Blanco en Blanco: Esther Vega Pérez as fodder of the groom.
The 28th annual San Diego Latino Film Festival runs March 11-21 both virtually and at a drive-in near you. (The South Bay Drive-in and Westfield Mission Valley.) For a complete list of times and titles, visit sdlatinofilm.com. More to follow next week.
Blanco En Blanco (2019)
What would the SDLFF be without an appearance from the man with the pained look painted across his pan, the eternally conflicted Alfredo Castro (Tony Manero, Post Mortem, Neruda)? At the dawn of the 20th Century, and set against the spacious and scenic backdrop of Tierra del Fuego, Pedro (Castro) a pioneer photographer arrives, camera in hand, to photograph the wedding of a wealthy land baron (whose identity remains a mystery) and his child bride. It’s a land where there is no such thing as a bad angle, and director Théo Court takes advantage of as many of the good ones as he can. From a distance, the world reflects life as viewed through a dirty milk bottle. Even worse, it’s not a job Pedro relishes, but since his name is on the contract, he’s bound to give it his best. (“He’ll like that,” Pedro lasciviously mutters while rolling down the shoulder of the youngster’s gown to expose more skin.) A delay in the wedding proceedings gives him little else to do but exploit the indigenous locals with his lens. Before long, amidst the violence and ethnic cleansing, Pedro’s made to feel at home, encouraged to take full advantage of his skin color.
Las Siamesas (2020)
Shadows of passing cars sweep across the bedroom ceilings as both mother and daughter greet the dawn with apprehension. Clota (Rita Cortese) hates to travel, and daughter Stella (Valeria Lois) dreads being her traveling companion, particularly when the journey isn’t a holiday. Together, they’ll take the 30-plus hour bus ride from their home in Junin to seaside Costa Bonita to determine what to do with the pair of apartments her father willed her. Having long been separated from her late husband, a sickly Clota is loath to visit the home of the man she called “the unmentionable.” For that matter, the only thing Clota seems really willing to do is keep on bellyaching. (She’s the type who’d complain to a waitress that the ice isn’t cold enough.) Stella slips Clota a sedative, yet it’s the daughter who passes out from exhaustion. From bedroom to taxi to bus and roadside diner, their symbiotic relationship plays out in cramped quarters. Even when there is room to spare, Paula Hernández, director and Leonel D’Agostino’s co-screenwriter, keeps her camera up close and artfully personal. Forced compositions shunt Mother and daughter to opposite corners of tight closeups that are then cross-cut to further underscore their conflict. And there’s enough wasted headroom to park another feature in the top of the frame. Other than the cabbie and a nonsensical roadside rendezvous between Stella and one of the drivers (Sergio Prina), this is basically a two-hander between mother and daughter. The journey’s end, both downcast and unforeseen, hits even harder thanks to the authenticity of the performances.