2010 San Diego Latino Film Festival

Last year I had to miss my favorite film festival because I was in Laos at the time, and somehow it didn’t seem worth cutting my trip short just to watch a bunch of movies. I don’t doubt the wisdom of that decision, but I was very happy to be back for the 2010 installment of the San Diego Latino Film Festival.

Over the 11-day festival at the Ultrastar Mission Valley Cinemas, I watched 39 films, in whole or in part (yes, I walked out of a few). Here are my favorites.

El Estudiante (The Student) (México, 2009):
A 70-year-old man goes back to college (I can relate!), but he’s no Rodney Dangerfield, and we learn through him that one should always live life to the fullest. More critical people complain that it simplifies things too much or that it’s anti-abortion and a bit cheesy. But I’m willing to overlook all that for the heartwarming and funny story. It also helps that it takes place in Guanajuato, where I have spent a few hours wandering the university where most of the film takes place. This is the #2 grossing film (and #4 DVD) of all time (of course these stats are never adjusted for inflation) in México, but don’t hold that against it.
Trailer (en español)

Cuestion de Principios (A Matter of Principle) (Argentina, 2009):
A pleasing story about an old stick-in-the-mud (do I detect a pattern here?) who stands up to his boss to show him that not everything in life is for sale, but he goes too far for his own good and seriously tees off his wife.
Trailer (en español)

El Frasco (The Jar) (Argentina, 2009):
A semi-autistic and clumsy intercity bus driver running away from his past and firmly entrenched into his daily routine of driving the same route and stopping for lunch at the same restaurant, almost screws up his one chance at love.
Trailer (en español)

Cinco Dias Sin Nora (Nora’s Will) (México, 2008):
In the ultimate controlling move, an old woman commits suicide on the eve of Passover, but not before preparing the Seder and leaving full preparation instructions with the housekeeper, and inviting her family members to attend. She also arranges for her ex-husband to be the one to discover the death and burden him with arranging the details of her funeral. A definite black comedy.
Trailer (en español)

Io, Don Giovanni (I, Don Giovanni) (Austria/Spain/Italy, 2009):
I’m not a big fan of opera; my mind tends to drift and sleep seems to overcome me. But this film allowed me to finally enjoy the medium. It’s a beautiful retelling of the story behind the opera Don Giovanni. In the course of this, you also get to enjoy much of the opera itself, complete with great scenery and costumes. This is how opera should be consumed!
Trailer (in italiano)

La terra degli uomini rossi (BirdWatchers) (Brazil, 2008):
A native tribe, tired of living on the reservation and relying on the local convenience store for their food, decides they are going to move back to their ancestral land. The farmer whose family has been working that land for three generations has other ideas. Nothing is black-and-white.

Contracorriente (Undertow) (Peru, 2009):
Set in a pretty Peruvian beach town, a married fisherman has an affair with an itinerant (male) painter. After the painter dies, he has an important decision to make. Well done!

El Regalo de la Pachamama (The Gift of Mother Earth) (Bolivia/Japan, 2008):
This one can be slow at times, especially in the beginning as it chronicles life in the salt flats of Bolivia, but then the real story begins. For the first time, the 13-year-old son accompanies his father on the three-month trek with a caravan of llamas to make the annual delivery of salt to the mountain villages. Here he (and we) experiences life outside his small world and meets people that will change that life.
Trailer (in Quechua with subtitles in 日本語)

Amar (To Love) (México, 2009):
A very funny sexual comedy, but one that’s well crafted with good story lines.

Os Normais 2 (Brazil, 2009):
A very very silly film about a couple bored with their sexual routine who go out in search of someone to fulfill their fantasy of a ménage a trois. I was laughing so hard throughout the film, and that’s worth a lot sometimes.
Trailer (em Português)

I apologize for the dearth of English-language trailers for these films. I scoured the web looking for them but few were to be found as most of these films do not yet have a US distributor nor are most yet available in the U.S. with English subtitles.

For someone else’s favorites (and it’s someone whose opinion on film I respect), see Phil Luque’s blog post.

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