Alejandro Gerber Bicecci
In 1964 in the desert, a truck driver and companion find and
save a baby latched on to his dead mother’s breast. She had
died from dehydration. Film follows three youths who share
a secret that links them to that baby, a link which is not
clarified until the end. Until that ending, shoddy editing,
poor script and character development undermine what could
have been an engaging mystery.
DE LA ABUNDANCIA (THE HORN OF PLENTY),
Juan Carlos Tabio
Cuban farce about how the announcement of a potential inheritance
destabilizes the inhabitants of the fictitious village of
Yaragüey. In the 18th century, three nuns come to possess
a large sum of gold. Depositing it into a British bank, their
will stipulates that their descendants, the Castiñeiras (akin
to say the Smiths -- a very common family name in Cuba) will
receive the inheritance. The tranquil daily lives of the villagers
are isturbed and even divided. Though funny in parts, the
film follows a formulaic plot found in many comedies on similar
themes. The character development and script was inconsistent.
EL CUERNO DE LA ABUNDANCIA (THE
HORN OF PLENTY),
Juan Carlos Tabio
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] What a delight! Despite
the hopelessly poor conditions that plague the people living
in the Cuban village of Yaragüey, their lives are full of
laughter, disappointments, secrets, escapades and sizzling
sexual antics. Life in this little village turns into a chaotic
mess when the chance of obtaining a huge inheritance for every
inhabitant sharing the family name of Castiñeiras becomes
a reality. But like most things in Cuba, it all falls through.
Brilliant acting and laugh out loud situations perfectly illustrate
the great humour that Cubans have. Titled in English as “The
Horn of Plenty,” the irony is perfect. Tabio's sense of humour
is infectious; he makes us all want to be part of the Castiñeiras
Luis Carlos Carrera González
Well-crafted investigative drama based on actual events. In
the desert outside of the border town of Juárez the mutilated
corpses of young women, many of whom had been reported missing,
are turning up on a regular basis. New police captain, Blanca
Bravo, is determined to find the killer(s) and end the gruesome
carnage, yet she faces tremendous obstacles. Not the least
of which is the complacency and even complicity of her superiors.
This is a powerful, gritty and well acted dramatization of
a horrendous reality that has been ongoing since the mid-90s
that includes a special appearance by Jimmy Smits.
DE L'OBLIT (THE STATION OF THE FORGOTTEN),
Christian Molina, Sandra
According to one of the incidental characters (early in the
film); the train station where one faces his/her fears is
called ‘the station of the forgotten.’ Domingo is a ‘man of
the sea’ who lives with his son, his daughter-in-law and his
granddaughter. Unable to cope with Domingo’s eccentricities,
his daughter-in-law has him placed in an old folk’s home.
Pau is a troubled youth from a well to do family. His sentence
for being convicted on a fatal D.Y.I. charge is to do community
service at the same home. Since they are equally rebellious
in nature, a friendship develops. Domingo desperately desires
to return to his native land to be reunited with his deceased
wife. Though the film has a weak beginning, once its purpose
becomes known and the personalities engage, the result is
an affecting human drama about facing one’s fears and regrets.
LA FIN DE L’ATTENTE,
Antonio P. Molero & Jesus Sanjurjo
Documentary. 55 min. reflection on a dark period of Spanish
history -- the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. It follows
the efforts of family members to recover the bones of those
who were executed during Franco’s regime.
DE LA VICTORIA (THE DANCER AND THE THIEF),
Chile became a democracy all prisoners who had committed non-violent
crimes were given amnesty and released from prison. This crime
drama with a light touch of comedy centers on two of these
former inmates. Angel Santiago (portrayed with childlike innocence
by Abel Axala) is a young man who wants to take vengeance
on the Warden. Vegara Gray (played with calm and resolve by
Ricardo Darin) is a celebrity bank robber who only wants to
reunite with his family and change his life. A chance meeting
with a mute street waif named Victoria (credible performance
by professional ballerina and first-timer Miranda Bodenhöfer)
will ultimately affect the lives of both men. This film is
thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining.
Carlos Serrano Azcona
This film is a portrait of a lost soul, Santiago, who wanders
the streets of Madrid, seeking to ease his painful existence.
As he engages in what are seemingly superficial encounters,
we begin to better understand Santiago’s situation. This is
a film that requires one’s full attention to penetrate its
meaning but the effort is well worth it.
A drama that focuses on how life is lived between attempts
to illegally cross the border from Mexico into the States.
