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Mexico/Central America/Caribbean Challenge (Official, September 2022)

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St. Gloede
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Mexico/Central America/Caribbean Challenge (Official, September 2022)

#1

Post by St. Gloede »

Mexico/Central America/Caribbean Challenge


Image

GOAL:
Explore and discuss the films of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, share recommendations and try to find a new favourite or two.

Full list of eligible countries:

39 different countries and territories are eligible for this challenge.

Eligible Countries with more than 300 titles listed on IMDb:

- Cuba
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- Haiti
- Jamaica
- Mexico
- Panama
- Puerto Rico
- Trinidad and Tobago

Eligible Countries with less than 300 titles listed on IMDb:
Spoiler
Rules:

- A feature film (at least 40 min) counts as one entry
- 80 minutes of short films or miniseries/TV episodes counts as one point
- Please indicate each film's country when listing your viewings
- In cases of co-productions eligibility will be up to the discretion of the participant
- Rewatches are good for the soul

OFFICIAL LISTS

- Sector Cine's Best Mexican Films of All Time i
- Ariel Award - Best Mexican Film
- UNESCO - Mexico: 592 to 606, Puerto Rico: #712-726
- Cinema Tropical *Includes ineligible South American titles

NON-OFFICIAL LISTS

- Caribbean Classics - a curated collection from the Caribbean Film Database (this has been suggested to the mods for adoption)
- Essential Caribbean Films from the Caribbean Film Academy
- Travelling Caribbean Film Showcase
- Cinemateca de Cuba's Best Cuban films
- Intro to the Caribbean (Letterboxd)
- Mexican submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
- TSZDT: The Top 25 Mexican Horror Films
- Mexico's Cinema: The Golden Age (1930-1959)
- SOMOS Magazine's 100 Greatest Films of Mexican Cinema

Previous Challenges

This Challenge has never been held with this exact selection of countries, however, eligible countries have been part of the following challenges:
- Mexican Challenge - November 2020
- Caribbean Challenge - December 2020
- Central America/Andean - January 2021
- Caribbean/Latin American Challenge - October 2019

Bonus Games

Bonus Game 1: Discussion (Reviews and Replies)

You are all encouraged to add your thoughts on the films you see and engage in discussion. 1 review counts as 1 review, regardless of whether it is for a short or a feature (2+ lines qualify).

(On topic) replies to said reviews that engage in the discussion on said film and director will also be counted, with +1 per reply. (This is a new experimental bonus challenge attempt, so let's see how this one goes)

Bonus Game 2: Recommendations:

Recommend and promote your favourite Mexican, Central American and Caribbean films, and watch other people's bonus recommendations. For every 3 recommendations you've watched for the challenge, you are allowed to recommend another one. Please mark watches with #Bonus

[/td]]]]]]]]]]]
Film Country Recommended by Times watched IMDB ICM
Deseos / Desires (1977, Rafael Corkidi) Mexico St. Gloede :imdb: :ICM:
El Compadre Mendoza (1934,
Juan Bustillo Oro, Fernando de Fuentes)
Mexico airdolll :imdb: :ICM:
El hombre sin rostro (1950, Juan Bustillo Oro) Mexico peeptoad :imdb: :ICM:
La jaula de oro / The Golden Dream (2013, Diego Quemada-Diez) Mexico shugs :imdb: :ICM:
Chance / The Housekeeper's Revenge (2009) Panama Sol 1 :imdb: :ICM:
La Noche Avanza (1952, Roberto Gavaldon) Mexicoblocho :imdb: :ICM:
Uncivilized (2020, Michael Lees) Dominica45MinuteZoom 2 :imdb: :ICM:
La fórmula secreta / The Secret Formula (1965, Rubén Gámez)Mexico sacmersault 1 :imdb:
:imdb: :ICM:
:imdb: :ICM:
:imdb: :ICM:


Leaderboard - Updated every Sunday

Given the size and popularity of their output, I am assuming Mexico and Cuba will be the two countries that receive the most views, if another country starts to take a leap the leaderboard can be expanded to include it.

