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Film Movement: Latin American Films [12 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Lake Tahoe
Former music video director Fernando Eimbcke continues to hone his feature film career with this drama concerning a 14-year-old boy who makes the transition from childhood to adulthood while attempting to repair an irreplaceable gift. The final gift that Juan ever received from his father was a car. Now Juan has crashed that car, and he's determined to get it in working order again. As Juan searches the city for car parts, he gradually begins to realize that the decisions he makes over the course of this one day could profoundly affect him for the rest of his life. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

XXY
Lucia Puenzo's drama XXY probes the psychological aftereffects that adolescent transsexuality can yield. With a name easily applicable to either gender, young teenager Alex's (Ines Efron) hermaphroditic physiology causes a massive identity crisis and severe emotional withdrawal. The problems create social problems in the family's home of Argentina and virtually force Alex and his/her sympathetic parents, Kraken (Ricardo Darín) and Suli (Valeria Bertuchelli) to move to nearby Uruguay, at a point when Alex wrestles with the throes of puberty. The situation grows increasingly complex when several friends of the family arrive: marrieds Erika (Carolina Pelereti) and Ramiro (German Palacios), a plastic surgeon, and their adolescent son, Alvaro (Martin Piroyanski), whom Alex instantly propositions for sex. As Alex battles some local punks who try unsuccessfully to rape him/her (saved at the last minute by Kraken), Alvaro finally accepts Alex's promptings for intercourse and comes to a gradual realization of his own gayness. Meanwhile, the rift between the adults and the youth widens with increasing rapidity. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi

Alamar
A young boy and his father learn about living in harmony with nature in this languid drama from filmmaker Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio. A man from Mexico (Jorge Machado) travels to Italy and falls in love with a beautiful local woman (Roberta Palombini). Their feelings for one another are strong, but they prove to be short lived, and when they decide to beak up after the birth of their son Natan, he returns to Mexico while she stays in Italy and takes primary custody of the child. However, the father strives to remain a presence in his son's life, and the boy visits his father at least once a year. As the five-year-old Natan travels to Mexico, his father has joined the family' fishing operation near the coral reefs of Banco Chinchorro. Living in an elevated cottage near the shore, Natan and his family devote their summer to an idyllic existence, spending their days catching the plentiful fish and observing the wildlife, and their nights sitting by the fire and admiring the stars. To the father, this simple life teaches an important lesson of existing in peace with the natural world, and Natan comes to see himself as being as much a part of this environment as the fish, the waterfowl and the seaweed. Alamar (aka To The Sea) was the first solo directorial credit for cinematographer Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Viva Cuba!
When the parents of an upper-class girl and a lower-class boy forbid their children from playing with one another based strictly on each family's social standings, they underestimate the strength of the bond between two children who are still blind to the dividing lines that define the adult world. Malú is a girl from an upper-class background, and her best friend Jorgito is the son of poor but proud socialists. When Malú's single mother forbids her from interacting with Jorgito, citing his family as coarse and commonplace, Jorgito's infuriated mother reciprocates in kind. But neither parent realizes how deep the bond between the two children truly runs, and when Malu's mother announces plans to leave Cuba, they run away to the other side of the island together on a mission to locate Malu's father and convince him not to sign the forms that would allow her to do so. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

The Window
Bombón -- El Perro director Carlos Sorin writes and directs this nostalgic meditation on memory, aging, and death concerning a bedridden 80-year-old father anticipating the arrival of his long-estranged son, a world-renowned concert pianist. Antonio (Antonio Larreta) is nearing the end of his days, though before he goes, he longs for one last visit with the son he hasn't seen in years. In order to ensure that everything is perfect for their long-overdue reunion, Antonio asks his caretakers to make his hacienda presentable, hires a piano tuner to ensure that the instrument is in working order, and calls for a 40-year-old bottle of champagne to be brought up from the cellar for a special toast. Later, as Antonio watches preparations for the reunion being made from his window, he becomes overwhelmed by feelings of nostalgia and wistfulness. His doctor has ordered him to remain in bed at all costs, but as the beauty of Patagonia beckons him to rise, Antonio slips by his faithful caretakers for one last walk through his lavish fields. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Gigante
A supermarket security guard forms a powerful fixation on the pretty cleaning woman who scrubs the aisles during the graveyard shift in this deeply personal tale of obsession and voyeurism from first-time feature filmmaker Adrian Biniez. When the sun goes down, Jara (Horacio Camandule) clocks in to monitor the security cameras at a suburban Montevideo supermarket. The job can be pretty dull at times, so in order to keep himself occupied, Jara often passes the time watching videos, doing crossword puzzles, and playing music. One night, as Jara glances at the monitors, pretty cleaning woman Julia (Leonor Svarcas) wanders into frame and the portly security guard is immediately transfixed. With each passing day, Jara's fixation on Julia grows stronger, to the point where he eventually begins following her outside of work, as well. Before long, Jara's entire life is centered on Julia's daily routine; he watches as she lounges on the beach, goes to a movie, and even as she meets with another man. When rumors of layoffs begin circulating around the supermarket and Jara discovers that Julia is one of the workers about to be handed her walking papers, the smitten security guard must choose between letting go of his obsession and laying bare his suppressed feelings for the object of his affections, or remaining silent and letting his one chance at happiness slip away. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

