Latin American Cinema at the BFI London Film Festival 2011

By 03 October, 2011

The full schedule is in for the 55th BFI London Film Festival and there’s a fine selection of Latin American cinema on offer. As previously reported, Argentine Cinema is heavily represented with one film each from Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

Definite highlights include the Argentine film Las Acacias, which won the Caméra d’Or award at Cannes Film Festival 2011, and Brazilian Film Hard Labor (Trabalhar Cansa) which was also present at Cannes. The festival will take place from Wednesday 12th to Thursday 27th October across BFI Southbank, Odeon Leicester Square, Vue West End, ICA, Curzon Mayfair and Ritzy. Tickets are now on sale.

Back to Stay (Abrir Puertas y Ventanas)
Argentina-Switzerland (2011)
Director / Screenplay: Milagros Mumenthaler

Sat 15 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT3, 9pm
Tue 18 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT3, 1.30pm

Three sisters live in a large house that has seen better days. Marina (María Canale) is industrious and focused on her studies, Sofía (Martina Juncadella) is vain and overly preoccupied with her appearance and the languid Violeta (Ailín Salas) drifts from room to room in a state of general aimlessness. It slowly becomes apparent that they are home alone dealing with the sudden death of the grandmother who raised them. Milagros Mumenthaler’s striking debut feature, winner of the Pardo d’Oro, the Best Actress award (for María Canale) and the FIPRESCI award at Locarno, adroitly entices the viewer into the bickering, broken world of these three bewildered women. While Chekhov comes to mind as a reference point, the rundown house emerges as its own character – much as in Lucrecia Martel’s The Swamp – shaping the mood and dynamics of the film. Mumenthaler beautifully maps what grief means for each of the three protagonists and how they handle the void left in their lives by their grandmother’s absence. Back to Stay is both a striking, exquisitely performed coming-of-age film and a salient study of loss. Maria Delgado

Hard Labour (Trabalhar Cansa)
Brazil (2011)
Directors / Screenplay: Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra

Thu 13 Oct, Vue6, 6.15pm
Fri 14 Oct, Vue3, 3.30pm

Helena (Helena Albergaria) is planning to open a small local grocery shop, but her husband Otavio (Marat Descartes) has just lost his job in insurance, and isn’t best pleased at the implications of his wife becoming the family breadwinner. Helena hires Paula (Naloana Lima) a nanny-cum-housekeeper for their daughter and two new assistants for the shop, but nothing appears to be as straightforward as she’d hoped. And then there’s the mysterious markings on the wall of the shop, the sewage seeping through the floor, the strange noises that appear to come from nowhere and the howling dog on the street outside that further threaten the stability of their middle-class lives. In their assured first feature, Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra craft an impeccably performed drama of the secrets that lie beneath the veneer of bourgeois respectability. Juggling elements of horror with a sharp eye for social observation, Hard Labour presents a blistering dissection of the class structures of Brazilian society in a precarious economic climate where past privileges offer no guarantee of future security. MD

Karen Cries On The Bus (Karen Llora En Un Bus)
Colombia (2011)
Director / Screenplay: Gabriel Rojas Vera

Mon 17 Oct, Vue6, 8.45pm
Tue 18 Oct, Vue6, 12.45pm

Karen wants to divorce Mario after a ten-year marriage. She leaves him and rents a less-than-desirable room in Bogotá, but it’s not easy to find employment when you’ve been stuck at home for a decade. Karen isn’t as worldly as she likes to think she is, and when her bag is stolen, she is reduced to begging on the streets. Grounded in a terrific performance by ÁngelaCarrizosaAparicio, Gabriel Rojas Vera’s feature reworks Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for the 21st century. Rojas Vera avoids presenting Karen as a simplistic heroine; rather this is a woman at a crossroads, trying to prove her arrogant husband wrong. Cinematographer Manuel Castañedalends the film a distinctive look that echoes the moods of its protagonist while Rojas Vera, making his feature-length debut, provides a number of nods to Rohmer. Karen Cries on the Bus is a playful, cine-literate film about the possibility (and challenges) of second chances. MD

Las Acacias
Argentina/Spain (2011)
Director: Pablo Giorgelli / Screenplay: Pablo Giorgelli, Salvador Roselli

