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Latin America and Spain Film Festival highlights

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Joel Ineson
Joel Ineson

Latin America has already given us so much – great food, cerveza, the Mayans, Sofia Vergara, tequila, and… Ricky Martin? The list is endless and yet they still keep giving! This time it’s in the form of 12 films from 11 different Latin American nations – plus one from Spain – and we’re calling it the 13th Latin America and Spain Film Festival (catchy, I know).

It begins on Friday the 12th of September and runs through to the 15th, showcasing some great films from a part of the world that we should all take the time to learn a little more about. The best part is, entry to the festival is FREE! So bring your friends or show your significant other how well refined you are by treating them to an evening of culture and, if you’re lucky, some free snacks.

In case you aren’t already clearing your schedule for this event, and to get you in the spirit, here’s a rundown on some of the films that are featuring this year.

In the Middle of Heaven (En el Ombligo del Cielo), 2012, Carlos Gómez Oliver, Comedy, Mexico

Andrea Fernández works too hard at a busy advertising agency, her friends are getting tired of her workaholic behaviour destroying any social life, and her boss is a sexist pendejo who doesn’t think she can meet a deadline even though all she does is work.

Andrea spills some salsa on her blouse, so obviously she needs to go up to the roof of the skyscraper where she works. She manages to get herself trapped, but thankfully the building’s janitor happens to be up there also. Naturally, the two do what anyone else would do in their situation – drink tequila and whinge. Director Carlos Gómez Oliver utilises a lot of hand-held shots in the office scenes, providing that mockumentary style that saw the success of The Office, while the music that plays as Andrea is sneaking around the rooftop reminds of a Warner Bros. cartoon, cue Elmer Fudd sneakily hunting wabbits.

En el Ombligo del Cielo is a comedy that is probably the most similar to a Hollywood production from the selection we have for LASFF. It’s an important film in the festival, because it allows you to compare the cityscape of this film to the humble villages in some of the other films, inadvertently illustrating the vastly differing living conditions and concentration of wealth for those living across the different nations of Latin America.

 Sleep Tight (Mientras Duermes), 2011, Jaume Balagueró, Thriller

César is a real catch but just can’t seem to find happiness. Maybe it’s the horse-shoe pattern he’s sporting on the top of his head?* He kind of looks like a Spanish Hunter S. Thompson, but what makes him even greater life-partner-material is that he prefers to share his drugs with the people he cares about. Combine this with his cushy apartment building concierge job – as well as eyebrows that put Tom Selleck’s moustache to shame – and you’re left wondering why he struggles so much with the ladies.

You won’t wonder for long! Luis Tosar’s performance as César is chilling as he convincingly switches between the friendly custodian at your apartment and a scheming super-creep. Jaume Balagueró’s direction solidifies the tense and overwrought feelings you are subjected to in viewing the film with his use of canted framing, dim lighting and accentuated sound jarring you into submission. The now tried-and-true shaky-cam is put to use, highlighting our helplessness, and when coupled with a clip reminiscent of the elevator scene in Kubrick’s The Shining, it reinforces the raw nature of the film’s plot.

Next time you’re at a hotel and the guy at the front desk seems overly nice, it’s probably because he’s using your toothbrush.

* It’s not the receding hairline – he’s a demented sociopath.

 The Tiger and the Deer (El Tigre y el Venado), 2013, Sergio Sibrián, Documentary, El Salvador

Marcelino Galicia really is a fascinating individual. The Tiger and The Deer is a short, slow-paced documentary, but one cannot help feeling inspired by a 103 year-old man, completely self-reliant, barefoot, and somehow managing to lug his water supply up a steep precipice – his canteens strapped to his head so he can still use his walking stick on the barely beaten track.

The pace of this film is deliberate, but it doesn’t deter any interest in the thought-provoking account of the devastating genocide that took place in El Salvador in 1932, killing an estimated 30,000 people, and which Galicia lived through. Referred to by his peers as ‘Don Chelino’, he is one of the last remaining survivors of the military dictatorship, can still speak the language that was repressed by the regime, and teaches a young villager how to play an indigenous flute before the tradition is lost.

If you can get past the sound of what will remind you of a year 9 music class all playing the recorder at once, you’ll find a truly interesting story in Don Chelino’s, and he’ll even tell you struggling lads a thing or two about how to charm the ladies.

Of his late wife, whom he met in a park, Galicia reveals the way to a woman’s heart is by buying a half-litre of spirits and a beer, sharing it with the one you desire, and uttering the quixotic phrase: “Look, I really am taken by you. Would you humble yourself to be my lover?”, to which you will get the response “Ah, I’d like that”.

After all, “when you are horny, you become really sweet. Really”.

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