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SXSW: Ludi

Ludi (Shein Mompremier) is utterly exhausted. She works countless hours as a nurse, scraping away all the money she can to send back to her family in Haiti. Ludi lives in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami and while her community reminds her of home, her constant struggle reminds her that pursuing the American dream is a relentless uphill climb. When a coworker gives her insight on a new opportunity to make some easy cash, she sets out to take the night shift at the home of George (Alan Myles Heyman), an elderly man too proud to receive help. With George, Ludi faces her greatest challenge yet.

Directed by Haitian-American filmmaker Edson Jean and co-written by Joshua Jean-Baptiste, Ludi is a poignant drama that reveals the pain and vulnerability that comes with the immigrant experience. Shein Mompremier’s moving portrayal of Ludi exemplifies what it means to be a hard-working immigrant woman in America. The film lingers on the scenes between Ludi and George, who have an all out battle, and Heyman’s authentic performance gives viewers insight on the plight of the elderly.

Ludi premiered at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.

SXSW: Luchadoras

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico is one of the most dangerous cities in the world.  Between the years of 1993 and 2005, hundreds of women were brutally murdered, many discovered mutilated in the dessert and others never to be recovered. This violence against women in particular came from two dangerous forces: a drug cartel that wields incredible power still to this day and a deeply entrenched culture of machismo. Although the women of Ciudad Juarez live in constant fear of violence, they still manage to survive and thrive. For some, they find physical, emotional and mental strength as luchadoras: female Lucha Libre wrestlers known for wearing colorful costumes and masks in the ring.

Directed by Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim, Luchadoras is a powerful documentary that follows three women wrestlers, Lady Candy, Baby Star and Mini Sirenita, as they transcend their circumstances and find strength through their sport. The resiliency of these women is astounding. A must-see for anyone seeking out feminist documentaries or who were inspired by stories like GLOW on Netflix.

Trigger warning: the film discusses violence against women. For those with hearing sensitivities like myself, there are several scenes in which the low battery chirp from a fire alarm can be heard.

Luchadoras had its world premiere at the virtual 2021 SXSW Film Festival.

Latin Noir

“In the 1970s, a new type of crime novel was created in Latin America. It was called Latin Noir.”

The 1970s was a tumultuous decade for many Latin American countries. Many were ruled by dictatorships and corruption infiltrated government, military and law enforcement. It was a time of violence, oppression and abuse of power. Those who spoke up against the powers at be fled for their safety and lived in exile. Writers from Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Argentina, Chile and beyond created their own genre of literature: latin noir/novela negra. These were urban narratives that explores violence, crime and power. It was a subversive type of literature; one that could criticize the dictatorships without being direct. The genre had its roots in crime fiction and film noir. These authors reinvented the genre offering readers thought-provoking literature.

“Violence, dictatorship, corruption, crime, embezzlement and economic woe are painful and present in all the countries of Latin America, creating widespread interest in detectives, guilt and justice.”

Director Andreas Apostolidis

Directed by Andreas Apostolidis, Latin Noir explores the sociopolitical environment that gave birth to this unique literary genre. Apostolidis and crew traveled to five Latin American countries to interview authors, journalists and other experts. Featured in the documentary are Leonardo Padura (Cuba), Luis Sepúlveda (Chile), Paco Ignacio Taibo II (Mexico), Santiago Roncagliolo (Peru) and Claudia Piñeiro (Argentina). Apostolidis sheds light on a lesser known aspect of Latin American history. I wish there had been more information about the books themselves. There is very little and I would have liked to learn more about the path to publication, the impact on readers and the legacy of this literary genre.

Latin Noir is an informative documentary that offers much needed context for a literary genre born out of turmoil.

Latin Noir had its world premiere at the Miami Film Festival

Slamdance: Sixteen Thousand Dollars

“Reparations for slavery hasn’t happened yet, but if it were to happen, are we ready to make demands that include systematic change?”

Director Symone Baptiste

Director Symone Baptiste’s short film Sixteen Thousand Dollars imagines an America in which black people have been paid reparations for slavery. $16,000 in fact. Brother and sister Brodie (Brodie Reed) and Ellington (Ellington Wells) have received their checks in the mail. Ellington has big plans for her $8,000 check (a half payment because she’s only half black) including quitting her job and starting a new business. Brodie contemplates the significance of the reparation and whether the payment is a replacement for real long-lasting change.

Sixteen Thousand Dollars is an introspective film about race, class and the power of money, done to great comedic effect. Audiences will laugh at the chaos that comes with a windfall of cash and pause to think about its serious subject matter. I would love to see Sixteen Thousand Dollars developed into a full-length feature film!

Sixteen Thousand Dollars was screened as part of the virtual 2021 Slamdance Film Festival.

Slamdance: Trammel

Dale (Dale A. Smith) visits the local pharmacy in his small town to chat with his buddy Mohammad (Mohammad Dagman). Dale is lonely and Mohammad is a great listener. As their conversation progresses, we learn about Dale’s tumultuous past.

Trammel is a sensitive portrait of loneliness. Directed by Christopher Jason Bell, this 11 minute short film, on the surface, is a window into a private conversation. But then it gives the viewer so much more. Through this conversation, we learn enough about Dale to empathize with him. He’s lonely and in desperate need of a friend. And when Mohammad isn’t there, we want to be there to listen to Dale. We want to be that friend. Empathy is an essential part of human nature that often gets overlooked. Trammel effectively brings it to light.

Trammel screened as part of the virtual 2021 SlLamdance Film Festival.

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