Mon 17 Oct, Vue6, 6pm
Tue 18 Oct, Vue6, 3pm

At the start of Pablo Giorgelli’s feature debut, truck driver Rubén picks up Jacinta, a young mother carrying her eight-month-old son Anahí. Rubén is driving with his cargo of timber from Asunción del Paraguay to Buenos Aires, and he’s agreed to take on these extra passengers for a fee. Played with flinty conviction by Germán de Silva, he’s a man of few words, and his dour, unsmiling expression remains fixed on the road, not the handsome woman and child in the cab next to him. For Jacinta (a performance of unaffected warmth from Hebe Duarte) this is clearly going to be a long journey, despite her efforts to engage the taciturn Rubén. And yet gradually the strained atmosphere gives way to conversation, and to genuine affection, and the suspicion – or hope – grows that the guarded, gruff Rubén may even be falling in love. Owing a debt to the ‘slow cinema’ of Lisandro Alonso, this also has a slow-burning charm that is entirely its own thing. Las Acacias requires patience but it rewards you with one of the most enchanting and uplifting experiences you’ll have in the cinema this year. Edward Lawrenson

Argentina/Germany/Spain (2011)
Director / Screenplay: Gustavo Taretto

Fri 21 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT2, 8.45pm
Mon 24 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT1, 3.45pm

Martín (Javier Drolas) is a web designer addicted to gaming who won’t leave his shoe-box apartment. He’s seeing a psychiatrist twice a week in the hope of tackling his panic attacks, listlessness, neurosis, insecurity and stress. His girlfriend left her dog with him for a few weeks when she left for the US, but she never returned, so Martín has both the pet and the phobias to deal with. Mariana (Pilar López de Ayala) is an architect now working as a window dresser who has just broken up with her partner after a four-year relationship. She too has her phobias and foibles – including a fear of lifts and an obsession with Where’s Wally? books. Martín and Mariana live close to each other; but in the madness of the 21st-century urban metropolis, it’s all too easy to miss the person across the street when you’re looking for love. Argentine director Gustavo Taretto’s debut feature is a quirky, unconventional romantic comedy set against the backdrop of contemporary Buenos Aires. Art, angst and architecture are imaginatively brought together in a witty, playful homage to a stylish city and its idiosyncratic inhabitants. MD

Miss Bala
Mexico/USA (2011)
Director: Gerardo Naranjo / Screenplay: Gerardo Naranjo, Mauricio Katz

Wed 19 Oct, Vue7, 8.45pm
Thu 20 Oct, Vue7, 12.30pm
Sat 22 Oct, Ritzy, 8.30pm

Laura is an ordinary girl whose dreams of becoming a beauty queen might see her escaping her humble circumstances in the Mexican border city of Baja. On the eve of a contest audition, she is persuaded to go to a seedy nightclub by her friend Suzu. Laura bears witness to a brutal slaughter and loses Suzu in the ensuing melee. The search for her missing friend brings her into contact with gangster kingpin Lino, who casually takes advantage of Laura’s situation to use it for his own ends, forcing her to work while convincing few other than himself that he’s acting out of benevolence. Laura’s descent into a lawless underworld becomes increasingly desperate. Elegantly directed with sweeping tracking shots and skilfully choreographed shoot-outs, the latest film from Gerardo Naranjo is a bold step on from his previous much-admired features, Drama/Mexand I’mGoing to Explode. Miss Balais a deft feat, a thrilling, unrelenting actioner that wears sincere socio-political concerns about the drug wars in Mexico on its sleeve. At its centre is a breakout performance from model-turned-actress Stephanie Sigman, who is exceptional as the innocent naïf sucked into a punishing world, like Josef K in a swimsuit. Michael Hayden

Argentina (2011)
Director / Screenplay: Laura Citarella

Wed 19 Oct, ICA, 9pm
Thu 20 Oct, ICA, 1.30pm

When a young woman (Laura Paredes) wins a radio contest, her prize is four days in a hotel in Ostende, a seaside town by the Atlantic coast in the province of Buenos Aires. Only it’s not high season, so the beach proves blustery, the hotel is pretty much empty and she doesn’t have much to do while she waits for her boyfriend to join her. So she listens to the stories of a friendly local waiter and watches the comings and goings of an older man and the two women who appear to be with him. From El Pampero Cine, the company responsible for Mariano Llinás’ Extraordinary Stories and Alejo Moguillansky’s Castro (LFF 2009) comes a playful study of voyeurism and the power of storytelling inflected through a feminist sensibility. Laura Paredes gives an assured performance as the outsider whose imagination goes into overdrive when faced with the reality of the sleepy spa resort. Laura Citarella may have described Ostende as a very small feature, but the mischievous nods to Hitchcock and Rohmer and the film’s marked focus on ways of seeing actually render this a visually arresting and highly individual debut. MD

