“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
“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.
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.
The brutal Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996) resulted in the deaths of many civilians, especially those of the indigenous Mayan population. In the days after the war, Bishop Juan Gerardi became an outspoken activist for the Mayan people, seeking justice for the crimes against humanity and giving a voice to the voiceless. He was a truly remarkable individual and one of the key members of REMHI, an organization that sought to bring to light the many human rights violations enacted by the military and government. This unfortunately made him a target and on April 26th, 1998 Bishop Gerardi was brutally murdered.
Directed by Paul Taylor, The Art of Political Murder investigates Bishop Gerardi’s state ordered assassination, the mishandling of the crime scene, the theories behind what exactly happened and the arrest and trial of the three assassins. George Clooney served as one of the film’s executive producers and the documentary is based on Francisco Goldman’s book of the same name. It features interviews with journalists, experts and those who knew Bishop Gerardi both personally and professionally. There isn’t much by way of background on either the Guatemalan Civil War or how Bishop Gerardi came to be involved with his activism. Instead the focus here is on the crime itself. In essence one could call this a biography of a crime as it dissects all the details of the murder, investigation, media coverage, trial, etc. I would have preferred more background on Bishop Gerardi but this was an interesting approach.
The Art of Political Murder is well worth the watch for anyone interested in true crime in general or Guatemalan history in particular.
The Art of the Political Murder recently screened at the 2020 virtual Double Exposure Film Festival.
When 17-year-old Nayeli (Ruth Ramos) is raped by the neighborhood gringo Rayan (Cesar Mijangos), she seeks help from her brother Uri (Daniel Fuentes Lobo). Uri sides with his friend rather than his sister calling her a whore. Spurned by her brother, she visits the local coven of witches to enact her revenge. Not only is Rayan about to pay the price for his violent act against Nayeli but Uri will have to watch it all go down.
Directed by Ashley George and set in present day Mexico, Diabla packs a punch in a mere 17 minutes and will linger in your mind long after the film is over. For female viewers especially, Diabla will serve as a visual representation of all of the revenge fantasies that we have for the men in our lives who have hurt us in one form or another. In this way, Diabla is highly gratifying even when it shocks and disturbs.
Ashley George’s impressive short horror film speaks directly to women who have been hurt physically and emotionally by men.
Diabla is part of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival.