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Ema

Reggaeton dancer Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo) is in a tumultuous relationship with her choreographer/husband Gaston (Gael García Bernal). The two seem hellbent at destroying their relationship, throwing verbal jabs at each other and pouring salt on emotional wounds. Their adopted son Polo (Cristián Suárez) has been taken away for his destructive behavior and rehomed with a new family. Ema is desperate to get Polo back and will go to great lengths, including targeting the two new parents, to get him back. She embarks on a journey of self-discovery and destruction in order to fulfill her deepest desires.

Ema, you’re going to battle.”

Director Pablo Larraín’s erotically charged Ema sets the screen ablaze with its magnetic star Mariana Di Girolamo. Her unique look, donning bleach blonde shellacked hair and a piercing gaze, is mesmerizing and you can’t help but fall for her like the other characters do in her story. There are some heavy themes including toxic relationships, parenthood, polyamory, self-destruction, sadism and pyromania. Scenes are intercut with dance sequences that feel seamless.

It’s difficult to understand why some of the characters, particularly Gaston, are so hard on Ema. And at one point I was getting We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011) vibes but Polo’s mental health struggles are not at all explored. I wish Ema’s story came with more background  and context but that might have taken away from her mystery and charm.

TW: Depictions of fire and the aftermath of a serious burn. This film premiered at TIFF a couple years ago and while I wanted to watch it then I recently had burned my leg and couldn’t deal with any imagery of a burn victim (Ema’s sister after an accident) and fire (Ema sets objects on fire with a flamethrower). I’m glad I waited as I was much more prepared to watch the film this time around.

Ema is a paradigm: she’s a character of characters. Daughter, mother, sister, wife, lover and leader. She’s very powerful and presents a striking, beautiful sort of femininity. She’s motivated by relentless individualism, as she clearly knows what she wants and is capable of seducing those around her in order to line up her destiny. She wants to be a mother and have a family; perhaps what moves and motivates her the most is love.

Pablo Larraín

Music Box Films will be releasing Ema on digital and VOD on September 14th. Visit the official website for more information.

Fantasia Festival: Ghosting Gloria

30-something bookseller Gloria (Stefania Tortorella) hasn’t experienced an orgasm yet. Tired of sleepless nights caused by her very vocal and very horny upstairs neighbors, Gloria moves into a new place for some peace and quiet. However, it’s occupied by the ghost of the man who died there weeks earlier. And he wants to give Gloria what she’s been missing. When Gloria’s best friend and coworker Sandra (Nena Pelenur) gets curious about Gloria’s newfound glow, Gloria can’t bring herself to explain that she’s hooking up with a ghost. Gloria finds herself at a crossroads when the ghost actually ghosts her, leaving her wondering if satisfaction, both emotional and sexual, can be found in the world of the living or the dead.

“The best player is not the one with the best cards but the one who knows how to best play the cards that were dealt to her.”

Written and directed by husband-and-wife filmmaking team Marcela Matta and Mauro Sarser, the Uruguayan film Ghosting Gloria/Muertos con Gloria is a paranormal delight. I love the film’s bookish vibe and the supernatural cunnilingus scenes are quite inventive and fun to watch.  The story does drag on a lot longer than it should. There is a point about an hour in that feels like a natural ending point yet the film continues for another 30 minutes. It felt like 3 television episodes stitched together and I wonder if this would have worked better as a mini-series. I’m glad I kept watching because the actual ending is quite satisfying and solves a visual clue that was presented throughout the film. Definitely check this one out if you can!

Ghosting Gloria/Muertos con Gloria had its world premiere at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival.

La Dosis

Marcos (Carlos Portaluppi) is a nurse working the night shift at a private hospital. He takes pity on the patients who have no chance of survival and  secretly euthanizes them so they can die in peace. He’s able to commit his crime unnoticed until the arrival of a mysterious new nurse Gabriel (Ignacio Rogers). Marcos’ quiet existence is about to be thrust into utter chaos. Gabriel is a charmer, seducing the other night nurse Noelia (Lorena Vega) and ingratiating himself to upper management. But Gabriel is also killing patients and does it both with ill intentions and inhumanely. When the rise in patient deaths becomes noticeable, it’s time for Marcos and Gabriel to come face to face in a battle for survival.

Director Martin Kraut was inspired by a 2012 story about two Uruguayan nurses who were caught euthanizing patients. In an interview Kraut says:

I am interested in investigating what happens when doctors and nurses know there is no chance of survival yet they must keep the bodies alive while they can: Keeping patients on life support or alive is also a very important and profitable business. This fact coupled with the immense power that some nurses like Marcos have while working the night shift, and who devote their time to the care of others in those conditions, can lead them to extreme situations.

