“The goal of this year’s festival?” said the San Diego Latino Film Festival’s proud papa Ethan van Thillo, echoing my question. “To get people to see more movies!”
Now who can argue with that?
7037 Friars Road, Mission Valley
2921 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park
Something new has been added to the 22nd iteration of this celebration. As reported in these pages last December, apart from the occasional screenings needed to accommodate the 162(!) features and shorts in this year’s lineup at the Media Arts Center’s mothership, the Digital Gym, the festival’s new home base of operations will be the AMC Fashion Valley.
An email arrived with a dozen or so screening links. Not knowing any of the director’s names made this year’s review criteria a touch more difficult. Two of the features were in black-and-white — which, for old time’s sake, instantly catapulted them to the top of the list. Conversely, any film bearing a translucent studio brand from fade in to fade out — that means you, Cinema 7 Films’ Delirium — was immediately flagged as trash.
This year’s cinematic showcase, which runs March 12–22, promises to be the Festival’s biggest to date, offering more films and post-show festivities than ever before. Make Ethan happy. Leave the house and take in a movie. For more information visit fest.sdlatinofilm.com/2015/.
Relocos y Repasados Trailer
Relocos y Repasados (High Five)
March 14 at 10:45 p.m., March 18 at 9:20 p.m., and March 21 at 10: 20 p.m.
A more likely candidate for the Tijuana Fiesta del Mota — or midnight screenings at the Digital Gym — than SDLFF, this fast-paced stoner comedy doesn’t pack enough THC (totally high cinema) to satisfy one’s craving for eye-candy munchies.
A group of muscled thugs, identified only as “the 5 Steroids,” stow a soapdish containing five varieties of psychoactive drugs (pot, coke, acid, ecstasy, and ketamine) in a tree. Tacky slacker Elias (Agustín Durán) finds it and decides to conduct a “social experiment” by asking four friends to join him in ingesting the stash and studying the varying effects.
Relocos y repasados
The test subjects include Andrés (Uruguay’s answer to Jesse Eisenberg, Pedro Cruz) and his straight-laced girlfriend’s rebellious, underage sister Catalina (Micaela Psinisnuc), Elias’s unwashed younger brother Martin (Luciano Demarco), and seasoned imbiber Cooper (Nicolás Furtado).
Structuring the film as a series of running gags eager to run their course, writer-director Manuel Facal goes full-fecal, ripping off the soily antics of the Jackass gang by asking Durán to play the last third of the film caked in septic tank sludge. There’s also a magic peso making the rounds that all five drugs ingested prior to showtime won’t help to dope out, and laughter in the form of nod to Weekend at Bernie’s. Catalina, dressed in schoolgirl apparel and blitzed on horse tranquilizer, spends 95 percent of her time on screen being carted around in a drug-induced coma.
Two major buzzkills: isn’t there some way to suggest drug-induced delirium other than through a handheld fisheye lens? That gag went out with Seconds. And a shot that implies Elias took advantage of Catalina while her lifeless body was temporarily housed in a closet should have taken up permanent residence on the cutting-room’s bathroom floor.
March 15 at 9:30 p.m., March 20 at 9:40 p.m., and a screening at the Digital Gym on March 22 at 9:15 p.m.
It’s a rare occasion when a film loses half of its potential four-star rating based solely on its parting shot.
He (Javier Pereira) is what’s known as a “cool guy,” a salt of the earth type to his male friends and a bastard to every female He meets. He finds his latest prey, She (Aura Garrido), while out clubbing. After a few minutes of meaningless small talk, the seasoned horndog not only expresses undying love, He hands over the house and car keys saying, “If you don’t sleep with me, I don’t want them.”
How is it that audiences can instantly detect a heel, but our heroine can’t? He practically forces himself on her. The insecure beauty eventually buys what He has to sell, but not before a series of lucidly choreographed, honestly conveyed strolls — interrupted by a pair of sit down chats exquisitely staged in long-take — win her over. It helps that He agrees to She’s erotically emasculating request to strip down, add a touch of mascara and lipstick, and take to the streets for a very loud 3 a.m. demonstration of what love means.
