By Roger Costa
Argentinian director Juan Sebastián Torales’ seductive coming of age hybrid of drama, horror and dark comedy follows the conflicts experienced by Nino, a teen trying to make sense of his sexual identity. He recently moved to a different city along with his family, running away from extreme bullying.
Still traumatized by the mysterious situation, he tries to fit in, while in constant conflict with his religion, his mother and the other members of his community. When he learns about the mythic monster that lives in the forest and haunts sinners, he is taken by curiosity and becomes obsessed with the idea of meeting her.
In the meantime, he is confused about his sexuality and becomes attached to a much older handyman who works for his mother. Observing the dogmas suffocating this young boy in transition from childhood into maturity, writer-director Torales leaves an impressive mark as a storyteller and a creator of tension. Filled with unnerving mystery, incendiary sensuality and convincingly nuanced performances, it announces Torales as a fresh and perceptive Latin American auteur.
ALL THE FIRES
Realistic, heart-breaking and thought-provoking, Mexican director Mauricio Calderón Rico’s drama is a poignant look at this generation’s anxiety facing social, religious and sexual conflicts. Within the tumultuous journey of a pyromaniac teen who runs away from his own nightmares, in search of identity and place, Rico composes an accomplished portrait of the hurdles the youngsters must face now-a-days in order to succeed.
Nominated for the Golden Leopard at this year’s Locarno Film Festival, it is a gentle and naturalistic immersive drama. Young Bruno can only find console in the fires he sets around the house and everywhere he goes. An outcast, he has a good friend, but that doesn’t turn well, when he confesses to have a crush on him.
He is still grieving the recent death of his father, and cannot find agreement with his mother, whom had just started a new romance. He meets a girl online, and runs away to her place where he is welcome by her family, and learns of other conflicts, including coming to terms with his sexuality.
Wonderfully observed with sensibility and patience, it is an incredibly crafted, complex and touching directorial debut.
(The 35th annual NewFest NYC runs October 12-24 with In-person screenings and available virtually for the entire US. Go to https://newfest.org/2023-festival/ for details)