Providing a glimpse into the vast landscape of Iberoamerican cinema and its artists, MoMa’s eclectic selection of films for their biannual showcase is truly enlightening. These year’s collection features some works that received distribution and critical acclaimed and others that have been outstandingly successful in the festival circuit, creating an opportunity for audiences to connect with films they might have missed and others that are shown in the American market.
Staying away from the obvious choices, these gems are films that represent a special perspective within the Iberoamerican collective narrative. Personal stories about heritage, social change, and family, delivered in ways that make innovative use of the medium both in terms of content and form. Working in over 20 countries the Ibermedia organization has been instrumental for the development of these and many other films across the Americas, Spin and Portugal, and this small but artistically impressive retrospective aims to continuously honor their efforts.
This fantastic film exhibition started on May 1st, and continues through May 14th. Below are some of the most notable titles, but in all honesty anything playing here is worth the price of admission.
Palabras Magicas (Para romper un encantamiento)/ Magic Words (Breaking a Spell)
Morphing breathtaking vistas of Nicaragua into poignant visual metaphors, Mercedes Moncada Rodriguez weaves together fragments of her country's torturous past and its forgotten beauty to form a riveting portrait of her homeland. Using July 19, 1979 - the fateful first day of the Sandinista Revolution - as connecting point between old wounds and an the uncertain future, the filmmaker creates a poetic documentary adorned with evocative narration. The archive footage blends with carefully chosen imagery to make the sense lost hope and broken promises even more prominent. Beyond the historical importance it carries, this is a stunning revelation of a film.
Dir. Pablo Larraín
This Academy Award-nominated film by Pablo Larrain uses a peculiar visual style to tackle the crucial role of the media to create social change. It is an extremely entertaining work that seamlessly juxtaposes the visual style of the 80′s with contemporary cinematic language. The piece has a powerful message of unity, and it’s truthful to the history of the Chilean nation. Gael Garcia Bernal is riveting, besides nailing the Chilean accent, his character resonates as a torn man who finds no closure or national identity even after achieving success. His work in advertising serves the same purpose for capitalist marketing and revolutionary campaigns. Based on the real life events that help end the Pinochet regime, this is, above all, a story about incredible results from the most improbable of circumstances.
La Sirga (The Towrope)
Dir. William Vega
With a naturalist aesthetic that highlights the captivating setting and the hyperrealist characters, La Sirga is a delicately crafted new take on the coming-of-age tale. Alicia has just lost her parents at the hands of criminals that lurk around these remote towns in the Andes. She finds shelter with her uncle Don Oscar, and slowly begins to familiarize herself with the locals, their legends, and their fears. Darkness and the quiet sounds of the night slowly reveal the true nature of each character and their unspoken desires. Each silent moment in this film is as important as every line of dialogue. William Vega’s minimalist study of human relations in an isolated community is shot with impressive attention to the composition of each frame and the emotion it conveys.
La Demora (The Delay)
Dir. Rodrigo Plá
Intimate and touching, this bittersweet love letter to parents and their children focuses on a single mother of three who must also take care of her elderly father, who is not lucid enough to fend for himself. At the end if her rope, making very little money, and juggling all her obligations Maria decides to take drastic measures, which she soon regrets. This tiny Uruguayan gem relies on topnotch performances and the honesty of it story. Love is understood here not in magical and perfect terms, but as a mixture sacrifice, patience, and willingness to forgive.
Yvy Maraey: Tierra Sin Mal (Yvy Maraey: Land Without Evil)
Dir. Juan Carlos Valdivia
Essentially a narrative feature that borrows heavily from more sensorial and experimental works, this unclassifiable film set in Bolivia ponders on past wounds and the fervent collision between those of European descent and the indigenous people. Focusing on a filmmaker’s journey following the steps of researcher Erland Nordeskiold by the hand of Guarani Indian, this is a film about the concepts and images that are encrypted in the post-colonial history of Latin America. The concept is at the intersection of scripted drama and Cinéma vérité and it offers mysticism and insightful social commentary.
La Jaura de Oro (The Golden Dream)
Dir. Diego Quemada-Díez
Among the vast and redundant collection of tales dealing with illegal immigration, very few can claim to be unique. Given that there are some inherent qualities to these stories, it takes an assertive new voice to infuse the subject matter with honesty. Spanish director Diego Quemada-Díez’ La Jaula de Oro, is perhaps the most poetic, and neo-realist film about the struggles of people searching for a better future thousands of miles away from home at any cost. There are twists and turns in the plot that make for a satisfying, often heartbreaking viewing experience. Three Guatemalan kids on their way to the live the capitalist dream become trapped in a nightmarish reality as they travel though Mexico. They have nothing to lose but their lives.