O Caminho das Nuvens
A father desperate to improve his family's circumstances takes them on an unusual journey in this drama from Brazil. Romão (Wagner Moura) is a truck driver who has fallen on hard times; illiterate and unable to find work at a living wage, Romão and his wife, Rose (Cláudia Abreu), decide to leave the Northwestern provinces of Brazil and head east for Rio de Janeiro, which is 2,000 miles away. With no vehicle at their disposal, Romão, Rose, and their five children make the journey on bicycles. Along the way, they face physical and emotional hardship and bear witness to the many ways in which the nation they knew is changing. Romão also finds himself coming to a crossroads with his oldest son, Antônio (Ravi Ramos Lacerda), a teenager who has become openly defiant of his parents. O Caminho das Nuvens (aka The Middle of the World) was the first dramatic feature from documentary filmmaker Vincente Amorim. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Madeinusa
A young woman of privilege and a man of no social status meet as a small town prepares to wallow in forbidden pleasure in this satiric drama, the first feature film from writer and director Claudia Llosa. Madeinusa (Magaly Solier) is a young woman whose father, Cayo (Ubaldo Huaman), is the mayor of a small town in the Peruvian Andes. Madeinusa is bright and attractive, but this has caused her more than a few problems; her father clearly favors her over her sister, Chale (Yiliana Chong), and since their mother ran away, Cayo has displayed an inappropriate attraction to Madeinusa. While the town strives to accept modern ways, they still embrace a strange custom that began many years ago -- on Good Friday, after acknowledging the crucifixion of Christ, the townspeople engage in a festival of decadence, with any and all sins permitted following the Savior's death until He rises again on Easter Sunday. As the Holy Day festival of Sin is about to start, Madeinusa happens to meet Salvador (Carlos De La Torre), a vagrant laborer who was passing through town when Cayo's men arrested him. For Madeinusa and Salvador, it's love at first sight, but the bizarre backdrop of the festival of sin makes it difficult for them to get to know one another. Madeinusa received its North American premiere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Only When I Dance
Filmmaker Beadie Finzi follows two teenage dancers from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro as they fight to take control of their own destinies by rising though the ranks of an international ballet competition. Should they succeed, it could mean the opportunity to start a new life for their families in a place where there are greater options for the future, and less chances of being drawn into the dangerous world of gangs and drugs. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

The Pope's Toilet
Uruguayan directors César Chalone and Enrique Fernández co-helm the nutty Spanish-language farce El Baño del Papa (The Pope's Toilet). The film unfolds in 1988, during Pope John Paul II's visit to Uruguay. While dozens of economically struggling locals devise plans to turn a buck from the arrival of the papal father -- such as baking cakes and wrapping chorizo sausages -- only one concocts a scheme to earn a fortune from defecation. Beto, a nickel-and-dime smuggler, reasons that all of those cakes and sausages will be digested rather quickly and that over 50,000 locals will soon be clamoring to use the porcelain bowl. Of course, toilets abound in South America, but Beto sets his public toilet apart by crowning it with an aura of prestige -- his will be the only Pope's Toilet in all of Uruguay, and residents, he is certain, will soon be clamoring to use it. Unfortunately, before he can set his scheme in motion, Beto must first locate the most appropriate toilet and make several risky trips across the Brazilian border and back to that end. Then, just as Beto is within arm's reach of success, someone thoughtlessly steals his beloved bicycle -- further hampering his mission. Regardless of the complications at hand, however, Beto's determination persists. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi

El Violin
Filmmaker Francisco Vargas makes his feature-film debut with this expansion of his well-received short film detailing the struggle between the peasants and military in 1970s-era Mexico. Don Plutarco (Angel Tavira) is a dignified elder who, along with his son Genaro (Gerardo Taracena) and grandson Lucio (Mario Garibaldi), makes his living as a traveling musician. On the side, the trio secretly smuggles weapons and supplies to the freedom fighters who are bravely attempting to overthrow the oppressive regime. When the trio returns to their hometown to find that it has been occupied by the army in their absence and the villagers have been forced to flee, Genaro departs in hopes of salvaging their supplies while Plutarco boldly approaches the squad captain (Dagoberto Gama) with the intention of personally recovering the ammunition on the sly. An outwardly harmless old man who convinces the captain to allow him access to the cornfields in exchange for playing music, Plutarco slowly but surely begins smuggling the ammunition back into the village in his violin case as the unsuspecting military man ravenously gorges himself into oblivion. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

The Wind Journeys
In this road movie from Colombian filmmaker Ciro Guerra, Ignacio Carrillo (Marciano Martinez) has been a traveling musician most of his adult life, playing his accordion for anyone who will listen as he wanders from town to town. But after the death of his wife, Ignacio has fallen into a deep depression, and he decided to give up music. As he gives up his old way of life, Ignacio sets out on a journey to give his instrument back to the man who taught him to play many years before, but a young man named Fermin Morales (Yull Nunez) invites himself along for the ride. Ignacio doesn't have much use for Fermin, and while the young man is eager to learn the accordion, it's obvious he has no aptitude for music. But Fermin is persistent, and when bandits steal Ignacio's instrument, the youngster sees an opportunity to prove himself by recovering the lost accordion. Los viajes del viento (aka The Wind Journeys) was an official selection at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, where it was screened as part of the "Un Certain Regard" program. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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