Skip to content

TagForeign Film

AFI Fest: The Intruder/ El Prófugo

“I feel like there’s someone outside asking me to open the window. And I know who it is.”

Something is wrong with Ines (Erica Rivas). After her vacation with boyfriend Leopoldo (Daniel Hendler) ends in trauma, Ines tries to go back to her normal, everyday life. She works as a voice actress dubbing horror films in Spanish and sings for a professional choir. Ines’ voice is her livelihood. However, a mysterious force is disrupting her work, adding strange noises to her recordings and affecting her otherwise dulcet singing voice. Another voice actress reveals to Ines what’s plaguing her: an intruder. First Ines hears the intruder, then she feels it and if she allows it, the intruder will take over her life. In the days following the trauma, Ines is possessed by the intruder who enters through her nightmares and makes her question what is reality and what is just a dream.

Directed by Natalia Meta, The Intruder/ El Prófugo is a bizarre psychological thriller about the real effects of trauma. I couldn’t quite make sense of this movie. I’m fascinated by the idea of “the intruder” and  the movie requires the audience to come up with their own interpretation of what it is and what it represents. My interpretation is that trauma is a parasitic host that preys on its victim. Things can escalate if the victim is not able to get the support they need to heal In this case the intruder literally grabs its victim by the throat which Ines’ most vulnerable spot since she uses her voice for her livelihood. Natalia Meta’s film is an adaptation of an even darker story, El mal menor by C.E. Feiling, which I’m interested in reading to see how it compares to the film. I do appreciate the fact that, while Meta could have turned this into a graphic horror film, she instead she made it into a female centric psychological drama, something I’m much more drawn to. The protagonist is played by Erica Rivas who delivers a brilliant performance.

The Intruder/El Prófugo was screened as part of the 2020 virtual AFI Fest.

AFI Fest: New Order/Nuevo orden

It’s Marianne’s (Naian González Norvind) wedding day and as her elite circle of friends and family celebrate this joyous event, chaos and disorder descends upon their quiet community. The tables have turned in nearby Mexico City. Protestors armed with green paint are taking over. The disenfranchised are now in control and they’re exacting revenge on the privileged. There is a battle going on between the poor and the rich, the brown and the white. When Marianne leaves her reception to help former employee Rolando, she narrowly escapes the orchestrated attack on her home but is soon captured by a violent militia who are hell bent on torturing the rich and draining them of their wealth. In this war between the haves and the have nots, who will win?

Directed by Michel Franco, New Order/Nuevo orden is a brutal and unflinching study in social and racial inequality. Franco wrote the film four years ago but it feels so prescient that it might as well have been written this year. According to an interview with AFI Fest, Franco initially delayed the release of New Order/Nuevo orden to 2021 but changed his mind when he learned of the Black Lives Matter protests back in June. Franco calls the film a “cautionary tale” and while some aspects of the film are strictly dystopian, the latter half in particular is frighteningly realistic.

New Order/Nuevo orden is gritty and real. The film was shot on location in Mexico City, uses subtle visual effects and over 3,000 extras, all of which give the film a sense of merciless authenticity.

Social inequality is a huge problem in Mexico and there are some excellent films that explore this subject including Roma and Las Ninas Bien. New Order/Nuevo orden breaks down the protective shield of wealth and status to lay bare the true cost of privilege.

“It shouldn’t be fun to watch all this violence.”

Director Michel Franco

New Order/Nuevo orden was screened as part of the 2020 virtual AFI Fest.

Our Mothers/Nuestras madres

Sometimes you have to reopen a wound and let it bleed before it can fully heal. In director César Díaz’s new drama Our Mothers/Nuestras madres, the trauma of the Guatemalan Civil War is brought to light four decades later. The film addresses the emotional damage that the Guatemalan genocide caused those who were left behind. Guerilla fighters were brutally killed and buried in unmarked graves. Their wives were imprisoned, tortured and raped.

Ernesto (Armando Espitia), a young and idealistic anthropologist, is devoting his life’s work to reunited the dead with the living. His motivations go far beyond mere benevolence. Ernesto’s own father was one of the many fighters who went missing. As he searches for his father’s grave site, his mother, Cristina (Emma Dib), refuses to participate and keeps the story of her trauma closely guarded. In the search for his father, Ernesto is about to uncover the truth about himself.

“In Guatemalan Indian oral tradition things must be spoken for them to exist. When a newcomer arrives in a village, that person is told what happened at this place so that it is never forgotten.”

Director César Díaz

Our Mothers/Nuestras madres channels the grief of a hurting nation. The film is set in 2018 when war crimes of the late ’70s and early ’80s were finally being brought to trial. The story is inspired by filmmaker César Díaz’s own journey to learn about his father, a guerilla fighter who died during the Civil War. While a male protagonist and a male filmmaker guide the story, the film is essentially about the women, survivors of the Guatemalan genocide who were tortured and raped and left without the closure needed to properly mourn a lost loved one. Don’t be put off by the heavy subject matter. Our Mothers/Nuestras madres is more hopeful than it is depressing. There is a sense throughout the story that these characters are finally going to heal their emotional wounds and move forward with their lives.

Our Mothers/Nuestras madres is available through virtual cinemas nationwide. Visit the official website for more information.

The Wolf House/La casa lobo

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 casa lobo 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.

SXSW: We Don’t Deserve Dogs

Dogs bring us so much joy. They care not about our race, ethnicity, appearance, status, reputation or wealth (or lack thereof). They love us unconditionally in a way that other humans are incapable of. That’s why people from all walks of life love dogs. Some mistreat them but many of us fight for their rights. Dogs are a beloved member of our global family.

“A relationship with a dog is better than any relationship you’ll have with a human… They don’t know the bad side. They just know the good side.”

Directed by Matthew Sellah and produced by Rose Tucker, We Don’t Deserve Dogs is a series of vignettes about the impact dogs have on humans. Numerous countries are represented. Some of the most interesting stories include Ugandan kidnapping survivors who use dogs as a form of therapy for their PTSD, an older gentleman who is still haunted by the memory of abandoning his dog 20 years earlier, the Chilean street dog who goes by many names and depends on the kindness of strangers and the dog walker in Istanbul who walks over 30km a day taking care of the neighborhood dogs. The filmmakers interview a wide variety of subjects. Each story is unique in its own way. The cinematography is quite stunning. Low shots at the dogs’ level make for a very intimate point of view.

The film was shot over 13 months and in 11 countries including Chile, Uganda, Peru, Italy, Turkey, Pakistan, Finland, Romania, Vietnam,
Nepal, and Scotland.

I had two major issues with the film. First of all, there was no lower third. The audience doesn’t learn the names of the subjects or where their from. I could pick up on some clues but otherwise I was confused about which countries are represented. This may be to strip the focus away from the humans and onto the dogs but I think a lower third could have helped. The second is a huge trigger for dog lovers. One vignette follows a Vietnamese couple who kill dogs and sell their meat. The dogs provide a form of income for them but I do think this segment was unnecessary and difficult to watch. Removing it would make for a better film overall.

We Don’t Deserve Dogs was set to have its world premiere at the SXSW film festival. You can find more information about the film over on the Urtext Films website.

%d bloggers like this: