agony, desperation, broken hearts, violent confronts and the consequences of addiction, Bühler captures the hopelessness of these lives on-the-edge with extreme impact. (Screens 2/15).


Following the attempts of four teens to achieve socially, professionally and romantically in modern days Rio, Jo Serfarty’s directorial debut is a definitive portrait of a generation lost with globalization and determined to find their places. Through insightful testimonies and in-depth observations on their activities, meetings, and hangouts (at their homes, churches, clubs, street reunions, schools), the director paints an accurate, truthful canvas of Brazilian Millennials in search of identity, spirituality and fulfillment. (Screens 2/14).


Toritama is a small village in the Pernambuco’s Agreste region, known as the capital of jeans, whose inhabitants are self-employed manufacturers, enjoying their financial freedom. Renowned Brazilian filmmaker Marcelo Gomes (“Once Upon a Time Veronica”, “I Travel Because I Have To”) scoops out the lives of these hardworking folks, their exhaustion, ambitions, honesty and humble concepts, as they go through memories and curiosities of themselves and the place, all while they wait for the fun and freedom of Carnival season. Poetical, humane and original, Gomes scores another goal in his accomplished career. (Screens 2/18).


A lively, humble, sensitive and absorbing coming-of-age story, Salomón Pérez’s debut feature IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LABYRINTH(pic.) is an amusing look at Peruvian youth following the experiences of a skater and his first romance. In PRINCE OF PEACE, director Clemente Castor observes the activities of a group of Mexican teens with inventive narrative skills; Melancholy, poetry and the extremes of human desire revolve around DEATH WILL COME AND SHALL HAVE YOUR EYES, an enigmatic drama about two female lovers facing a terminal illness from Award-winning Chilean director José Luis Torres Leiva.

(NEIGHBORING SCENES 2020: NEW LATIN AMERICAN CINEMA runs February 14-18 at Film at Lincoln Center, NYC. Co-presented by Cinema Tropical. Go to for details, schedule and tickets.)

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