The Student (El Estudiante)
Argentina 2011
Director: Santiago Mitre / Screenplay: Santiago Mitre, Mariano Llinas

Mon 24 Oct, Vue6, 8.45pm
Tue 25 Oct, Vue6, 12.45pm

When attractive, intelligent and personable Roque (Esteban Lamothe) arrives at the University of Buenos Aires, he quickly becomes drawn into complex machinations of student politics in an antiquated system where differing factions vie for supremacy. Juggling his amorous dalliances with a rising role as right-hand man for the veteran professor Alberto Acevedo (a wonderfully understated role by Ricardo Félix), Roque soon finds that the clandestine deals and back-room negotiations that mark the political terrain in which he finds himself operating, may not be as easy to negotiate as he had first assumed. From Pablo Trapero’s screenwriter on Carancho (LFF2010) and Lion’s Den (LFF2008) comes a pointed and formally distinctive allegory on the intrigues and structures that govern Argentine politics. Grounded in a compelling performance from Lamothe – seen at last year’s LFF in Delfina Castagnino’s What I Love the Most – as the wily student politician on the make, Santiago Mitre crafts an alternative political thriller that brilliantly dissects the predatory ambitions of conflicting factions willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goal. MD

Argentina 2011
Director: Hermes Paralluelo
Thu 13 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT2, 8.45pm
Fri 14 Oct, BFI Southbank – Studio, 7pm
Sun 16 Oct, ICA, 4.15pm

Bebo, Ricardo and Pata live on the outskirts of the Argentine city of Córdoba, collecting cardboard for recycling in their battered horsedrawn cart. Hermes Paralluelo’s thoughtful documentary charts the boys’ day-to-day adventures as they go about their business, argue with their extended family, and share their dreams and aspirations. Many of the conversations are captured as the boys ride on the horse and cart through the city’s streets, the horse’s pattering offering a musical accompaniment to the ensuing action and a visual contrast to the reverse tracking shots through more affluent neighbourhoods that contrast with their sparse homes in Villa Urquiza. Ricardo cares nothing of school and dreams of being a jockey; his conscientious sister Dámaris wants to be a policewoman in the hope that she might be able to put a stop to their father’s drinking; and his grandmother Chinina reinforces the importance of hard work. The dialogue is often humorous and Paralluelo’s camera – always keeping a respectful distance – engagingly observes these tenacious teenagers at work and at play. MD

Short Films

Apparition (Geister)
(Screening as part of the Rural Life programme)
Argentina/Austria/Germany 2010
Director: Verena Kuri

Tue 25 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT2, 6.15pm
Wed 26 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT3, 3.30pm

An old man and a young girl live in a remote house, as the hot days of summer go lazily by. But someone has to bid farewell.

(Screening as part of the International Animation Panorama Programme 2)
Argentina 2011
Director: Juan Pablo Zaramella

Tue 18 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT3, 4pm
Sun 23 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT2, 6.30pm

In a world controlled and timed by light, a common man has a plan that could change destiny.

(Screening in the Just Because You’re Paranoid, It Doesn’t Mean They’re Not After You programme)
Brazil 2010
Director: Dennison Ramalho

Fri 21 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT3, 1.15pm
Mon 24 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT2, 6.15pm

An extremely violent and harrowing film, in which a policeman crosses the line, becomes a ‘Ninja’ and finds there is a hell on earth.

Worsening (Pode Piorar)
(Screening in the Just Because You’re Paranoid, It Doesn’t Mean They’re Not After You programme)
Brazil 2011
Director: João Tenório

Fri 21 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT3, 1.15pm
Mon 24 Oct, BFI Southbank – NFT2, 6.15pm

After taking an injured man to hospital, a spaced-out taxi driver and his passenger find out their good deed is not quite complete.

Tickets can be bought online, in person or by phone – visit to buy tickets and for further information.

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