Participants
Rank Participant Count Mexico Cuba Other Reviews BONUS
1 St. Gloede 16 16 - - 17 -
2 sacmersault 13 4 - 8 (+4 shorts) 12 -
3 blocho 10 5 - 5 7 1
4 sol 9 - - 9 9 1
4 peeptoad 9 4 1 4 1 -
6 Airdoll 6 5 - 1 12 1
6 maxwelldeux 6 1 - 5 6 1
6 jdidaco 6 4 2 - - -
9 ororama 1 - 1 - 1 -
9 Mario Gaborović 1 1 - - - -
9 DudeLanez 1 1 - - - -
9 gunnar 1 - 1 - 1 -
9 clemmetarey 1 1 - - - -
- - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - -
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#2

Post by St. Gloede »

My first recommendation:

Deseos / Desires (1977, Rafael Corkidi)

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Ready for iconoclastic madness? Explore the surreal, stylized and theatrical world of Rafael Corkidi - Jodorowksy's cinematographer - and a man who may just like style just a bit more than content (though aren't they really the same thing?). Stunningly shot, and freshly restored for blu-ray, this surreal trip may just be a little too sexualized - though it has a half-decent excuse: sin.

You will need to look for a story - yes, there are recurring characters - but above all there are vignettes of sin - and by sin I mean sexual sins. Made the very same year Corkidi created his equally mad, revolutionary and surreal (though less sexual) Pafnucio Santo, it is clear that he is an extremely underrated surrealist who knows how to build up mood and make all who care about pretty or trippy images happy - and while a little too vacuous and sleazy, I don't know, I just can't help it - I like trippy and pretty images - oh, what am I saying, I love them. If you feel the same way this should be an instant success for you too.
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#3

Post by magnusbernhardsen »

Oh, I was about to recommend a movie from an English Creole-speaking Colombian island in the Caribbean, but that might be outside the challenge.
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#4

Post by airdolll »

Hello Gloede! I plan on joining this challenge, even though I won't be very actively working on it and will focus on 500<400 preparation during this month instead, but it is a great "excuse" for me to watch more Roberto Gavaldón, Emilio Fernández, Luis Buñuel and Teo Hernández (although I believe the latter won't count towards this since he mainly worked in France ?).
I noticed that the link for Sector Cine's Best Mexican Films of All Time is broken, and should be listed under "Official Lists" instead :)
Also, I saw that Babylon (1980, UK) appears on the Caribean Classics list, and I was wondering about further information/elegibility since it's high on my watchlist.

I saw Deseos earlier this year but unfortunately I didn't like it as much as you did, I probably wasn't in the mood for that type of loose narrative :( But it looks fantastic indeed, and I appreciate the religious elements and circular structure. Very interested in watching Pafnucio Santo in the future too!

My recommendation: El Compadre Mendoza (1934, Mexico)

Fernando de Fuentes and Juan Bustillo Oro teamed up to craft this potent political drama, being the first ones to bring the writings of Mauricio Magdaleno to the screen, but certainly not the last (Xochimilco, Salón México, Pueblerina, Un día de vida, Víctimas del Pecado, etc.).
El Compadre Mendoza is a sharp critique on business-makers of war and ambiguous political stances. Set during the Mexican Revolution of Emiliano Zapata, we are introduced to the titular Mendoza, an opportunistic landowner who shows loyalty to both the revolutionary guerrilla and the government's military forces. To him, switching sides is as easy as changing clothes (or, more precisely, a picture on his wall!). He believes to have outsmarted everyone by operating this way and likes to see himself as an impartial man, blind to how his actions have a direct influence on the conflict. But for how long will he be able to keep his act amidst such a turbulent climate? What could be the limits of this self-proclaimed neutrality?

Image

As much as it is a film of moral conflict at its core, it's also charged with intense human drama, great tension-building, and crude, unforgettable imagery.
Fernando de Fuentes expressed a disinterest in imitating Hollywood narratives with a happy ending, and believed his audience to be cultured enough to face the cruelty and harshness of reality.
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#5

Post by peeptoad »

Last edited by peeptoad on September 1st, 2022, 7:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#6

Post by St. Gloede »

magnusbernhardsen wrote: August 31st, 2022, 3:34 pm Oh, I was about to recommend a movie from an English Creole-speaking Colombian island in the Caribbean, but that might be outside the challenge.
I believe Colombia will be included in a challenge line-up next year (as all countries are covered over a 2-year cycle), but that is a very interesting case.
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#7

Post by St. Gloede »

airdolll wrote: August 31st, 2022, 4:11 pm Hello Gloede! I plan on joining this challenge, even though I won't be very actively working on it and will focus on 500<400 preparation during this month instead, but it is a great "excuse" for me to watch more Roberto Gavaldón, Emilio Fernández, Luis Buñuel and Teo Hernández (although I believe the latter won't count towards this since he mainly worked in France ?).
I noticed that the link for Sector Cine's Best Mexican Films of All Time is broken, and should be listed under "Official Lists" instead :)
Also, I saw that Babylon (1980, UK) appears on the Caribean Classics list, and I was wondering about further information/elegibility since it's high on my watchlist.

