Among the films that played recently at the 24th San Diego Latino Film Festival, held at the AMC Fashion Valley 18 Theater at the Fashion Valley Mall in San Diego, CA I was able to view and review the following:
Time Riders (orig. Los Jinetes del Tiempo)  [IMDb] [FA.es]* (directed and cowritten by Jose Ramon Pedroza [IMDb] [FA.es]* along with Alfredo Mendoza [IMDb] and Violeta Salmón [IMDb]) is a DOCUMENTARY (from MEXICO) that followed a group of rural re-anactors from southern Mexico who organized themselves to commemorate the centenary of the march of Emiliano Zapata and his Liberation Army of the South in 1914 from Quebrantadero, Morelos to Mexico City where he and his army met with Pancho Villa and his Division of the North to help determine the course of the Mexican Revolution. Many of the re-enactors were actual descendants of those who members of Zapata's army who made the march. The documentary offered an opportunity for the re-enactors to reflect on Mexico's course over the Century since and offer a critique. One of the most interesting reflections came from the re-enactors playing Villa and Zapata noting: "A century ago [Zapata and Villa] led a popular Revolution against the "scientíficos" in government (technocrats) but today we have a government largely run by incompetents (those 'scientificos' were not necessarily all that bad)." On the other side of the coin a lot of the re-enactors, coming from rural southern Mexico after all, lamented the post-NAFTA decimation of Mexican agriculture and the current dominance in Mexico of various genetically engineered hybrid corns that farmers are effectively forced to grow: "The Revolution fought against Paternalism and the dominance of 'scientíficos,' but today they are in control again telling us once more what we can and can not do." The juxtaposition of concerns of the past, present and even about the future give the film its title and make for an interesting and colorful documentary and certainly helps one to appreciate the heart-rending poignancy of the Mexican Revolution which was largely about Peasants rising-up and demanding to be respected. -- 4 Stars
El Malquerido  [IMDb] [FA.es]* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Diego Rísquez [IMDb] [FA.es]* along with Emiliano Farías [IMDb] and Robert Gómez [IMDb] based on the book [WCat] [Amzn] by Eduardo Fernández [es.wikip]*[IMDb]) is a BIOPIC about ever smiling Venezuelan singer (bolerista) Felipe Pirela [es.wikip]* (played in the film by Jesús Chino Miranda [IMDb] [FA.es]*)who was immensely popular across the Caribbean in the 1960s. Yet as is often the case with artists, a combination of personal failings / naivete conspired to eventually destroy him. For instance, at 23 he married a 13 year old wide-eyed fan (named Mariela and played in the film by Greisy Mena [IMDb] [FA.es]*). Note that while this would simply shock the contemporary Viewer / Reader, North American Rock-and-Roller Jerry Lee Lewis [wikip] [IMDb] actually did roughly the same thing, marrying a 13 year old cousin, at roughly the same time, the late 1950s. Needless to say, that marriage could not and did not go well, and caused him other difficulties that eventually set him on a course where he was murdered in Puerto Rico in 1972 by a mafioso to whom he apparently owed money. Fame, particularly easy / early fame ... is rarely a blessing. -- 3 1/2 Stars
Califórnia  [IMDb] [AC]*(directed and cowritten by Marina Person [IMDb] [AC]* along with Francisco Guarnieri [IMDb] and Mariana Veríssimo [IMDb]) is a truly heartrending "COMING OF AGE" STORY from BRAZIL. Set in the early 1980s, the film's about a random 17-year-old high schooler from a relatively rich family from São Paulo named Estela (played by Clara Gallo [IMDb] [AC]*) with a "cool" / fun-loving uncle named Carlos (played by Ciao Blat [IMDb] [AC]*), still single and in his early 30s living in California. The plan was that as soon as she finished high school, she was going to go out to visit him. Indeed, she had foregone her "15th-birthday party" so that she could go on that trip once her high school was finished. Well ... 10 days before she was supposed to go, she gets word that her uncle was going to go back to São Paulo instead and he's going to be staying with them for a while (Carlos was Estela's mother's younger brother). Well, when Carlos arrives, he's the fun-loving uncle that Estela always knew -- and she still didn't fully understand why he was suddenly there and she was suddenly not going to see him in California -- 'cept ... he was ... noticeably ... thin. The rest of this just utterly heartbreaking tale takes it from there -- 4 Stars.
The Ornithologist (orig. O Ornitólogo)  [IMDb] [AC]*(written and directed by João Pedro Rodrigues [IMDb] [AC]*) was billed as an "experimental" take on the life of Saint Anthony of Padua (Lisbon). Playing quite late in the evening and at the Latino Film Festival San Diego (an hour and a half away from where I live), the film proved _too_ "experimental" for me to watch all the way through -- Set apparently in rural modern day northern Portugal, I left after the Ornithologist / Antonio (played by Paul Hamy [IMDb] [AC]*) was tied-up by a couple of Chinese (!) pilgrims, lost on their way to Santiago de Compostella, with said Chinese pilgrims (played by Han Wen [IMDb] and Chan Suan [IMDb]) threatening to castrate him. Say what?? Yup ... perhaps it all would have come to make sense but I simply ran out of patience. So I picked myself up and left. Sigh ... -- 1/2 Star
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