This 2019 Peruvian film is set in the late 1980s, although the events it depicts occurred in 1981, when a Colombian/Peruvian child kidnapping scheme was uncovered, whereby children were bought or taken from impoverished women and sold to childless couples in the United States or Europe. Appallingly, a similar trafficking ring was discovered in 2018,with links going right up to the top of the police ranks.
The film, shot in black and white, follows a 20 year old indigenous woman, Georgina, who sells potatoes in the market with her husband, and lives in a small shanty in a coastal town. Without the money to pay for antenatal care, she notes the address in the city of a clinic that offers free care. When she has her baby, it is whisked away for medical attention and she never sees it again. This is the story of her search for her baby, and for justice.
The film has an other-worldly feel, as if it is a fable even though it is told in an urban setting. There is little contextualizing information, especially about the political situation and the rise of terrorism, and there is little conversation. Georgina and her husband are rendered completely impotent through their poverty and lack of documentation, and they have no way of negotiating a corrupt system until Georgina catches the attention of a journalist.
There is a rather unnecessary sub-plot about the journalist as well. The director Melina León was the daughter of the journalist who uncovered the original plot (although in different circumstances), so perhaps she wanted the give the journalist a more complex backstory. It felt rather gratuitous, and Georgina’s story was far more important.
It is a very sad and rather depressing movie, particularly the last scene.
My rating: 4/5 stars
Viewed at: Thornbury Picture House as part of the Filmoteca South American and Spanish film program.
I confess that I was mainly attracted to this film because it is in Spanish, rather than because it’s a ‘dancing’ film. It’s the true story of Carlos Acosta, the famous Cuban dancer who has danced with the major (Western) dance companies of the world. Born to a poor family in Havana, it was his father who drove his career when Carlos himself was a reluctant draftee into the world of dance. It’s a Cuban Billy Elliot in reverse. It is filmed in Havana, which surprised me a bit – perhaps the fact that it is not an American movie opened doors. Carlos Acosta plays himself as an adult, and the narrative is intercut with dance scenes that tell the story – beautifully.
But it is, after all, a dance movie so you more or less know the story before you even see it. I see that Cinema Nova isn’t showing it any more, either. As it turns out, I saw it at its very last showing.
My rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Gabriela Mistral was the first and only Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Born in 1889, she was a poet, educator and ambassador. I had actually heard of her: when I was in Santiago there was an exhibition about her in the library across the road, and then when I went to their cultural centre, I found that it was named after her.
But I think that Latin American audiences must know MUCH more about her, because this documentary about her relationship with her younger lover Doris Dana (who, when she was younger, was a dead ringer for Katherine Hepburn) was very light on details. Mainly it was about Doris Dana’s American niece, who ended up being the custodian of all Gabriela Mistral’s papers that had previously gone to Doris Dana. Doris intended sorting them out and publishing them but died before she did so…and there’s so much of the stuff that Doris Dana’s young niece may do the same thing. So many boxes; so much paper!! As a documentary, film shots of opening boxes and shuffling through papers only gets you so far. Also there were crackly old tape recordings of Gabriela and Doris talking, once Gabriela was getting old and crotchetty.
Still, Steve and I had a good chat about celebrity, and muses, and translated poetry, even if the documentary itself was rather lacklustre and frankly, boring. It was screened by Filmoteca, who present a Spanish and Latin American film every month through ACMI. It was in Spanish with English subtitles (unlike the trailer I have posted above).
Well that’s weird- a Spanish trailer with French subtitles that tells you absolutely nothing about the film. Despite the title – in English, the Litigant- this is not a courtroom drama. The main character, Silvia, is a lawyer, but that’s only one part of her life as a single (by choice) mother. Her own mother, Leticia, used to be a lawyer too and even though she is dying – too slowly- of lung cancer, the two women argue incessantly. Silvia is compromised by the shady dealings of the government bureaucracy for whom she works as a lawyer, and she is embarking on an unexpected love affair. She is stressed, stretched and so tired. It’s a real slice of life, and thoroughly convincing. I saw it as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival in Spanish, with English subtitles.
My rating: 4 stars
I come from Melbourne. I don’t like soccer, and the only real football is AFL. I didn’t know anything about Diego Maradona beyond the name. But this film is really good, and you don’t need to know any more than I did to enjoy it. It is subtitled, and consists of a compilation of film clips, some very grainy, of Maradona and has voice-overs from interviews, but no ‘talking heads’ as such. It’s a rags-to-riches story, and a morality tale of pride before a fall. Go see it.
My rating: 5 out of 5
Chela and Chiquita are a lesbian couple who have lived for decades in Chela’s crumbling family home. When Chiquita is sent to jail for fraud, Chela continues living in the home, selling off furniture and paintings, and gradually carving out her own life without the enveloping presence of Chiquita, who is far more gregarious and assertive. Set in Paraguay and spoken in Spanish with English subtitles, it’s a good exploration of power within a relationship, and the slow flowering of independence and identity in middle age.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
The adult children of a middle-aged couple are shocked when their mother dies mysteriously in the kitchen of their suburban home. The son-in-law suspects that the father has killed her, and the daughters are faced with the dilemma of supporting their surviving parent as the accusations mount up. It’s described as a thriller, but I saw it more as a family drama, although the end was pretty graphic.
The movie is subtitled in English (even though the trailer is not), but the Spanish wasn’t too fast.
Manual Lopez-Vidal is a politician who has been on the take for years, and it has funded his affluent, elite lifestyle. Now that he is about to be exposed, he is determined to bring everyone else down with him. At first a political movie, it takes on the aspect of a thriller as incriminating flashdrives are sought, found and handed on, and the closing scenes on a television set reminded me a bit of ‘The Hour’ as the tension rises.
Just as well it’s subtitled- I could barely catch a thing.
Set in the ‘Special Period’ when the Cuban economy plummeted after the demise of the Soveiet Union, a taciturn, aloof Professor of Russian Literature is sent to a Cuban hospital to translate for Russian patients and their parents who have travelled to Cuba in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. The closing credits point out that over 20,000 Russian children were part of this program that continued until 2011. A father himself, the translator becomes increasingly drawn towards the Russian children, to the detriment of his marriage and relationship with his own son. It is filmed in Cuba, so I enjoyed seeing places I’d visited. The language is really hard to understand, although if you look (or rather, listen) to the trailer, the dialogue is very muffled.