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SXSW: The Fallout

For Vada (Jenna Ortega), it was just an ordinary day at her high school. After a false alarm from her younger sister Amelia (Lumi Pollack), Vada hangs out in the bathroom with fellow student Mia (Maddie Ziegler), a beautiful Instagram dancer. They catch each other’s eye but that moment of flirtation is ripped away from them when they hear gunshots. A shooter causes chaos in the school, killing some and injuring others. Vada and Mia’s lives will never be the same again. After the shooting, Vada spends her days avoiding school, drinking with Mia, getting high and going to therapy. Her parents Patricia (Julie Bowen) and Carlos (John Ortiz) try their best to give Vada space to recover. But how do you life your life after such a traumatic event?

Directed by Megan Park, The Fallout is a coming-of-age story that will ring true for many young people who unfortunately have suffered through this kind of trauma. Mass shootings are a reality of American life and despite what your thoughts are on gun control, it’s important for us to see how these events affect its victims. The Fallout is a poignant story about one young person’s response to trauma and in the same way it’s a universal tale about growing up, finding yourself and surviving something horrific. Audiences will appreciate the LGBTQ and BIPOC inclusivity.

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

SXSW: Executive Order/ Medida Provisória

“I’ve always believed in the power of words… I used to be black… now I’m high melanin.”

Set in Rio de Janeiro some time in the future, Executive Order/Medida Provisória follows Antônio (Alfred Enoch), a young black lawyer seeking reparations from the government for Brazilian citizens descended from African slaves. In retaliation, the corrupt government offers an alternate: social reparation in the form of repatriation to Africa. At first this is offered as a voluntary option and advertised on television and presented to local communities. When it meets with resistance from black citizens including Antônio, his cousin André (Seu Jorge) and his wife Capitu (Taís Araújo), the government quickly changes the offer to an executive order. Martial law ensues to force anyone with “high melanin” back to Africa and the trio must find a way to fight back.

Directed by Lázaro Ramos, Executive Order/Medida Provisória is a harrowing drama that explores race relations and political corruption through a dystopian lens. The plot lacks cohesiveness but overall the film is fairly effective as a thriller. Fans of the Mexican dystopian thriller New Order/Nuevo Orden will definitely want to check this one out.

Executive Order/Medida Provisória 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

Sundance: The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet/El perro que no calla

This gentle poetic film follows the story of Sebastian (Daniel Katz), a young graphic designer making his way through life. His sweet dog misses him when he’s gone. Her cries annoy the neighbors Sebastian’s employers don’t want her around either. As time passes, Sebastian mourns the death of his dog, struggles to find steady work and becomes a new father. Then there is a new pandemic which causes humans to pass out if they stand up straight. In order to survive humans must crouch under 4 feet or wear an expensive bubble over their heads.

Directed by Ana Katz, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet/El perro que no calla is a somber film that covers a lot of ground in just over an hour. It’s shot in black and white and the lead actor Katz offers a beautifully subdued performance. However, despite its best intentions the film falls flat offering the viewer little by way of substance. For dog lovers, the early scenes are really tough to watch. A couple poignant scenes are told through hand-drawn illustrations. I wish this would have been implemented more. I also had hoped that the unusual pandemic was a more substantial part of the film and would be explained. I couldn’t quite connect with the story or the main character expect for his genuine connection with his dog.

The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet/El perro que no calla premiered at the virtual 2021 Sundance Film Festival as part of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition.

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