Cinema Tropical, the acclaimed New York-based organization dedicated to promoting Latin American cinema in the United States, is celebrating its 15th Anniversary with the 2016 edition of the Cinema Tropical Festival presented with the Museum of the Moving Image. Presenting six feature films from Argentina, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, and Puerto Rico, the festival will feature select winners and nominees from the 6th Annual Cinema Tropical Awards, which were announced at a special ceremony at the New York Times Company headquarters last month.
Founded in 2001 by Carlos A. Gutiérrez and Monika Wagenberg with the mission of distributing, programming and promoting what was to become the biggest boom of Latin American cinema in decades, Cinema Tropical has become the leading presenter of Latin American cinema in the United States. In its 15 years of existence, it has theatrically released 25 Latin American feature films, more than any other U.S. distributor, and has produced numerous film series with multiple cultural organizations. Through a diversity of programs and initiatives, Cinema Tropical is thriving as a dynamic and groundbreaking 501(c)(3) non-profit media arts organization experimenting in the creation of better and more effective strategies for the distribution and exhibition of foreign cinema in this country.
The Cinema Tropical Festival brings the best of contemporary Latin American cinema to New York City audiences, offering a chance to experience the dynamic and inventive film productions from the region. The opening night screening of "Mala Mala," winner of the Cinema Tropical Award for Best U.S. Latino Film, will be followed a Q&A with filmmakers Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, and a 15th Anniversary celebration reception.
The festival will feature the U.S. premiere of the Tiger Award winner "Videophilia (and Other Viral Syndromes") by Juan Daniel F. Molero, which became the first Peruvian film ever to receive the top prize at the Rotterdam Film Festival, with the filmmaker in attendance. The lineup also includes the New York premieres of Juan Schnitman’s debut feature "The Fire," winner of the Best Film Award at the Transylvania Film Festival, and Abner Benaim’s "Invasión," Panama’s first film to be submitted for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.
From Guatemala, Best First Film winner and recipient of the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize at the 2015 Berlinale, Jayro Bustamante’s "Ixcanul" will screen on Saturday. The Argentine film "Jauja" by Lisandro Alonso starring Viggo Mortensen, and winner of the Cinema Tropical for Best Latin American Film of the Year, will close out the Festival on Sunday evening.
Other winners at the Cinema Tropical included "Invasion" (Panama) for Best Documentary Film, "Ixcanul" (Guatemala) for Best First Film "Mala Mala" for Best U.S. Latino Film, Pablo Larraín ("The Club," Chile) for Best Director, Feature Film, and Betzabé García ("Kings of Nowhere," Mexico) for Best Director, Documentary.
(Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, USA/Puerto Rico, color, 87 min. In Spanish and English with English subtitles)
Winner Best U.S. Latino Film – Cinema Tropical Awards The critically acclaimed Mala Mala explores the intimate moments, performances, friendships and activism of trans identifying people, drag queens and others who defy typical gender identities in Puerto Rico. The film features Ivana, an activist; Soraya, an older sex-change pioneer; Sandy, a prostitute looking to make a change; and Samantha and Paxx, both of whom struggle with the quality of medical resources available to assist in their transition. Hailed as “Sensitive and thoughtful” by the New York Times and winner of the audience award for documentary film at the Tribeca Film Festival, Mala Mala affirms that the quest to find oneself can be both difficult and beautiful. A Strand Releasing release. Q&A with filmmakers, reception to follow.
Friday, February 26, 7:00pm
(Invasión, Abner Benaim, Panama/Argentina, 2014, 93 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) New York Premiere Winner, Best Documentary – Cinema Tropical Awards Using reenactments and interviews, filmmaker Abner Benaim documents the collective memory -as well as the selective amnesia- of his fellow Panamanians around the 1989 U.S. invasion to overthrow General Manuel Noriega. The lives of the people of the Central American nation were deeply shaken by the American military incursion. Invasion–Panama’s first film to be submitted for the Best Foreign Language Oscar– is a witty and engaging documentary that talks about the perils of sovereignty, democracy and endangered virtues of today’s ultra-capitalist world. The film not only explores the mechanisms in which memory is turned into history, but holds a mirror to the present to show how the recent past shapes the current Panama.
Saturday, February 27, 12:30pm
(Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala/France, 2015, 93 min. In Kaqchikel and Spanish with English subtitles)
Winner, Best First Film – Cinema Tropical Awards
Winner of the Berlinale’s Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize–the top honor ever won by a Central American film– Ixcanul marks the auspicious debut of Guatemalan filmmaker Jayro Bustamante. The film follows María (played by María Mercedes Coroy), a 17-year-old Mayan girl who lives and works in a coffee plantation that sits at the base of an active volcano in Guatemala. Although Maria dreams of going to the 'big city,' her condition as an indigenous woman does not permit her to change her destiny, and an arranged wedding is waiting for her. A snake bite forces her to go out into the modern world where her life is saved, but at a steep price. Ixcanul is a beautiful and poignant meditation on the clash between tradition and modernity. A Kino Lorber release.
Saturday, February 27, 3:00pm
(El incendio, Juan Schnitman, Argentina, 2015, 95 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) New York Premiere Nominated, Best First Film – Cinema Tropical Awards On the way to closing the contract on their first home, Lucía and Marcelo withdraw a hundred thousand dollars in cash from their bank. The seller can’t make it to the signing and it gets postponed to the next day. Frustrated, they head back to their old place and put the money away. The next 24 hours will unveil the true nature of their love, the crisis they are in, and the violence within themselves. “A riveting chamber piece of subtle shifts and evenhanded power struggles (Variety), Schnitman’s debut feature film was the winner of the Best Film Award at the Transylvania Film Festival.
Saturday, February 27, 5:00pm
(Videofilia (y otros síndromes virales), Juan Daniel F. Molero, Peru/USA, 2015, color, 102 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) U.S. Premiere Nominated, Best First Film – Cinema Tropical Awards The first Peruvian film to ever win the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival, Videophilia (and Other Viral Syndromes) follows Luz, a teenage misfit from Lima who meets online Junior, a weird slacker who is obsessed with conspiracy theories, Mayan prophecies of the end of the world, and underground porn. They try to hook up in the real life but supernatural events start to unfold to guide their destinies. Set in Lima, Juan Daniel F. Molero’s exhilarating debut fiction film is a playful mashup of internet cafes, slackers, not-so-innocent schoolgirls, amateur porn, Google Glass, acid trips and guinea pigs as extras in an exorcism.
Q&A with filmmaker
Saturday, February 27, 7:00pm
(Lisandro Alonso, Argentina/Denmark/France/Mexico, 2014, color, 108 min. In Danish and Spanish with English subtitles) Winner Best Fiction Film – Cinema Tropical Awards An astonishingly beautiful and gripping Western starring Viggo Mortensen, Jauja begins in a remote outpost in Patagonia during the late 1800s. Captain Gunnar Dinesen has come from abroad with his fifteen year-old daughter to take an engineering job with the Argentine army. Being the only female in the area, Ingeborg creates quite a stir among the men. She falls in love with a young soldier, and one night they run away together. When Dinesen realizes what has happened, he decides to venture into enemy territory, against his men’s wishes, to find the young couple. Featuring a superb performance from Mortensen, Jauja (the name suggests a fabled city of riches sought by European explorers) is the story of a man’s desperate search for his daughter, a solitary quest that takes him to a place beyond time, where the past vanishes and the future has no meaning. A Cinema Guild release.
Sunday, February 28, 4:30pm