I saw Deseos earlier this year but unfortunately I didn't like it as much as you did, I probably wasn't in the mood for that type of loose narrative :( But it looks fantastic indeed, and I appreciate the religious elements and circular structure. Very interested in watching Pafnucio Santo in the future too!

My recommendation: El Compadre Mendoza (1934, Mexico)

Fernando de Fuentes and Juan Bustillo Oro teamed up to craft this potent political drama, being the first ones to bring the writings of Mauricio Magdaleno to the screen, but certainly not the last (Xochimilco, Salón México, Pueblerina, Un día de vida, Víctimas del Pecado, etc.).
El Compadre Mendoza is a sharp critique on business-makers of war and ambiguous political stances. Set during the Mexican Revolution of Emiliano Zapata, we are introduced to the titular Mendoza, an opportunistic landowner who shows loyalty to both the revolutionary guerrilla and the government's military forces. To him, switching sides is as easy as changing clothes (or, more precisely, a picture on his wall!). He believes to have outsmarted everyone by operating this way and likes to see himself as an impartial man, blind to how his actions have a direct influence on the conflict. But for how long will he be able to keep his act amidst such a turbulent climate? What could be the limits of this self-proclaimed neutrality?

Image

As much as it is a film of moral conflict at its core, it's also charged with intense human drama, great tension-building, and crude, unforgettable imagery.
Fernando de Fuentes expressed a disinterest in imitating Hollywood narratives with a happy ending, and believed his audience to be cultured enough to face the cruelty and harshness of reality.
First off, cheers for the correction, added it in.

Babylon (1980) would not be eligible, unfortunately. UK and Italian production.

And fantastic choice for a recommendation. Godfather Mendoza was my favourite discovery from the last Mexican challenge.
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#8

Post by shugs »

I'm in for a few, and recommending La jaula de oro.
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#9

Post by sol »

It starts! First in. B)

1. Sin Pepitas en la Lengua (2018) Panama

Image

Constantly taken advantage of and unappreciated, an ad executive seeks help from a guru who hypnotises her into speaking her mind without any filter in this comedy. Ash Olivera is down-to-earth and relatable in the lead role, even as she begins to say drastic things. There are a lot of funny side gags too, such a delusional influencer who keeps talking to her broken, phoneless selfie stick, and a "NOW" sign outside the agency that Olivera turns into a "NO".

I will need to think about what I want to promote as a recommendation. Several Mexican films come to mind, but with everyone choosing something Mexican so far, I'd rather add some variety into the mix.
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#10

Post by sol »

Recommendation:

I have something solid that I could recommendation from both Guyana and Suriname, but both of those are films that one would naturally come across anyway if purposely seeking out something from those countries. So, instead I have decided to dive into Panama (in honour of my successful first viewing). Panama's cinema history is far more diverse and extensive than the cinema of the three Guianas, and this is a film for which there is probably little chance of others seeing this month without me promoting it. Chance. No, I'm not repeating myself. That’s what the film is called:

Chance / The Housekeeper's Revenge (2009, Panama)

Image Image

:letbxd: - https://letterboxd.com/film/chance-2009/ ------- :ICM: - https://www.icheckmovies.com/movies/chance-2009/

This dark comedy involves two maids who hold the family who employs them hostage after they are denied wages for the seventh week in a row. The film treads a bit of a Last House on the Left path in its first half, i.e. is what the maids do is actually worse than how they have been mistreated? The second half sees more comedy kick in as the characters venture outside and family secrets are exposed, and it is a curious turn from the initial hostage set-up. Whatever makes of it, this is certainly entertaining while it lasts, exposing well the continental divide between the rich and poor in modern day Panama.

(currently streaming on TubiTV)
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#11

Post by blocho »

Sol, if I was going to watch only one movie from Panama, should I go with Chance or Sin Pepitas en la Lengua?
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#12

Post by blocho »

For my recommendation, I'll go with La Noche Avanza, a Roberto Gavaldon noir from 1952. It can be seen here.
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#13

Post by 45MinuteZoom »

One recommendation for Dominica:

Uncivilized (2020) - directed by college student Michael Lees, who makes a documentary after he decides he’s going to try and live off the land for a month after a break up. Then a category 5 hurricane hits in the middle, and there’s a big shift in the doc that is interesting.
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#14

Post by airdolll »

1. Ánimas Trujano (1961, Mexico) A.K.A The Important Man

Of course Toshiro Mifune is the main attraction and I won't pretend that it wasn't the reason why I was so eager to watch this!

