By Liz Lopez
Sources: SXSW, Gravitas Ventures, Colombian Film Festival
There was a long list of films with Latino filmmakers/cast available this year at the SXSW Film Festival brought to the United States in the Global category from various countries, as well as many films in other categories (narrative/documentary) by Latinos from here in the United States or featuring Latino actors/crew. Try as I may, I was not able to view each and every one of them and many other films of interest to me.
This is a recap of the films I was able to view and not full reviews, but some initial reactions.
Friday, March 8th – “The Wall of Mexico” (U.S., Mexico; Zachary Cotler, Magdalena Zyzak) made it’s World Premiere in the Narrative Spotlight category on opening night. The main draw for me is veteran actor Esai Morales (“La Bamba,” “From Dusk till Dawn: The Series”) and an expectation of the film from the synopsis. Although the role-reversal idea about building a wall for the film is good, there are some scenes that are more than not necessary and detract from the focus of the film.
Casa Mexico at Mexic Arte – I attended Casa México for the fourth consecutive year during SXSW, this time at the Mexic -Arte Museum on Congress Ave. There were many activities featured, including live music concerts, fabulous art exhibits (the framed posters were fantastic), films with the producer’s commentaries, thematic lounges, friends from Saltillo who represented the city and will be returning to Austin for the Saltillo Day celebration in early April. Thanks to the Consulate General of Mexico in Austin, Carlos Gonzales Gutierrez for the fabulous showcase he has hosted during SXSW.
Sunday, March 10th
“Knock Down the House” [Festival Favorite] This documentary featuring Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Paula Jean Swearengin and Cori Bush is directed by: Rachel Lears; written by: Lears and Robin Blotnick and they both produced it along with Sarah Olson. Easily one of my favorite films featuring these four women who took action in American politics, despite a lack of political experience or corporate money. Their efforts result in a legendary upset. I highly recommend the film. Waiting to see if the film will be officially announced to be released via Netflix.
Monday, March 11th
“La Mala Noche” (Ecuador, Mexico; Gabriela Calvache) (World Premiere) (Global category) – There is no way I will provide spoilers. This is an excellent feature film from a director who has previously only done documentaries. The story shines a light on a worldwide issue that comes with a gut punch and very aware of what is happening to humans across the world.
“The Infiltrators” (US; Cristina Ibarra, Alex Rivera) Festival Favorites category. This is based on a true story but told through actors as young individuals take a stand, take action and help those in detention. This is an incredibly good film that shows the results of these brave young people who gathered to make a difference for people in detention.
Tuesday, March 12th
The Robert Rodriguez Film School + “Red 11” Premiere (US; Robert Rodriguez) (World Premiere) *Special Events* – I waited in the Primary Access line with many, many others and after an hour and a half was turned away since it was at capacity, even though it was at the theater in the Austin Convention Center!
Thursday, March 14th
“Days of the Whale” (Colombia; Dir/writer: Catalina Arroyave Restrepo) (World Premiere) Global category- This is most definitely a great film for those who like and/or admire the work of graffiti art. These two young artists are determined to carry out their work, despite the threats that can cost them their life. The filmmaker received a Special Recognition in the inaugural CherryPicks Female First Feature Award. After its recent successful world premiere at SXSW, “Days of the Whale” (“Los días de la ballena”) will have its New York premiere. The auspicious debut feature will participate in the 7th edition of the Colombian Film Festival NY, taking place March 28 – 31.
Friday, March 15th
“The River and the Wall” (US; Ben Masters) (World Premiere) Documentary Spotlight – This film is a must see! It is the winner of the SXSW Film 2019 Louis Black ‘LONE STAR’ Award and it received standing ovations at the SXSW screenings. From the moment the film started, I got choked up at viewing the beautiful scenery – with excellent cinematography – and unexpected stories from the cast/crew. A full review will come later, but the film will now go on to screen at the Dallas-based environmentally-focused Film Fest, EarthxFilm, presented by EarthX. For the 3rd edition of the fest (April 19-28), Ben Masters’ “The River and the Wall” is the Spotlight Screening Selection. The film will then have a North American release in theaters and ON DEMAND on Friday, May 3rd by Gravitas Ventures.
“The Curse of La Llorona” (US; Michael Chaves) (World Premiere) Headliners category. The film seemed to have a scary effect on some of the audience members and for others of us, maybe not so much. It was interesting to hear during the Q&A with producer James Wan and others relay that there is a similar tale/legend in other countries, so many people will have a different reaction to the story in this film. A full review will follow for this film that will open in theaters in April. Great cast, starring Linda Cardellini (“Green Book,” “Hunter Killer”), Patricia Velasquez (“Ugly Betty,” “Arrested Development” – TV Series) and others, including the talented child actors.
There will be more information about other films viewed during the SXSW Film Festival, so follow our pages and learn about news as to when you too can view these films.