Andrés has arrived in Tijuana from Oaxaca seeking a better
life in the States. After a failed attempt, he is hired by
a convenience store owner. A bond develops between Andrés,
his female boss and her assistant as they get to know each
other. The two women reveal that their husbands had crossed
the border but have never returned. Illegal border crossings
examined from a unique perspective in an emotionally touching
LOS CONDENADOS (THE CONDEMNED),
Martin returns after 30 years living in exile to Tucumán province
in Argentina to help his old army buddy Raul find the bones
of a fellow soldier killed in battle. Set in a lush mountainous
forest, tension arises between the two men living under the
same roof as each must face the truth of what really happened
to their fallen comrade.
1983, Felipe and Sixto -- childhood friends -- are playing
in the hills near their village in Peru. Meanwhile the terrorist
group ‘The Shining Path' enters the village and rounds up
all of the inhabitants into the village square. After the
delivering the usual propaganda speech about fighting the
revolution for the people and explaining why the exploiters
must pay with their lives, the guerrilla leaders brutally
murder the village leaders. The mayor is Felipe’s father.
Both children witness this and run into the square. Felipe
is shot and Sixto is taken by the rebels. In 1988, the two
encounter each other during an army battle. Sixto is a leader
amongst the rebels and Felipe, who had been saved and adopted
by the army commander in 1983, is now a sub-lieutenant for
the army. Powerful and gritty, this film boldly shows the
horrors both physical and emotional of warfare and especially
the effect on personal relationships when friends end up on
For those in the ghettos of Argentina (called ‘villas miserias’)
the only way to escape their wretched condition is through
soccer. With the big World Cup game between Argentina and
Nigeria coming up, we follow three youths as they try desperately
to procure a television in order to watch the game. A lacklustre
script, poor acting and shoddy camera work account for failing
to engage this reviewer.
3.8 -- LUISA,
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Luisa has just experienced the second worst day in her life.
The first one came with the sudden death of her husband and
daughter: how -- the viewer does not know, but we do see flashbacks
and the cremation plaques in the ground bearing their names
on the premises where Luisa works as a receptionist. Spanking
new empty urns for sale sit on shelves behind her desk. She's
been polishing them as they come and go for the past 30 years.
But one fateful day, she is dealt her own death blow of sorts.
Her beloved cat dies, and on that same day, she is fired from
her receptionist job and her second job as well -- cleaning
the home of a famous actress about to retire. Luisa descends
into dark days literally; her electricity is cut off and the
means to support herself leaves her own life also in blackness.
But she has a few cards up her sleeve, including lucky Chinese
ones she distributes with the hope of being handed pesos on
the subway for them. No such luck. She resorts to playing
a cripple and even a blind woman begging in a way that could
earn Luisa her own Oscar. This wonderful film features the
brilliant actress, Leonor Manso. Her portrayal of this homely
woman over the hill in desperate need of a life lift is beyond
For the past 30 years Luisa (excellent performance by Leonor
Manso) has followed the same daily mundane routine. She is
awakened by her cat and sole companion Tino; takes the bus
to her full-time job at a cemetery (before which she visits
the grave of her husband and daughter who died tragically).
At 4:30 she goes to work as a part-time cleaner for a famous
actress. Then one day all is turned upside down. Her cat has
died; her boss at the cemetery fires her as he wants new blood;
and the actress has decided to retire and move to the country,
no longer needing Luisa’s services. Now penniless and without
a future, Luisa decides to go into the Metro system to beg
for money. There she meets a crippled man and ‘happiness and
purpose’ somewhat return to her life. The result is a bittersweet
social fable that contains just the right amount of humour.
AGUAS VERDES (GREEN WATERS),
Mariano de Rosa
A comedy drama with a dark edge, this premier work is about
a family of four, including teenage daughter and younger brother,
that goes on vacation to a beautiful beach resort called Aquas
Verdes. At a stop-over for gas and supplies, the father sees
the daughter talker to a mysterious drifter. Reacting with
far more than the usual fatherly protection, he begins a descent
into extreme paranoia whereby he constantly watches the rest
of his family. The film’s lacklustre flow, weak character
development and symbolic images (lost on this reviewer), made
this an un-engaging and sleepy film.
2.5 -- AGUAS VERDES (GREEN WATERS),
Mariano de Rosa
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This Argentine family is in need of some major family unity,
but the holidays they take only serves to divide them further.
The mother herself seems as immature as her young teenage
daughter, and the young son seems to be lacking any focus.
However, the father is the one that tries to hold it all together
through discipline that everyone either fears or ignores.
The young cocky wanderer they meet becomes the catalyst to
expose the over protective father's anger and the mother's
complete lack of concern for her children. This is a dark
comedy whose ending leaves you wondering if it might not have
been better if the whole family ought to seek therapy other
than just the father who evidently already has. Ominous events
insert themselves alongside the light-hearted gal-friend giggles
and scenery that happen once the vacation hits the beach and
the family makes new contacts. The ending makes it a thriller
of sorts. Actor, Alexandro Firore as the father plays paranoia
with such subtlety and logic that we are right there with
him reading his mind before he even speaks. A cast of characters
that you hope never to befriend on a beach, even if it is
in beautiful Argentina!
