Directed by Miguel Courtois Paternina, 2012, Spain, France, Colombia. View trailer.
A controversial film in Colombia due to the real event on which it is based (the kidnapping of Clara Rojas and Ingrid Betancourt), Operation E was at risk of being banned but was finally released in the country after a politicized trial.
Crisanto is a poor cocaine farmer who lives with his family in the Guaviare jungle, a region ruled by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). A group of guerrilla fighters leave them with a dying baby that they must care for. Doctors are able to heal the baby, but, believing he’s been abandoned and abused, take it away. Two years later, the guerrillas demand the child’s return as he is at the center of an exchange of hostages negotiated between the presidents of Colombia and Venezuela that is bringing both countries to the brink of war. This international political crisis has significant media impact and is widely reported across the globe. They give him three days to find the boy or he and his family will be killed. This is a political thriller that shows what happens away from the cameras and microphones, a contrasting view of the official version.
A nine-year-old boy’s preening obsession with straightening his hair elicits a tidal wave of homophobic panic in his hard-working mother, in this tender but clear-eyed coming-of-age tale. Junior is a beautiful boy, with big brown eyes, a delicate frame, and a head of luxurious dark curls. But Junior aches to straighten those curls, to acquire a whole new look befitting his emerging fantasy image of himself as a long-haired singer. As the opportunity approaches to have his photo taken for the new school year, that ache turns into a fiery longing. Junior’s mother, Marta (Samantha Castillo), is barely hanging on. The father of her children has died, she recently lost her job as a security guard, and she now struggles to put a few arepas on the table for Junior and his baby brother. Junior doesn’t even know yet what it means to be gay, but the very notion prompts Marta to set out to “correct” Junior’s condition before it fully takes hold. This is a story of people doing what they feel they have to, partly out of fear, but also out of love. (Diana Vargas, Toronto International Film Festival).
Directed by Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori, 2014, Paraguay.
It’s Friday night in Asunción, Paraguay, and the temperature is sweltering. Víctor, a 17-year-old wheelbarrow delivery boy, dreams of fame and owning a fancy TV set from the infamous Mercado 4. He’s offered a chance to deliver seven boxes with unknown contents in exchange for a quick one hundred US dollars. But what sounds like an easy job soon becomes complicated. Something in the boxes is highly coveted and Víctor and his pursuers quickly find themselves caught up in a crime they know nothing about.
Reminiscent of Slumdog Millionare, 7 Boxes was declared a film of cultural interest by the National Secretary of Culture of Paraguay.
Directed by Antonio Méndez Esparza, 2012, USA, Spain, Mexico.
Winner of the top prize at the Critics’ Week section of the Cannes Film Festival, Antonio Méndez Esparza’s directorial debut radiantly captures the complex homecoming of a loving father. In an unexpected take on the traditional immigrant story, Pedro returns home to a small mountain village in Guerrero, Mexico, after years of working in New York. He finds his daughters older and more distant than he imagined; his wife still has the same smile. The villagers think this year’s crop will be bountiful and there is work in a growing city nearby. But the locals are wise to a life of insecurity, and their thoughts are often of family members or opportunities far away, north of the border.
Antonio Méndez Esparza has made a most remarkable debut. Using non-professional actors, Méndez Esparza gets remarkable performances that provide a richness of nuance and detail to each of his characters going far beyond cliché and stereotype. Rarely has a film about US/Mexican border experience felt so fresh or authentic.
Dayani Cristal. Who is this person? What brought him here? How did he die? And who —or what— is Dayani Cristal? Following a team of dedicated forensic anthropologists from the Pima County Morgue in Arizona, director Marc Silver seeks to answer these questions and give this anonymous man an identity. As the forensic investigation unfolds, Mexican actor and activist Gael Garcia Bernal retraces this man’s steps along the migrant trail in Central America. In an effort to understand what it must have felt like to make this final journey, he embeds himself among migrant travelers on their own mission to cross the border. He experiences first-hand the dangers they face and learns of their motivations, hopes and fears. As we travel north, these voices from the other side of the border wall give us a rare insight into the human stories which are so often ignored in the immigration debate.
Winner of the Sundance 2013 Cinematography award and nominated in the World Documentary Competition, Who Is Dayani Cristal? shows how one life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration.