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.
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.“
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.
“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.
“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
As someone who devours Spanish-language feature films and documentaries, I was thrilled to learn of streaming service OVID’s new collaboration with PRAGDA, a production and distribution company dedicated to promoting films from Latin America and Spain. This month OVID made seven of Chilean director Patricio Guzman’s documentaries available on their service, timed for the release of his newest film The Cordillera of Dreams/La Cordillera de los sueños.
Over the past 40+ years, Patricio Guzman has been chronicling the natural and sociological history of Chile. Guzman’s home country is one of the most fascinating places in the entire world. It’s the longest and narrowest of countries with 2,700 miles/4,300 kilometers of coast line to the west, mountains that border the east, deserts to the north and a southern tip that is mere miles away from the Antarctic peninsula. The Atacama desert is one of the driest places on earth and because of the clear skies and high altitude, it’s one of the best places for astronomers to observe space and is home to several large scale telescopes. Chile’s history is fraught with political turmoil from the brief presidency of democratic socialist Salvador Allende whose government was overturned by a military coup d’etat in 1973. This was followed by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet who was eventually charged with human rights violations and embezzlement.
Guzman offers poignant and emotionally resonant portrayals of Chile. Let’s take a look at the seven Guzman documentaries available to watch on OVID.
Guzman’s three part epic depicts the tumultuous days leading to the end of Salvador Allende’s presidency and the beginning of Pinochet’s regime. Guzman and five cameramen were on the ground recording the events as they unfolded. One cameraman even died in action and filmed the last moments of his life as he was by the military in a coup. The documentaries also capture the struggle of the working class who are fighting for their rights as the bourgeoisie rise in power.
The three films include The Battle of Chile: The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie/La Batalla de Chile: La insurrección de la burguesía (1975), The Battle of Chile: The Coup d’état/La Batalla de Chile: El golpe de estado (1977) and The Battle of Chile: Popular Power/La Batalla de Chile: El poder popular (1979).
If you’re uninformed about the tyrant that was Augusto Pinochet, watching The Pinochet Case (2001) is a great place to start. Guzman’s documentary takes a look at the 1998 arrest of the dictator while on vacation in London. Pinochet came into power in 1974 and ruled Chile as a dictator until 1990. Over the years, countless political opponents disappeared. Those who weren’t able to flee Chile for refuge in other countries were imprisoned and tortured. Many were murdered and buried in desert in unmarked graves. Guzman interviews over a dozen of victims who lost family members and nearly lost their own lives during Pinochet’s regime. Guzman also offers archival footage of Pinochet in London as he was charged and tried for human rights violations.
In Salvador Allende (2004), Guzman chronicles the presidency of Allende from his election campaign to his seemingly impossible win, to his short lived term that ended with a military coup d’etat and his eventual suicide in 1973. Guzman interviews family members, friends and colleagues of Allende, a CIA operative, as well as one of the last people to see Allende alive. Guzman always offers some hard-hitting scenes that really encourage audiences to appreciate the gravitas of the story. In this film, Guzman tries to find someone who witness the bombing of Allende’s home and gets a tour of the exact spot where Allende killed himself.
In Guzman’s documentary Nostalgia for the Light (2010), audiences learn about the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth which is home to important telescopes that capture images of space and is also where many victims of Pinochet’s regime are secretly buried. Because it is such a dry place, the human remains found in the desert date back from as recently as the 1970s to as far back as the 1800s and even further back to pre-1400s. Nostalgia for the Light is a quiet and somber documentary about how this unique landscape holds dark secrets of the past and helps us explore a world beyond our own.
In The Pearl Button (2014), Guzman man moves away from the desert to Chile’s coast and waterways. The title is a reference to Jemmy Button, the native of the Yaghan tribe who was brought to England, civilized and brought back. He was paid for with pearl buttons. Upon his return to his native land, he stripped away his newfound British identity but was never able to assimilate back into his tribe and lived the rest of his life in exile. It’s also a reference to the button found fused on a metal rod used to sink a political prisoner’s body to the bottom of the ocean. The most fascinating part of the documentary is Guzman’s interviews with some of the last remaining indigenous people of Patagonia and we hear words spoken in the Kawesqar language.
OVID streams a variety of independent and foreign films. I’m new to the service and am already loving how much they have to offer. Visit OVID.tv for more information.