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His perfomance as Ánimas, a good-for-nothing drinker, gambler, wife-cheater, wife-beater, child-beater, dog-beater (and etcetera!), highly superstitious, jealous, rage-driven man, has all of his trademark expressions and moves. He learned all his lines in Spanish and was later dubbed by Narciso Busquets, which I found pretty good and convincing.
A picture taken at his arrival by the Mexican press:
Image

As a curiosity, the footnote implies that The Rickshaw Man (1958, Hiroshi Inagaki) was a significant hit in Mexico at the time, on par with Rashomon and The Seven Samurai. Very interesting given its obscurity in the West.
Source.
Originally, his role was to be played by Mexican star Pedro Infante who had already collaborated with Ismael Rodríguez in some of his most succesful films. With his passing in 1957 shortly after completing Tizoc, this was no longer a possibility. Ismael Rodríguez, observing how the national industry was no longer at the heights it had reached during its golden years and was facing new challenges, believed that casting Mifune could propel the film to international audiences and new-found markets. It seems like he gathered the ingredients for success, since Ánimas Trujano was nominated for the Academy Awards.

However, this film isn't simply a curiosity in Mifune's prolific filmography. There are recurring themes of popular myth and religion, granting darker and eerie scenes with great cinematography (see below), and even more predominantely an exploration of mayordomía and the role/social position of the mayordomo. That is, an exchange of wealth for prestige, honor, public service positions, etc. that the ending will invite you to question.
More screenshots:
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#15

Post by peeptoad »

1. Kafou (2017) 7 Haiti
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#16

Post by sol »

blocho wrote: September 1st, 2022, 4:39 pm Sol, if I was going to watch only one movie from Panama, should I go with Chance or Sin Pepitas en la Lengua?
Not sure. Maybe read both plot summaries and see which takes your fancy more.

Chance is a darker comedy than Sin Pepitas, but not all that dark. It is largely stooped in class differences, how servants and treated by their employers and how nobody is perfect or without their own secrets. Some bits are goofy, but most of it isn't. The film isn't fresh in my mind, but it left an impression.

Sin Pepitas is a lot like Liar Liar but without Jim Carrey's over-the-top theatrics. There are some hilariously overplayed supporting characters (a Horrible Bosses style boss; her newly appointed social influence supervisor) and the whole thing is a little on the goofy side, but I enjoyed it from start to finish. The film is a bit of a take on "what might happen if you really spoke your mind for a day" with some sometimes surprising results.
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#17

Post by sol »

45MinuteZoom wrote: September 1st, 2022, 4:56 pm One recommendation for Dominica:

Uncivilized (2020) - directed by college student Michael Lees, who makes a documentary after he decides he’s going to try and live off the land for a month after a break up. Then a category 5 hurricane hits in the middle, and there’s a big shift in the doc that is interesting.
The Vimeo link on the film's Official Website is broken/no longer works. Is this available to stream otherwise?
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#18

Post by sol »

Spoiler
1. Sin Pepitas en la Lengua (2018) Panama
2. Relentless (2018) El Salvador

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Described by some as El Salvador's answer to Taken, this could have been quite interesting if that were true, especially given that the protagonist is a single mother as opposed to Liam Neeson. It would have been refreshing to watch a film in which a determined mother took human traffickers down. That does not happen here though; she is annoyingly passive for the most part with hired hand David Castro doing pretty much all of the dirty work as she tags along.
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#19

Post by St. Gloede »

1.La rebelión de los colgados / Rebellion of the Hanged (1954, Alfredo B. Crevenna) Mexico

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Rebellion of the Hanged is a brutal depiction of true events, looking at the horrific labour conditions of the 1910s, when indigenous people were tricked to essentially becoming slave labour, with the bosses torturing and even killing their workers. The title comes from the especially horrific practice of hanging disobedient or lazy workers by their feel overnight - usually after a harsh whipping session. While adding in a little too much overt emotion, the way so many Mexican films aim to heighten emotion/melodrama - though little of the latter here - this is a really effective and powerful tale of just how much someone will take and when they will stand up for themselves. You are rushed into the suspense and tribulation and care even for the smaller characters desperately trying to survive. There is also a degree of underlying dramatic western suspense with its set up of a powerful family terrorizing their "subjects", and the three brothers all have engaging villainous personalities with a different edge. Balancing historical drama and a degree of sorrow and melancholy with some slightly more pulpy suspense storytelling, especially as we near the climax, this is a consistently engaging and exciting road towards deserved justice. 7/10

Also, limiting the spoilers, that speech by our woman lead to the main antagonist where she says she can forgive him for torturing her brother because he is a boss, and that she can forgive him for trying to rape her because he is a man and she is a woman ... yikes.
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#20

Post by 45MinuteZoom »

sol wrote: September 2nd, 2022, 9:46 am
45MinuteZoom wrote: September 1st, 2022, 4:56 pm One recommendation for Dominica:

Uncivilized (2020) - directed by college student Michael Lees, who makes a documentary after he decides he’s going to try and live off the land for a month after a break up. Then a category 5 hurricane hits in the middle, and there’s a big shift in the doc that is interesting.
The Vimeo link on the film's Official Website is broken/no longer works. Is this available to stream otherwise?
Ah shoot, I would either have watched it there or on Studioanansi.tv, a Caribbean streaming service. It’s gone from there now too.

