Nature sings in Francisca Alegría’s magical realism film The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future. Magdalena (Mia Maestro) has emerged from the waters where she committed suicide many years ago. She visits the members of her family who all have different reactions to seeing her. Magdalena doesn’t speak but brings an energy with her that sparks electricity and makes the cows, the bees, the fish and other elements of nature sing beautiful music. While herr family is confused by her presence, Magdalena offers no closure; just reconnection.
This hauntingly beautiful Chilean fable reminds us that we are one with nature and we must protect it. It’s not a film to make sense of. Rather one to simply experience.
The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future premiered at the 2022 Sundance FIlm Festival.
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 astriking, beautiful sort of femininity. She’s motivated by relentlessindividualism, as she clearly knows what she wants and is capableof seducing those around her in order to line up her destiny. Shewants to be a mother and have afamily; perhaps what moves and motivates her the most is love.“
Music Box Films will be releasing Ema on digital and VOD on September 14th. Visit the official website for more information.
“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
Sergio Chamy can’t believe his luck. While reading the morning newspaper he finds a job listing calling for a man between the ages of 80 and 90. Out of curiosity he goes to interview for the position. A private investigator is looking for an elderly man to pose as a resident the San Francisco Retirement Home in Chile to find out if the staff there is abusing the residents. In particular he has to keep an eye on one patient on behalf of her daughter.
Armed with a smartphone, camera glasses, a notebook, an inquisitive nature and a good dose of charm, Sergio infiltrates the retirement home. There he makes friends, becomes part of the social atmosphere, checks in on residents who are going through a difficult time and reports everything back to the private investigator. But Sergio gets more than he bargained for. He learns where the true neglect is coming from and its not from the staff.
Directed by Maite Alberdi, The Mole Agent is an incredibly endearing if not heartbreaking film. It’s a hybrid-like documentary that tells a true story in real time but has all the elements of a quiet feature film. It requires some love and some patience. If you have both you’ll be handsomely rewarded. The Mole Agent is very effective in its messaging. One can help but be charmed by Sergio Chamy who is stylish, debonair and has a heart of gold. I can’t recommend this film enough and I’m counting down the minutes before I can watch it again.
The Mole Agent recently screened as part of the 2020 virtual Double Exposure Film Festival.
After escaping from a commune of German religious fanatics, Maria has escaped into the Chilean countryside and stumbles upon a house where two pigs live. Maria moves in and imagines the pigs to be children,naming them Pedro and Ana. The house is an ever-changing structure and Maria, Pedro and Ana take on many forms and appearances. As Maria finds herself stuck in this evolving nightmarish reality, the wolf, who lives in the nearby forest, threatens to keep them all trapped inside.
“The Wolf House is a feature film where beauty, fear, disorder and the narrative itself are born from the precarious and permanent states of change. It is the story of a beautiful young woman who is held captive, but it is also the story of a physical and mental world that falls apart, destroys itself and renews itself time and again.”
Director’s statement – Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña
Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña’s The Wolf House/La casalobo features mesmerizing stop animation and constantly shifting imagery to illustrate the pain of extreme isolation. The story is based on the sordid history of Colonia Dignidad, a secretive sect of German emigres in Chile who became particularly notorious for child molestation and the torture and murder of prisoners during Augusto Pinochet’s military regime. The main character Maria has escaped from the sect and the house symbolizes a sort of in-between space where she sheds her old life and prepares to re-enter society. The wolf is that society, which is perceived as a threat but in reality is not. Much like the actual wolf which has been hurt over the centuries by unshakable falsehoods. The film is narrated by a male voice from the sect that haunts Maria’s existence. The story also draws from the classic children’s fable The Three Little Pigs.
Chilean filmmakers León and Cociña’s feature film debut is an impressive feat. Produced over several years, it incorporates stop animation with papier mâché puppets made of cardboard, tape and other materials, and paint on the house’s walls and floors. The characters inhabit the house both in three dimensional form and within the walls themselves. It’s quite a marvel to behold. Viewers who enjoy innovative stop animation films and unique storytelling will want to seek out The Wolf House/La casa lobo.
The Wolf House/La casa lobo releases in virtual theaters today. Visit the official website for more information.