Up until now, director and co-author Rodrigo Sorogoyen had dealt a winning nighttime hand, leaving one anticipating the inevitable changes that would occur in the cold light of day, after the pig had his way. A pre-coitus request for an ashtray was enthusiastically obliged, but the morning after finds his pad a smoke-free zone. Even worse, her request for a return engagement is greeted by a resounding “No!”
It doesn’t take much to see the foreshadowing on the wall and the inevitable cop-out ending, which, while intended to shock and disturb, does neither. It’s too easy a way out, a cheat on the characters who’ve gradually courted our emotions and involvement, and the type of ending that will leave even the most die hard devotee of Sylvia Plath — a tragic figure Woody Allen famously referred to as “misinterpreted as romantic by the schoolgirl mentality” — feeling burned.
March 12 at 4 p.m., March 18 at 9:45 p.m., and March 20 at 7: 55 p.m.
It’s difficult to dislike a film that displays this much respect for Los Olvidados, Luis Bunuel’s eternally relevant take on juvenile delinquency in the bowels of Mexico City. There’s even a surreal stretch in a car involving chicken feathers!
After an incident involving a water balloon, a third-story window, and a mother pushing a baby carriage, a single mom decides it’s time to send her youngest, Tomás (Sebastián Aguirre), to live with his older brother Frede (Tenoch Huerta). A student at a college in mid-political turmoil, Frede proudly set himself apart as being “on strike from the strike.” After being forced out of their grungy apartment, the brothers are joined by Frede’s roomie, Santos (Leonardo Ortizgris) — the most nondescript of an overall grievously shapeless grouping of characters — and later Ana (Ilse Salas), Frede’s ex and a socially vocal “classicist bitch.”
Handsomely shot by Damian Garcia in full-frame black-and-white, Güeros is at times both painfully arty and arbitrarily plotted, leaving the impression that co-writer and director Alonso Ruiz Palacios was never quite sure in what direction to spin the action. A wrong turn leads to an uneventful beer run with a goon looking to make friends. And it’s off to the races when a newscaster announces bad times ahead for Epigmenio Cruz (Alfonso Charpener), a favorite of Frede’s late father and a singer who reportedly “made Dylan cry.”
Both this and High Five rely upon that ridiculously overused plot advancer, the left-behind wallet. An excusable device in a stoner comedy, but sorely out of place in a self-conscious art film that succeeds at cutting (rather than turning) corners.
Las Búsquedas (The Searchers)
March 1 at 9:05 p.m., March 17 at 7:75 p.m., and March 20 at 4 p.m.
Las Búsquedas Trailer
The most intriguing element of writer-director Jose Luis Valle’s 75-minute drama is what sets it in motion. A nondescript schmoe living an orderly existence meticulously goes about his daily routine: picking up the dry cleaning and taking the family dog to the vet. It isn’t until later, after our hero has stepped out on the patio so the blood from a single bullet to the head won’t sully the kitchen tiles, that we learn he had the pooch put down.
No sooner does Mujer (Arcelia Ramírez) come home and discover her husband’s body — nothing about her indicates a troubled marriage — than we cut to another part of the jungle, where lives Hombre (Gustavo Sánchez Parra), a man haunted by the death of his wife and child. Unable to begin thinking about finding work and in dire need of spiritual cleansing, Hombre combs the city, lost, moving from one subway car to the next, in search of the one unforgettable face that stole his wallet — and with it, his memories.
At times, Valle’s contemplative camera focuses on everything but storytelling. Things accelerate a bit when a friend’s water delivery service introduces the two widowers, but did we really need to watch all the water flow down the drain? There are images in the film that are unforgettable, most notably Hombre’s shadow cast against a concrete wall as he looks on from across the station, scouring commuters’ faces. And as abrupt as the love relationship is, it never feels forced.
The last words scribbled on my notepad before the house lights rose were, “A skillful editor could have pared the running time down by 20 minutes while still preserving the film’s full impact and meaning.” I felt a bit guilty about this crack, particularly after a postscript informed viewers that the film was conceived by five friends and completed in seven days at a cost of 1500 American dollars.