Checking the Facebook, filmmaker took it offline in January to try and get it to a wider audience. Sorry!
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#21

Post by peeptoad »

2. Trampa infernal/ Hell’s Trap (1989) 6+ Mexico
Spoiler
1. Kafou (2017) 7 Haiti
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#22

Post by airdolll »

2. Rue cases-nègres (1983, Martinique, France) A.K.A Sugar Cane Alley

"I was back to the cane fields. We were free, but our bellies were empty. The master had become the boss. (...) Nothing has changed, son. The whites own all the land. The law forbids them beating us, but it doesn't force them to pay us a decent wage."

Image

A competent debut from Euzhan Palcy who, after reading Zobel's semi-autobiographical novel at a young age, felt inspired to become a filmmaker and bring this text to the screen. After recieving the César Award for Best First Feautre Film and the Silver Lion, her success would continue with A Dry White Season, which established her as the first black female director to work with a major Hollywood studio.

Rue cases-négres follows the story of José Hassam, an orphan boy living with his grandmother Ma'Tine in 1930s Martinique. The film starts off with a slice-of-life feel, allowing us to slowly meet José's neighbours and friends, and to witness the unfairness and harshness of the sugar cane field where everybody works. Slavery has come to an end, but poor working conditions under colonialism persist. Ma'Tine doesn't want José to share the same fate of every other child from their village, so instead of having him work at the fields, she will send him to school in hopes for a better future.

The strength of this film is definitely seeing events unfold from a child's point of view; how he learns about colonialism through the elderly, how he notices internalized racism in others around him, or how he handles the death of loved ones. Secondary characters such as Leopold, who has to deal with the racism of his own father and brings one of the most impactful scenes near the end, help enrich the story as well.

Image


More films:
1. Ánimas Trujano (1961, Mexico) A.K.A The Important Man
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#23

Post by sol »

Spoiler
1. Sin Pepitas en la Lengua (2018) Panama
2. Relentless (2018) El Salvador
3. Bazodee (2015) Trinidad and Tobago

Image

As her wedding day fast approaches, a bride to-be discovers that her husband is more interested in making financial dealings with her father, and that their wedding singer might be a better match for her here. The basic plot only treads familiar beats with the film's chief point of interest being that it is set and filmed on the lush Caribbean island of Trinidad... but then the film is more focused on singing and dancing than the scenery with many indoor scenes.
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#24

Post by sol »

Spoiler
1. Sin Pepitas en la Lengua (2018) Panama
2. Relentless (2018) El Salvador
3. Bazodee (2015) Trinidad and Tobago
4. Genova (2008) Cayman Islands

Image

Unable to continue living in the same town after his wife is killed in a car crash, an academic uproots his daughters and moves overseas with him here. Perla Haney-Jardine is excellent as the younger daughter. Responsible for causing the crash, the film's best scenes involve her coping with the guilt and having trouble adjusting to her new home. The older daughter though is a pretty forgettable character by comparison; kind of same for the father too.
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#25

Post by DudeLanez »

1. Redes (1936, Muriel/Zinnemann) 6/10 - Mexico
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#26

Post by ororama »

1. Lucía (Cuba, 1968) * 160 min.
Three women named Lucía involved in romances in three periods of revolution (1890s, 1930s, 1960s). Surprisingly formally and politically adventurous.

*First time viewing
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#27

Post by Mario Gaborović »

01. Tizoc (Amor indio) (1957) - Mexico
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#28

Post by maxwelldeux »

1. The Last Colony (2015, Puerto Rico)

Documentary about Puerto Rico and the status of its relationship with the US. I thought it did a really balanced job of covering all three perspectives - join the US for statehood, become an independent nation, or maintain some form of territorial status. It also covered some history of the island and where things are today, and had a ton of footage in the run-up to the 2012 referendum on deciding between the two. Also provided people from PR with the ability to make their voices and opinions known, which was interesting.

