Presenting 28 films from 11 countries, many in their New York premieres, the 2008 edition of The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual Latinbeat series features films from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela and the United States.
Adding to the series’ range is the prominence of women in Latin American film culture. Seven of this year’s Latinbeat selections are directed by women, while six feature female leads. Esteban Schroeder’s Kill Them All (Uruguay/Chile/Argentina/Germany), based on the real-life story of a Uruguayan human rights prosecutor who investigates her own family’s role in the country’s military past, is the first in a powerful set of films tackling the region’s tumultuous past and contemporary political constraints. Lucía Cedrón’s Lamb of God, (Argentina/France) starring Mercedes Morán and Jorge Marrale, charts a family’s struggles within the repressive regime in Argentina in 1978 and the strain their past actions have on family members in 2002. The documentaries The Old Thieves: The Legends of Artegio (Mexico) and Man of Two Havanas (USA) look at the current lives of legendary figures, whose past exploits marked them for fame and, in the latter story of Cuban freedom fighter Max Lesnik, constant death threats.
Inventive takes on coming-of-age stories also appear throughout the series as a dominant creative interest for contemporary Latin American filmmakers. They take later-in-life forms in Encarnación (Argentina), Estômago: A Gastronomic Story (Brazil/Italy), and the enticingly titled comedy The Pope’s Toilet (Uruguay/Brazil), as a faded actress discovers an unexpected bond with her niece, a drifter explores his newfound culinary talents with dangerous consequences, and a smuggler finds inspiration for his most ingenious get-rich scheme, respectively. Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas’s artful fable Cochochi (Mexico/UK/Canada) is more traditional in its coming-of-age plot but no less creative in its execution, following two children through the lush Sierra Tarahumara as they deliver medicine to a remote mountain village. The two children in The Path (Costa Rica), Ishtar Yasin Gutierrez’s engaging blend of documentary and drama, travel from Managua to Granada in search of the mother who left them years before.
Two films bring both of Latinbeat 2008’s most prominent themes together in searing investigations of politics, war and their effect on the lives of childrWolney Oliveira’s en. In El cayo de la muerte (Cuba/Brazil), a young man’s ambition to be a Hollywood director survives despite his family’s flight from Havana after Batista’s police target his father. Mariana Rondón vigorously mixes comedy and tragedy together through a wide variety of imaginative cinematic techniques in Postcards from Leningrad (Venezuela) to present the fantasies a young girl creates to escape the guerilla warfare taking place around her.
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