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writing for godot

2017 San Diego Latino Film Festival (1st Weekend Edition)

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Written by Mukul Khurana   
Tuesday, 21 March 2017 00:14

As mentioned in the opening article on the 18th of March, Mexican films seem to be in the majority and the comedy is world class.  Normally, it is hard to translate comedy culturally.  What is funny to one nationality is not necessarily funny to another one.  But, La Vida Inmoral de la Pareja Ideal (Mexico, 91 min.) and ¿Qué Culpa Tiene el Niño?(Mexico, 105 min.) prove that it can be done.  Though overly libertine by American standards, the films were funny yet not fluffy.  Clearly, Mexico is going through some kind of renaissance.  The quality of the production values is high.  The dialogues are witty and polished.  Which brings us to the issue of what we might lose by shutting ourselves off to foreign thought and labor…

In La Vida Inmoral de la Pareja Ideal, two high school sweethearts lose touch with one another but then find one another again 25 years later.  Eager to let the other know that they have gone on with their lives and are happily married, they talk about and introduce their respective spouses—except it’s all fake!  Theirs had been a very passionate relationship.  Unfortunately, mistakes were made.  And, seahorses are somehow mentioned in the conversations.

Manolo Caro, who directed this movie, is the man slated for the 2017 Tribute by SDLFF.  Cecilia Suarez accompanied him to San Diego where they participated in a Q & A.  One of the comments made by a member of the audience says a lot.  He said, “As an American from a Mexican background, I had lost the ability to relate to Mexico and Mexican life.  After marrying a woman closer to her heritage, I found that I was appreciating Mexican cinema more.  Now, with the present crop of movies, I can confidently say that I am proud of what is coming from Mexico—that it helps with questions of my immigrant identity…”

Let us assume that a man and a woman engage in a casual relationship.  As a result, a life is created.  Now, let us assume that the man is in his early 20s.  Let us add to the mix that the woman is a successful financially and in her 30s.  Let us now complicate the matter further by saying that the woman comes from a well-to-do political family and the man lives with his single mother in the projects.  You would then have the plot of ¿Qué Culpa Tiene el Niño?

Gustavo Loza directed this very funny movie.  Karla Souza as the sharp and cynical Maru plays the lead role.  Her more innocent and much younger lover is played by Ricardo Abarca as Renato.  It is a heartwarming comedy with a happy ending—but with a twist.

Both movies move fast with a pace that doesn’t get boring (yet not too slick).  Mexican cinema has borrowed professional aspects from Hollywood without taking on the negative aspects such as shallow dialogue and speed for the sake of speed (such as action and car chases).  The second day was a satisfying experience on so many levels…

But SDLFF isn’t just movies—there is visual art too--there are music groups...  On Saturday, there was a Sabor Latino Food, Beer, & Wine Festival where the other senses could be indulged (not to mention an Opening Night party on the first night…).  Macho (Mexico, 100 min.) was supposed to play on Saturday night, but things sometimes things can go wrong at festivals.  Not being able to present that movie, Treintona, Soltera y Fantastica (Mexico, 98 min.) was presented instead.  It is directed by Chava Cartas and stars the top talents of Jordi Molla, Barbara Mori, and Marimar Vega.  It’s funny, but has a serious serving of feminist ideology.  That’s the thing—these movies are funny yet manage to engage us in thoughtful contemplation.

Not all movies were “clean and straightforward.”  Los Decentes (Argentina/South Korea/Austria, 100 min.) engendered a controversial and divided public.  A woman is hired to work as a maid in an upscale and gated community.  She works for an anal-retentive and very uptight mother.  In fact, the whole neighborhood is uptight.  She discovers that a huge fence separates the neighborhood where she works from a neighborhood with very different values.  The people on the other side of the fence practice nudism (and other ways to learn about themselves).

I read the film as an attempt to show the divisions between conservatives and liberals—both groups, however, should be considered to be affluent because they could afford to indulge themselves in terms of time and money.  The first group is rigid, grounded in materialism, and exhibits a belief in discipline and order.  The second group is fluid, seeks experiences, and believes in learning and expanding their horizons.  Both are fixated on their way being the “right” way.  And then, one of the members of the nudist group gets accidentally electrocuted…

There is more, but it is not my intention to give away the story or the ending.  I want to spur debate into a well-thought out dark comedy regardless of whether I agree with the ending or not.  There is nudity in the film.  But the film is not about nudity—it is a commentary about class and group values.  Mainly, it is a meditation on groups, borders, and conflict.

It is mainly shot from the perspective of Iride Mockert as Belen.  Lukas Valenta Rinner directed this sarcastic look at how things go a certain way—until they don’t.  The movie is worth watching but with a very critical eye.  Treat it like an onion—peel away at the layers.  Then, it might make sense.  Or maybe not…

Inseparables (Argentina, 108 min.) turned out to be the most delightful movie of the weekend.  This remake of a French movie is the story of a disabled man who needs a caregiver—but not one who pities him.  He wants a down-to-earth man—and he finds him in his unreliable gardner!  Oscar Martinez is the rich but incapacitated Felipe.  Rodrigo De la Serna is the irreverent gardner/caregiver.  Marcos Carnevale is the masterful director.  All the elements work well in this very cultured film—even the music is chosen with all the visuals in mind.  A beautiful and emotionally satisfying movie—this is a “must see.”

Mukul Khurana has been writing about the art and culture scene in San Diego for over a decade.  He specializes in film and theater reviews as well as film festival coverage in general.

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