[US is listed first on IMDB, but PR was second, had a Puerto Rican director, most interviewees were from PR, and was all about the history/vote, so it felt much more PR than US.]
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#29

Post by blocho »

1. Nora's Will (2008) - Mexico
This is a mostly limp drama about the aftermath of an old woman’s suicide. It doesn’t make much of a mark either emotionally or comedically, although I enjoyed how it skewered the rabbi character for his pettiness.

2. La Llorona (2019) - Guatemala
The Guatemalan Civil War was a 36-year struggle that was similar in its causes (social oppression) and context (the Cold War) to contemporaneous civil conflicts in nearby Nicaragua and El Salvador but outstripped those wars in bloodshed. Around 200,000 people were killed, many of them civilians. In this movie, a general who led the Guatemala Army’s counterinsurgency campaign in the Civil War finally faces justice in his old age for the massacres that he ordered. He is found guilty, but the verdict is overturned by a higher court, whereupon the general retreats to his home with his family, basically imprisoned by throngs of protestors who clamor outside. If this sounds familiar, it’s because while this general is fictional, the situation is exactly what happened to Efrain Rios Montt, who was effectively Guatemala’s dictator for a period in the 1980s (Reagan was a big fan of his). What makes this movie a bit unusual is that it slowly turns into a ghost story, with some folklore thrown in for good measure. The trope of ghosts returning for justice is an old one in movies — I think back to the end of J’Accuse, released a century before this movie, in which dead soldiers rise from their graves in grievance over their wasted lives. But I’m not sure this supernatural turn was a good decision. I think the story is fascinating enough without it. And the director doesn’t know how to film spooky scenes effectively.

3. Chance (2009) - Panama #Bonus
A familiar story of rich assholes getting their comeuppance at the hands of their put-upon servants. Enjoyable if not particularly memorable.

4. Sin Nombre (2009) - Mexico
Most stories about immigration to the United States from Mexico and Central America depict the passage across la linea and the experiences of immigrants within the United States. This one is different because it focuses solely on travel across Mexico, in this case by a young woman from Honduras and a young man running from his former gang, MS-13. It’s a fairly compelling story, though there are some things that don’t make sense. For example, a key plot point is when the young woman abandons her family, which makes no sense within the context of the story and only happens because it’s convenient for the narrative.
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#30

Post by St. Gloede »

2. Ánimas Trujano (El hombre importante) / The Important Man (1961,Ismael Rodríguez) Mexico

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The Important Man is intriguing for far more reasons than the fact that Rodríguez' chose to cast Toshiro Mifune as the titular Mexican, Ánimas Trujano, but let's just dwell on Mifune for a little while first. It is endlessly fascinating that what they decided to do to sell him as Mexican was to add a moustache, a bit of a tan and put him in a sombrero. If the production had in any way slipped up, or Mifune had hammed it up, this film would likely be the target of a lot of ridicule - but surprisingly, he is quite believable.I would not say it is one of his very best performances, but the film relies on his legendary comedic mannerisms and expressions to tell the tale of a good-for-nothing drunkard, and whether he can change.

The narrative follows no traditional plot structure, with Rodriguez daring to tell a tale of tragi-comic proportions that is simultaneously irreverent and very much reverent. Ánimas Trujano drinks, gets in trouble, womanizes, beats his doting wife and submissive children, drink some more and is a general embarrassment. The religious overtones, his eagerness to even make a pact with the devil, and lust for importance, riches and respect all blend together as we move towards a conclusion that may offer a chance of grace. In a further string of contradictions, the unusual plot is matched by a extremely outdone tropes, including the central theme of the beaten, ignored and cheated on wife that just love him whole-heartedly no matter what - without, I'm sorry to say, adding anything that makes this convincing beyond the idea of women being self-sacrifacing and bound to their husband - and this is also the very odd note we end the film on:
Spoiler
With the wife killing the mistress (prostitute) in front of 100+ witnesses because she wants him to stay, and Animas choosing to convince everyone he should take the blame. The morality here is clearly that he has made his wife suffer, drove her to kill the mistress and his finally becoming a moral person - but with modern morality, he is just protecting a killer and is doing nothing decent or heroic at all.
6/10


3. Canoa (1976, Felipe Cazals) Mexico

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In this brutal and bluntly sarcastic and bold depiction of a real massacre, Felipe Cazals turned docudrama on its head in a formally adventurous and detached work that allows his villains to prowess their innocence straight to the camera. Slow-brooding, but slowly revealing a sense of cheek, we start with a journalist slowly typing out a story of brutal murders dictated by a correspondent. It seems 4 workers from the university were mistaken for students, and murdered by an angry mod thinking they were doing to raise the anarchist flag in their church. The details are laid bare, their names are given and we then follow a protest march through the streets. There is a degree of bare-boned Costa-Gavras detachment that quickly fades as we are introduced to our cheeky narrator from the town in question: Canoa.