SE EU FOSSE VOCE 2 (IF I WERE YOU 2),
A couple on the verge of getting divorced exchange bodies.
To complicate matters their daughter announces that she is
pregnant and is going to marry her boyfriend who is the father.
Has some very funny moments and the two leads play their individually
reversed parts well. Script was formulaic, predictable and
did wear thin after a while
SINGULARIDADES DE UMA RAPARIGA LOURA (ECCENTRICITIES OF A
BLOND HAIR GIRL),
Manoel de Oliveira
Exquisitely rich ethical fable about an accountant who works
for his uncle. His life is turned upside down when he meets
and falls in love with a mysterious and beautiful blonde girl.
Superb decor with a sumptuous collection of art and literature
are the hallmarks of this film.
2.5 -- SINGULARIDADES DE UMA RAPARIGA
LOURA (ECCENTRICITIES OF A BLOND HAIR GIRL),
Manoel de Oliveira
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This film's title should have been "A Room with a View." Like
a Merchant-Ivory film, the setting is equally beautiful. We
are in Lisbon in the 19th century. A young man working as
an accountant upstairs in his uncle's cashmere scarf shop
looks across at the window facing his, and falls instantly
in love with a beauty waving a feathered Chinese fan. Her
beguiling subtlety is instantly seductive, and though she
is physically similar to the girl in the film, "Girl with
a Pearl Earring," it is diamonds rather than pearls that she
loves. In fact, it is the diamond in her hand rather than
a pearl in the ear that takes the glitter completely out of
the young man's love for her. This movie is beautiful to watch,
but the plot is implausible and stops short of a decent ending.
3.2 -- LA BUENA VIDA (THE GOOD LIFE),
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Santiago, Chile is rife with people who are miserable, and this
film zooms in on some of them. One is a mother without means
to care for her baby. Another mother who gives classes on
birth control to girls in the sex trade, finds out her teenage
daughter is pregnant, and to top it off, her ex is fooling
around with prostitutes at a bar. Then there is the gifted
clarinettist whose aspirations to play in the Philharmonic
Orchestra are dashed; he has to settle for playing with the
carabineros (the police band). His clarinet is stolen by another
character, a man who lives with his mother and whose dream
is to get enough money to buy a Ford. His problems are plentiful
and money is one of them. He can't afford the upkeep of his
father's grave, nor does he want to see his dad go up in ashes,
and that is what will happen if he doesn't act immediately.
Marvellous performances and believable life circumstances
earn this film a Festivalissimo competition award.
LA BUENA VIDA (THE GOOD LIFE) ,
Multiple destinies interweave in a contemporary social drama
that unfolds Santiago, Chile as individuals struggle to improve
their lives. Well structured script, tightly edited and good
performances are evident in this film.
EL CUARTO DE LEO (LEO’S ROOM),
The story of a young man coming to grips with his sexuality.
A sensitive and endearing film that explores the real meaning
of a solitary life.
DANIEL Y ANA,
A riveting and powerful psychological drama that exposes the
social reality of the violent and devastating effects of underground
pornography rings in Mexico. As well the film explores and
studies the short and long term effects on a brother and sister
who were kidnapped and at gunpoint were forced to have sexual
relations. A video tape was made and went to who knows where.
La Soga (means rope) is a hired assassin of the chief of the
Dominican secret police. Filled with rage and a desire to
avenge the murder of his father when he was a child, he cold-heartedly
completes his task of eliminating ‘the undesirables.’ To see
a film from the Dominican republic was a rare treat, but if
it were an American film it would merit an average mark for
its exposure of corruption. Flashbacks of La Soga’s childhood
were effectively shown in a different grade.
GARBO: EL ESPIA (GARBO: THE MAN WHO SAVED THE WORLD),
Mixing interviews with archival footage, this feature length
documentary retraces the path of Spanish double agent whose
deceptive messages to the Nazis made it possible for the Allies
to successfully land on the shores of Normandy and go on to
win the war. Not well structured and somewhat confusing. Those
interviewed were not clearly identified.
Nightmarish 43 min. fiction about a man, Ever Amado, who along
with his wife Flor, is attempting to escape a brutal civil
45 min. fiction about a young street kid, Nacho, who along
with his bourgeois friend Ela discover a way to bring life
to an abandoned theatre. They tell stories through the use
of shadow puppets reflected on the wall by the rays of the
LA SANGRE Y LA LLUVIA (BLOOD AND RAIN),
First feature film is about two lonely souls converging on
a rainy night in Bogota. Jorge is a cab driver seeking vengeance
upon those who recently murdered his brother. Angela is a
junkie and seeks out one night stands. What could have been
a potentially powerful portrayal of the underbelly of Bogota
ends up as a formulaic, predictable drug and prostitution
film. Even as a quite forgettable film, it is nonetheless
entertaining and diversionary.
