Redwood City International Latino Film Festival — Days 2 & 3

8 11 2010

What do you mean you watched “Megamind” this weekend? Fired.

Listen, events like the Redwood City International Latino Film Festival must be seen as opportunities — opportunities for enlightenment. It isn’t a certainty that everything you watch at a film festival will be to your liking — but you go into it knowing that whatever has been cooked up for you was done so with care, and intelligence; which is more than can be said about most films nowadays.

That is why events like the RWC ILFF are personal favorites — because I see them as challenges; I dare my brain to venture outside a typical million dollar movie. And the fact that this festival in particular was in my native tongue, well, I couldn’t lose. Let’s run down my last three stops this weekend.

MEMORIAS DEL DESARROLLO —

“I’ve reached a point in my life where the best thing I can do for humanity is to be as far away from it as possible.”

“Memories del Desarrollo” or Memories of Development, is a work of art. Granted, not all art is beautiful, or touching, pretty or breathtaking. But watching it, you quickly stop enjoying it, and start trying to analyze it. That’s art to me. So complex, with layers and layers of visually challenging material — there is no way you’d be able to capture all of it in one sitting. Even trying to write something about it proves difficult because there isn’t really a starting point, I mean, what would you like to tackle?

The acting? Ron Blair as “Sergio” is terrific in playing a lost soul and tormented mind that struggles with his identity on the back end of his life. Blair’s morose tone throughout the film is damn near uncomfortable, but it’s near flawless as well. Are you supposed to like Sergio? Hate him? Feel sympathy? Shame? Of the five films I watched at RWC ILFF, to me, Blair’s acting in “Memorias” was the best.

It’s through Sergio’s struggles to justify what he’s become that the viewer is taken through the whirlwind that is his brain. Spliced in between scenes of Sergio road to getting a book published you get visual collages straight from his head — they’re all visually overwhelming. The whole film is actually. The movie was directed by Miguel Coyola and gets 3.5 stars out of 5.

ANITA —

There are feel good films, like the ones that tug at the strings of your heart. And then, there’s “Anita.”

“Anita,” winner of Best Film at the 2009 Los Angeles Latino Film Festival, doesn’t tug on your strings, it yanks on them violently, pulls them down. If you walked out of this film without being touched then you have no soul, my friend.

Talk about splendid acting, Alejandra Manzo is phenomenal in her role as Anita, a young woman with Down Syndrome who has her life flipped upside down following a catastrophe. The film follows her as she tries to regain normalcy in a high-stress situation, which is made exponentially worse by her disability. I can’t say enough about Manzo in this movie — words like amazing, terrific and unreal come to mind. My rating? 4 stars out of 5.

LA MITAD DEL MUNDO —

“La Mitad del Mundo,” the film written and directed by Jaime Luis Ibañez, was a challenge. It tickles you and makes you chuckle, then at the end, after you laughed with it, it sets you on fire.

In “Mitad” we follow the life of Mingo, a young man with developmental problems (his mother in the film, played by Luisa Huertas, says he cooked a little too long and came out a little burnt) who is flung into a sexual enlightenment first by his mother, and then by a local cougar who takes him under her wing and grooms him to become the perfect lover. While his enlightenment is funny at times, the way the film turns felt too morbid — “Mitad” goes from a comedy to a social critique much too quickly and the tragic ending seems unjustified.

That said, what a great performance by Hansel Ramirez, who plays Mingo. Ramirez won a Best Actor award at the Iberoamerican Film Festival in Bolivia for “La Mitad” and its easy to see why. Mingo is naive, but he’s kind, charismatic. His flaws aren’t his own, they were instilled in him by the people who were supposed to protect him. Ramirez embodies that in his work and it was a joy to watch. Huertas is strong in her role as Mingo’s mother and Susana Salazar as the town cougar is terrific. Rating is a 3 stars out of 5.
—————–
I can’t say enough good things about Slyvia Perel and her choice of films for the 2010 RWC ILFF, but I’d fail as a fan of the festival if I didn’t mention the sub-par performance of the theater experience. I mentioned in the previous post about the poor quality of the presentation in ‘La Oveja Negra,” in which 65% of the film was pitch black. I did get up and brought it to the attention of the management at the Century in RWC and he told me that there was nothing he could do about that and apologized. Thanks.

If I was a paying customer, I would have asked for a refund and I hope some people actually did. Although, when I came down after watching the film, the volunteers who were manning the ticket table for RWC ILFF were no longer there. And believe me, it wasn’t just me who noticed. The following day I was asked by someone waiting to see “Memorias” if I had felt that “Ovejas” was way too dark (literally) to enjoy. I told her what Century management told me.

The issues with the presentation continued with “La Mitad” which skipped, like a dirty DVD would, every 10 minutes. At the end, the video and the audio were COMPLETELY out of sync — it was like watching an old kung-fu movie that was dubbed over in English. Yes, it was that bad. And the lighting and quality of the films was poor as well.

Listen, I’m a fan. You don’t get the chance to see films of this quality very often. So for that reason, I’ll continue to go. But RWC ILFF needs to step their game up and present a better quality movie experience. People aren’t going to want to shell out $9 if the films presented aren’t watchable. It’s an injustice to the film and most importantly, to the people who support the festival (the fans).

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