If you wanted to make a case that OC Film Fiesta was Santa Ana's best, most culturally diverse film festival, we'd be hard-pressed to argue with you. While it has based its screenings mostly in the downtown Frida Cinema in the past, the Fiesta expands to multiple venues this year, extending its cinematic reach to other OC cities. Let's run through some of the best screenings to check out in the festival's nearly two-week run, shall we?
Chavela. Widely known as one of Frida Kahlo's pals, Chavela Vargas was a gun-toting, cigar smoking, men's-clothes-wearing badass. A talented singer, her vocal range oscillated from maudlin and soft to exaggerated male-drunkard bellowing, earning her acclaim among other notable ranchera singers, artists, bohemians and cultural elite of the time. Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi's documentary unravels Vargas' intense and eventful life, positioning her as one of the least known Latin American LGBTQ idols who found fans around the world (Elizabeth Taylor and Pedro Almodóvar, among them). She may not reach Frida-level fandom, but she's still worth checking out. Picture Show at Main Place Mall, 2800 N. Main St., Santa Ana. Fri., 8 p.m.
La Vida Inmoral de la Pareja Ideal (Tales of an Immoral Couple). This intriguing film title rings a little close to the titles of Almodóvar, for some reason, but Manolo Caro's Mexican romantic comedy sounds too hilarious to pass up, if not a bit twee: Two teenagers start a relationship while studying at the same Catholic high school until one of them is expelled. Twenty-five years later, they meet again by chance and regale each other with false stories of fun and wild exploits and fake families. Once they discover they're attending the same art show that night, they each rush to find fake spouses to continue their ruses. (In IMDb-ing the director, I discovered he has a penchant for witty titles: Elvira I Will Give You My Life But I'm Using It and I Don't Know Whether to Slit My Wrists or Leave Them Long.) Picture Show at Main Place Mall. Sat., 6 p.m.
Juana Azurduy: Warrior of the Great Nation. Bolivian soldier Juana Azurduy was a warrior who came out to play, figuratively speaking. Azurduy was a female guerrilla military officer who fought bravely in the Chéquisaca Revolution to rid the country of Spanish rule. Asurduy gets her due with this historical period film, directed by Blood of the Condors filmmaker Jorge Sanjinés. Picture Show at Main Place Mall. Sat., 3:30 p.m.
The Rise and Fall of the Brown Buffalo. In the late 1960s, Chicano lawyer Oscar Zeta Acosta defended multiple Chicano groups and activists, including the Chicano 13, Rodolfo Gonzales and members of the Brown Berets. He also formed a friendship with Hunter S. Thompson, with whom he helped to report on the death of slain Los Angeles Times columnist Ruben Salazar and inspired the character of Dr. Gonzo in Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The title of Phillip Rodriguez's documentary stems from Acosta's Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo and charts his life and mysterious disappearance in 1974. Picture Show at Main Place Mall. Sat., 8 p.m.
Visions of Magulandia. The art of Gilbert "Magu" Lujan will be shown at UC Irvine as part of the Getty's multisite Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibition. Lujan was a member of Los Four, a group of Chicano artists in the 1970s who used cultural signifiers and bold visual styles in their art. This free tribute program will feature rare video footage of Lujan, a panel discussion and a re-creation of Lujan's Mental Menudo gatherings at which folks discussed Chicano art ideas and life. Santa Ana College Main Art Gallery, Fine Arts Building C, 1530 W. 17th St., Santa Ana. Sun., 1 p.m.
The Magnificent Ambersons. While not as well-known as Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons is considered by many film fans to be one of Orson Welles' most underrated flicks. It's also the dirctor's favorite of his own films, as well as his most personal; adapted from a Pulitzer Prize-winning story by Booth Tarkington, it follows the lives and interpersonal relationships of two rich Indianapolis families as they adapt to the rise of the automobile industry. According to my colleague Matt Coker's Newport Beach Film Festival cover story on Welles a couple of years ago, the film was heavily edited from its original two-hour run time to 88 minutes and given a new upbeat ending to please fickle audiences. While terrible for Orson, the cropped version is still worth watching for the film's stark, expressionistic visual style and Welles' dramatic voice-over. Plus, it's the film's 75th anniversary, and it will be presented in a special cotillion-themed setting. Heritage Museum of OC, 3101 W. Harvard St., Santa Ana. Oct. 13, 6 p.m.
Greetings From Tim Buckley. This music flick is told through the eyes of the late singer/songwriter/guitarist's son, singer Jeff Buckley, as he grapples with the legacy of a man he barely knew before a 1991 performance of his father's songs. Presented in conjunction with OC Musicians Association, which also co-presents The Spoils Before Dying later in the festival's schedule. OC Musicians' Association, 2050 S. Main St., Santa Ana. Oct. 14, 3:30 p.m.
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Taco Truck Cinema. While there weren't full details on the event by press time, OC Film Fiesta promises a series of outdoor screenings, with taco trucks parked close by to feed hungry moviegoers. What's a better fiesta than that?
OC Film Fiesta at various Santa Ana locations; www.ocfilmfiesta.org. Opens Fri. See website for screening information. Through Oct. 14.