2.9 -- EL VUELCO DEL CANGRECO (CRAB TRAP),
Oscar Ruiz Navia
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Life in Columbia's La Barra is a seemingly idyllic place where
coastal waters are impressively alluring. But in fact, life
there is depressingly impoverished. Those who have lived there
most of their life wish to stay and preserve their primitive
way of survival regardless of the lack of fish and other food
that used to be in abundance. There are crabs, but one must
go far to get them. The movie illustrates that no matter how
far off the beaten track a man may go, problems are always
close by. Threatened by the attempts of a young foreigner
to enlarge his shanty hotel and turn the beach into a more
modern lucrative spot, the natives take things into their
own hands. Particularly interesting is the relationship of
Daniel, a young man who comes to La Barra in search of a boat.
There isn't one, so he ends up staying. A little girl who
befriends him ends up being his ticket out of the conflicts
and intrigues he witnesses. Indeed, La Barra is beset with
all kinds of challenges. It is said that once a crab lands
on its back, it can never return right side up. But some manage
to. This movie proves that hardships have their own just resolution,
and sometimes everyone gets what they deserve. La Barra's
raw scenery and the film's slow pace gently take you into
a world that most of us will never experience.
EL VUELCO DEL CANGRECO (CRAB TRAP),
Oscar Ruiz Navia
La Barra is a coastal fishing village in Columbia populated
by blacks. Having little contact with the outside world, their
lives are abruptly changed when a white man (La Paisa) settles
in the village intending to convert it into a tourist resort.
The music blasting from his speaker all day disturbs local
elder, Cerebro, who refuses to allow La Paisa to destroy the
serenity of his village. Amidst this tense situation arrives
a mysterious stranger named Daniel. All he wishes for is to
buy a boat by which he can flee the country but this proves
to be difficult as all the fishermen of the village are out
to sea. Daniel, in return for room and board, agrees to help
Cerebro to clean the beach everyday. Lucia, a young girl,
latches on to Daniel, helping him if he buys lunch from her
mother. The director’s first feature is a slow paced film
with a natural feel (the location plus the only professional
actors were the two outsiders) that gives this a noteworthy
status. The scenario and editing could have been tighter.
MUSICA EN ESPERA (MUSIC ON HOLD),
Delightful, light-hearted romantic comedy centers on Ezequiel’s
search for inspiration for a melody he needs to compose for
a film soundtrack. Under pressure from the film’s director
and from the bank to pay his mortgage, he comes down with
writer’s block. He phones the bank to try and get an extension.
After many transfers he finally reaches the assistant manager,
Paula. She puts him on hold and the melody he hears is exactly
what he wants for the soundtrack. Yet this is merely one of
over 200 melodies used by the bank. Paula is pregnant and
the father has left her. She has not told this to her mother
who is arriving to assist in the birth and meet the father.
She agrees to help Ezequiel to find the melody if in return
he pretends to be her boyfriend and the father of her child.
A very amusing and entertaining look at the process involved
in composing film soundtracks.
3.1 -- PECADOS DE MI PADRE (SINS OF MY FATHER) ,
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This compelling documentary brings to light the life of the infamous Pablo Escobar, king of the Columbian drug cartel. The story is told with candour and humility by his son, Juan, who like his father was forced to flee Columbia because of the horrid legacy his cruel father left in his wake after he is murdered. Juan changes his name to Sebastián Marroquin in order to hide his true identity. Questing for some form of normalcy, he writes an email to the sons of the politicians murdered by his father in cold blood. For years, he has been haunted by what his father had done, Sebastian's bravery is impressive, and the young men meet. It is the only way to begin reconciliation between them all. These scenes are remarkably devoid of tension though the film's subject is highly charged. Only a great documentary tells the truth without the need for sensationalism.
PECADOS DE MI PADRE (SINS OF MY FATHER),
Documentary film that gives a vivid and heartfelt reflection
of what it was like to be the son of Pablo Escobar, Columbia’s
most notorious and brutal drug lord. Juan Escobar was only
16 when his father was gunned down in 1993. With his mother
he flees to Buenos Aires and changes his name to Sebastián
Marroquin. In 2008, wishing to reconcile with the sons of
two of his father’s most prominent victims, Sebastián requests
to meet with them to apologize and ask for their forgiveness.
This powerful and historic moment is captured by the film-maker
and effectively shows that the sins of our fathers do not
need to continue with the next generation. Film opens with
a fascinating animated sequence that recreates a typical drug