With a smirk on his face, he goes through everything from population size to occupations and how long the children attend school, before sliding up the town's hierarchies - by the time we get to the film's victims, introduced by name and followed in a slow-brooding recreation towards doom, we know what we are dealing with - a priest leading the town and stirring up fear against communists while taking money from everyone - and a hierarchy around him ready to kill. We witness the sermons, as well as the priest's much more nuanced and deceptive statements to the camera, and see a system where everyone is looking for an excuse, everyone falls in line and a kind of extreme zeal of belief of instant attack is heightened to near surreal proportions. However, what we are witnessing really happened, and the flourishes only make the attack on the perpetrators and the entire ecosystem in place more powerful. 8/10
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#31

Post by sol »

Spoiler
1. Sin Pepitas en la Lengua (2018) Panama
2. Relentless (2018) El Salvador
3. Bazodee (2015) Trinidad and Tobago
4. Genova (2008) Cayman Islands
5. Runt (2005) Jamaica

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Afraid of turning into the abusive parent that his hard-drinking father was, a Jamaican expat returns to his native country to reunite with his father here. Wandering in the Jamaican forests, illuminated in luscious blue, he becomes taunted by voices that force him to recall his past. His flashbacks paint a grim picture of toxic masculinity, especially walking in on his father sleeping around, which turns into a lecture, shot entirely from kid point-of-view (as above).
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#32

Post by St. Gloede »

Sunday update

We are not even 4 full days in, but we are already at 20 films from 11 different countries, and with 9 participants on the board. It is still early and we have posts and recommendations from others, so il expecting even more to join in.

We already have a clear lead from sol and blocho. The former has not even seen a film from Mexico yet, while the latter is the only person to catch a bonus viewing so far. Though to be we also have another frontrunner her, airdoll, who's extensive write-ups have been an utter delight.

But what about the countries we are viewing films from?

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Mexico is leading the way and stands for exactly half the viewings so far, but the big surprise so is that only one film has been seen from Cuba. Perhaps we will end up with another country outdoing Cuba after all.
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#33

Post by peeptoad »

3. The Skin (2011) 5 Antigua and Barbuda
Spoiler
1. Kafou (2017) 7 Haiti
2. Trampa infernal/ Hell’s Trap (1989) 6+ Mexico
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#34

Post by maxwelldeux »

There are a lot of available countries here...
1. The Last Colony (2015, Puerto Rico)
2. Invasion (2014, Panama) 7/10

I guess I'm continuing on with my American invasion trend... this was about the 1989 American invasion of Panama to depose Noriega. I'm just a little too young to have this in the zeitgeist of my memory, but I'm plugged into relatively recent American history enough to know that it was a "thing" in America, though it was always portrayed as a minor thing. This doc, however, focused on only the memories of the people who lived through it, painting a very personal and detailed account of the on-the-ground history, but without the historical perspective, which I appreciated as an interesting take on this type of documentary. Honestly, it made me want to learn more, which is a decently high bar for me on a documentary.
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#35

Post by peeptoad »

4. La Gunguna (2015) 7 Dominican Republic
Spoiler
1. Kafou (2017) 7 Haiti
2. Trampa infernal/ Hell’s Trap (1989) 6+ Mexico
3. The Skin (2011) 5 Antigua and Barbuda
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#36

Post by sol »

Spoiler
1. Sin Pepitas en la Lengua (2018) Panama
2. Relentless (2018) El Salvador
3. Bazodee (2015) Trinidad and Tobago
4. Genova (2008) Cayman Islands
5. Runt (2005) Jamaica
6. Control (2004) Aruba

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It sounds a lot like A Clockwork Orange as a death row inmate agrees to an experimental process to turn less violent, but alas this thriller is less interesting than that. The film tries to about too many things, including the doctor in charge of the program coping with grief. It is all a bit much and the film never once soars at anything that it tries to do. The basic story is intriguing for sure though with all its related philosophical and human rights quandaries.
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#37

Post by maxwelldeux »

There are a lot of available countries here...
1. The Last Colony (2015, Puerto Rico)
2. Invasion (2014, Panama)
3. A Life without Words (2011, Nicaragua)

This was an interesting perspective, and one I hadn't considered before - what if you grew up deaf in a remote and didn't have access to someone who could communicate with you? This documentary explores that very issue. Three children in a family living in rural Nicaragua have no means to effectively communicate with anyone. Then, someone comes to start teaching them sign language. Loved the stylistic choice to make it, pardon the pun, deafening in silence, with no music or dialogue or voiceover, only subbing what was on screen.
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#38

Post by airdolll »

Thank you! Nice chart, and I am too enjoying reading everyone's thoughts and expanding my watchlist.

