Orange County has been really good to us cinephiles lately. Apart from the Vietnamese International Film Festival, the ongoing Newport Beach Film Festival, and the Cinema Orange series at OCMA, we now rejoice as UC Irvine hold its 14th annual Latin American Film Festival this week.
It's a modest festival–only six films, one of which will feature a Q&A session with the director afterwards–but damn if the selection isn't enticing. This year, the organizers have focused the festival's theme on travel, so there's some kind of adventure going on in each film, be it zombies, migration, love, cemeteries, or politics. Oh yeah, and admission to each film is FREE. Here's a handy guide for what to check out, with an accompanying trailer for your pleasure.
Even The Rain (2011)
Latin lover heartthrob Gael Garcia Bernal stars as a film director making a film about Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas. He elects to produce the film in Bolivia for the low cost of production and labor, but as he arrives he becomes embroiled in the political protests involving the recent government's privatization of water. Not only is the likelihood of the film's completion up in the air, the lives of the cast and crew are in danger as well.
Juan of the Dead (2011)
Yep, it's exactly what you think: a foreign facsimile of Shaun of the Dead featuring Cuban zombies, one who amazingly ISN'T Fidel Castro. The Cuban government believes the zombies to be dissidents from the United States seeking to destroy the system, and it's up to our cranky hero Juan to stop them. The zombie film bandwagon seems to have subsided for now, but for anyone curious as to whether this film lives up to the genre, they'll be pleasantly surprised.
Paraiso Travel (2008)
Both a lighthearted comedy and a not-so-lighthearted depiction of immigration and the search for the American Dream, Paraiso Travel depicts the life of Marlon, a young Colombian man ready to risk everything to travel to New York with his girlfriend. The brutal journey leaves Marlon feeling jaded and unwelcome, especially as his girlfriend abandons him soon after their arrival. As he searches for her, a new woman comes into the picture, and Marlon must figure out how to belong in a new place and trust love again. Director Simon Brand will also be present for a Q&A session after the screening.
Sin Nombre (2009)
This critically-acclaimed film follows Sayra after her reunion with her father leads them on quest to the U.S. via train hopping- hoping to escape his violent past and for a better future in the states. Winner of several Sundance awards including best director and best cinematography (definitely deserved), this film was also produced by Diego Luna and (hey!) Gael Garcia Bernal.
The Nightwatchman (2012)
This is the festival's only documentary, which aired as a special on PBS in 2012 and claimed tons of awards at Cannes and Spain's Goya awards. A lone nightwatchman watches over the crypts and mausoleums of some of Mexico's drug lords; and we're not talking your average mausoleums either: they're lavish, expensive testaments to the larger-than-life lifestyles of their inhabitants.
A comedy-drama from Peru, October tells the story of Clemente who searches for the mother of his child, a prostitute who has disappeared. His neighbor Sofia believes the child to be a miracle, and cares for her as Clemente searches for the mother. Clemente must then evaluate his life choices and how these new events will affect his life.
Major props to the Spanish and Portuguese departments at UCI for organizing such an event. Taking place from April 29 through May 9, it's a great opportunity to dig some free films and Latin American culture. See you there!
For more information: Latin American Film Festival site