Martin Kraut

La Dosis is a restrained psychological thriller with a terrific slow build. The tension sneaks up on the viewer as the two nurses must confront their secrets. It does a great job exploring the toxic social dynamics that occur in a hospital environment between nurses, doctors, patients and management. There is an LGBTQ element to the story that isn’t explored enough to make any sense. It lacks in some character building, especially in regards to the main character Marcos. Overall, the direction, the performances, the moody lighting and slow build make this one to watch.

Kudos to whoever designed the movie’s poster because it not only captures the essence of the story and the dynamic between the two main characters, it’s also amazing how one eye can seem to belong to both men at the same time. Amazing!

La Dosis is distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films available on demand and on digital.

Watch on Apple TV

I Carry You With Me/Te llevo conmigo

“That place destroys people with loneliness.”

Iván (Armando Espitia) is a divorced single father who dreams of becoming a chef. But in his small town in Mexico, the best job he can get, despite his culinary training, is relegated to a menial role at his local restaurant. One day, Iván attends an underground party with his best friend Sandra (Michelle Rodriguez). There he meets Gerardo (Christian Vázquez), a handsome young man who catches his attention with a laser pointer. The two hit it off instantly. Iván is still in the closet, knowing that coming out will hurt his chances of seeing his son. This complicates his relationship with Gerardo who is out, despite his father’s disapproval. When Iván is outed, he decides to make the treacherous journey across the border to become a chef in the United States. He risks it all for a chance at a new life. But will he ever see Gerardo or his son again?

Directed by Heidi Ewing, I Carry You With Me/Te llevo conmigo is a beautiful queer love story about two Mexican men who risk it all for a better life together.  Based on a true story, the film is both documentary and feature film with footage of present day Iván and Gerardo interspersed with narrative scenes played out by actors Armond Espitia and Christian Vázquez. This film is absolutely brilliant. It tackles immigration, homophobia, queer relationships, Mexican culture, and the isolating experience of the Mexican diaspora.

This film is both heart wrenching as it is uplifting. It sends its viewers through the emotional ringer and I found myself deeply invested in Iván and Gerardo’s story. Espitia and Vázquez really deliver with their performances. And to top it all off, the food Iván creates looks absolutely delicious. Don’t watch this film on an empty stomach. 

“For this film, I came to the conclusion that it needed to be told in a different format than what I’d done before. This story took place over generations and so the movie would need a sweeping, romantic quality to it. I wanted to see and feel their youth and experience their love. It felt deeply cinematic by nature and just needed a different treatment entirely.”

Director Heidi Ewing

I Carry You With Me/Te llevo conmigo is distributed by Sony Pictures Classics and is currently out in theaters and available on demand.

Francesco

You don’t have to be Catholic or to even be religious to be struck by Pope Francis’ brand of  benevolence. He brings spiritual comfort to the masses, speaks out about ecological and economic abuses and travels to the far reaches of the planet to attend to global humanitarian crises. His handling of the church’s sex abuse scandals as well as his positions on gender in the church have brought him much criticism. But he’s not above humbling himself, apologizing for his wrongs and putting his words into actions. I grew up Protestant and no longer consider myself religious by any means. However, I have grown to admire Pope Francis as a humanitarian who continues to use his massive platform to do good around the world.

Directed by Evgeny Afineevsky, Francesco explores Pope Francis’ work as a religious icon and thought leader. It’s a sympathetic documentary that does much to present the Pope in the best light. However, Afineevsky does explore, albeit delicately, the Pope’s handling of the sex abuse scandal. Activist Juan Carlos Cruz is interviewed at length about his battle with the church on behalf of himself and other victims and his eventual meeting with the Pope. The documentary adds a 3-D effect on 2-D photos which I felt was unnecessary. It serves as a great primer to Pope Francis’ life and work. I wish it would dug deeper into the Pope’s personal connection to the teachings of Saint Francis of Assissi as well as his insistence on presenting himself as and being a humble Pope.

“Francesco is not a biographical film about Pope Francis in the traditional sense. Rather it is a film that shows us the world as it is today and a path to understanding what a better future of tomorrow can be, as seen through the remarkable work of the Pope.”

Director Evgeny Afineevsky

Francesco releases in theaters nationwide today and streams on Discovery+ on March 28th.

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