3. Susana (1951, Mexico) A.K.A Susana: The Devil and the Flesh

Susana, played by a memorable Rosita Quintana, lives in a reformatory and is locked down in a cell as punishment. À la Jeanne d'Arc she starts praying to god, the iron bars from the window create a shadow reminiscing a cross, and miraculously and effortlessly she is able to escape by removing the bars from said window. After running aimlessly through the forest in a stormy night, she ends up at the ranch of Don Guadalupe right before collapsing, where the family agrees to take care of her and allow her to stay. But to Felisa, the housekeeper, there's something off about Susana. What is this "inherent evil" she sees in her?

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It would have been easy for me to sympathize with the character of Susana and examine how her actions and wishes are the logical conclusion to her experiences but this is the very first trap; Susana is not a character but a symbol ("this is Apollo, representing the beauty of men. It is a symbol of beauty, just like your name is a symbol too.") that allows Buñuel to insert his ideas of desire and power struggle within the microcosm of a traditional family and the servants around them. An obscure object of desire if you will, into which everybody around her has something to project. This objectification of Susana is quite blantant from the very beginning -consequently, the majority of this film consists in a handful of gendered and misogynistic archetypes interacting with each other- until it fully transforms her into the idea of "evil-feminine-essence". It is through this acceptance of "evil-feminine" essentialism, the subsequent rejection/opposition to it, and the repression of desire, that the traditional family structre is able to preserve itself. Susana as the flesh, conservatism as the devil.
Feels a lot like Teorema before Teorema in how it places an outside agent disrupting family dynamics and bringing forward their contradictions and tensions.

4. El Escapulario (1968, Mexico) A.K.A The Scapular

So different to what I've be watching from the two previous decades cinematography-wise. Shots getting more inventive, a wider variety of angles, much more camera movement. But with Gabriel Figueroa in charge (Enamorada, Los Olvidados, Nazarín, Macario...), this shouldn't come as a striking surprise.
El Escapulario is part a war-time drama and part a whispered ghost story at midnight, in which a woman on her deathbed recounts the stories of a miraculous scapular she owns and how it saved the lives of her sons. The structure keeps things intriguing and there's a lot of deceit, leaving room for a few twists, gradually leaning towards the mysterious and the supernatural.
I found the two main stories pretty interesting and self-contained, always making me wonder what would be of these characters, and how would the scapular change hands.

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More films:
1. Ánimas Trujano (1961, Mexico) A.K.A The Important Man
2. Rue cases-nègres (1983, Martinique, France) A.K.A Sugar Cane Alley
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#39

Post by maxwelldeux »

Small request for St. Gloede: If it's not too much trouble, could you add a "updated on XXX" to the OP and/or post a quick message when you update the scoreboard? Only requesting because you're a mod, and edit timestamps don't display for mods.
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#40

Post by sacmersault »

1. Yanco (1961) Mexico 8/10
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A very interesting and beautiful film. It tells the story of a young boy who has a very negative reaction to noise (nowadays he would be classified as being part of the spectrum), but is bewitched by music and nature. At first, he plays symphonies for the animals and watches a travelling band from afar. He later encounters an old man who plays violin, who eventually teaches him to play only to later die and leave his violin in a pawnshop.
The movie is a classic Mexican melodrama, but feels different since the director was part of the artistic establishment. It, also, feels, more authentic because the actors feel like they belong in the area and communicate in Nahuatl (as opposed to traditional Mexican cinema that has white Mexicans playing indigenous roles). The main character is charming, shy, and full of wonder. The locality transports you to an old, indigenous Mexico (It almost looks like Xochimilco).

2. Santa Sangre (1989) Mexico 8/10
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I really liked this film. It is full of colors and traditions of Mexico, even though it's in English. It feels more straight up than Jodorowsky's 70s films. There's a strong resemblance to Fellini's films, specially La Strada. While the acting felt forced at times, Jodorowsky seems to have used the acting to get his message across. It is filled with criticism of religion and intrafamilial relationships.

3. Dos monjes (1934) Mexico 8/10
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Completely different from what I expected. This film takes German Expressionism and transports it to Mexican melodrama. While the photography and sets don't work as well, it does give the movie an eerie, dark feel that adds to how the movie develops. The movie starts with a murder scene in a monastery, that is eventually explained in an expected way by the murderer.
Spoiler
This story is then followed by an unexpected twist. The person who was thought murdered is not dead and proceeds to tell his side of the story.
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