Cine Las Americas International Film Festival (CLAIFF) in Austin, Texas announced the feature films selected for this year’s 23rd edition taking place as a hybrid event from June 9-13; and opening with Mariem Pérez Riera’s documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It.
Co-hosted by Meanwhile Brewing Co. and Rocket Sound, Opening Night will take place on the soccer field adjacent to Meanwhile Brewing Co. (3901 Promontory Dr.) with film goers invited to bring their favorite blanket or lawn chair to watch Riera’s crowd-pleasing documentary Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It. The film, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, focuses on the legendary actor’s 70+ year career, as she overcame a humble upbringing and relentless racism to become one of the rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) Award Winners of our time.
Additional Showcase films include; Maisie Crow’s documentary At the Ready, which follows students at Horizon High School in El Paso, one of the region’s largest law enforcement training programs; Tracey Deer’s drama Beans, about a twelve-year-old forced to grow up fast to become the tough Mohawk warrior she needs to be during the Indigenous uprising known as The Oka Crisis in 1990; and Jorge Thielen Armand’s Fortitude (La Fortaleza), a drama about a man who retreats to the Amazon jungle which leads to him working in an illegal gold mine controlled by Colombian guerrillas. The film is based on the true story of the filmmaker’s father, who stars in the film as himself. Maximiliano Contenti’s horror film The Last Matinee follows the attempts of a projectionist’s daughter and two young people to escape a sadistic and ruthless killer who has turned a matinee into a massacre; and Miguel Mejías’s Spanish drama, The Wanderer (La Viajante). Making its North American Premiere at Cine Las Americas, the film focuses on a young woman whose life spirals out of its routine until she discoversa special interest filming insects on her mother’s camera while she deals with the unexpected and unknown impulses of her loneliness.
Cine Las Americas will once again provide a rare showcase of films and videos from Latin America (North, Central, South America, and the Caribbean) and the Iberian Peninsula.
Among the narrative feature films in competition are; David David’s Colombian production, The Border (La Frontera), about an Andean woman, her husband, and brother who loot travelers on the border between Colombia and Venezuela until fate pushes her to the brink; Ángeles Cruz’s Nudo Mixteco, a Mexican film that interweaves three stories of people dealing with past abuse and crisis in their relationships during the patron saint’s celebration in San Mateo, a village of the Mixtec Oaxaca; and Manuel Ferrari’s Argentinian/Chilean co-production Overnight (De la Noche a la Mañana), about an architect who – faced with the surprising news that his girlfriend is pregnant, contemplates starting over in another country.
The documentary feature films in competition include; Nicole Costa’s The Journey of Monalisa (El Viaje de Monalisa), about a talented male theater director and playwright, who has transitioned to becoming a woman who now works as a prostitute on the streets of New York; Medhin Tewolde Serrano’s Negra, the story of the director’s search for what it means to be a black woman in Mexico, incorporating the story of five afro-descendant women from southern Mexico, exposing racism, resistance and processes of self-acceptance, strategies for transcending stereotypes, and the celebration of their identity; and Ashkan Soltani Stone’s Rez Metal, which follows the Navajo heavy metal band I DONT KONFORM’s remarkable journey from performing on poverty-stricken reservations to recording their debut album with Grammy-award winner producer of Metallica.
Cine Las Americas’ signature programming track, “Hecho en Tejas,” which showcases local filmmaking talent with varied backgrounds via films and videos shot and/or produced in Texas, will return with the previously announced showcase presentation of Lisa Molomot and Jeff Bemiss’ award-winning documentary Missing in Brooks County, as well as competition titles; Fearless, directed by Wojciech Lorenc, and Vecinos: Love Thy Neighbor, directed by Alex Avila. Fearless looks at a non-profit boxing gym in a small town in Texas which provides a space where participants have a safe, educational and encouraging place to learn their skills. Vecinos: Love Thy Neighbor focuses on a man forced to consider his place among the changes in his neighborhood and life and the positive possibilities when a new neighbor moves into his apartment building.
2021 Cine Las Americas International Film Festival Lineup
OPENING NIGHT PRESENTATION
Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It
Director: Mariem Pérez Riera
Country: United States; Running Time: 90 min
Over a 70+ year career, Rita Moreno defied both her humble upbringing and relentless racism to become a celebrated and beloved actor, one of the rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) Award Winners of our time. Despite becoming the first Latina actress to win an Academy Award for her role as Anita in “West Side Story” (1961), the studios continued to offer Moreno lesser roles as stereotypical ethnic minorities, ignoring her proven talent. This new documentary illuminates the humor and the grace of Moreno, as well as lesser-known struggles faced on her path to stardom, including pernicious Hollywood sexism and abuse, a toxic relationship with Marlon Brando, and serious depression a year before she emerged an Oscar winner. Moreno’s talent and resilience triumphed over adversity, as she broke barriers, fought for representation and forged the path for new generations of artists.
At the Ready
Director: Maisie Crow
Country: United States; Running Time: 96 min
Home to one of the region’s largest law enforcement education programs, students at Horizon High School in El Paso train to become police officers and Border Patrol agents as they discover the realities of their dream jobs may be at odds with the truths and people they hold most dear.
Director: Tracey Deer
Countries: Canada/United States; Running Time: 92 min
Twelve-year-old Beans is on the edge: torn between innocent childhood and delinquent adolescence; forced to grow up fast to become the tough Mohawk warrior she needs to be during the Indigenous uprising known as The Oka Crisis, which tore Quebec and Canada apart for 78 tense days in the summer of 1990.
Fortitude (La Fortaleza)
Director: Jorge Thielen Armand
Countries: Venezuela/Colombia/France/Netherlands; Running Time: 108 min
To escape crisis in Venezuela–and his alcoholism–Roque retreats to the Amazon jungle to renovate a cabin he built during happier times. There he struggles with feverish withdrawal visions. When he goes to work in an illegal gold mine controlled by Colombian guerrillas, he is plunged into a cycle of self-destruction. Roque will need fortitude to get out and start anew. La Fortaleza is based on the true story of the filmmaker’s father, who stars in the film as himself.
The Ghosts (Los Fantasmas)
Director: Sebastián Lojo
Countries: Guatemala/Argentina; Running Time: 76 min
Koki is a young, attractive and charismatic man who makes a living in Guatemala City as a thief. He befriends tourists who are suddenly, cyclically mugged. Under cover of night, he seduces men in bars and clubs, leading them to a hotel room where they are robbed. The latter arrangement is in conjunction with Carlos, a middle aged, member of the hotel staff. Carlos moonlights as a wrestler, being briefly liberated under a thick shade of make-up. When the tables are turned and Koki is betrayed by Carlos, he finds himself pushed even further into society’s margins, forced to witness the violent effects of his actions from an almost disembodied perspective.
The Last Matinee
Director: Maximiliano Contenti
Countries: Uruguay/Argentina; Running Time: 88 min
It rains heavily in Montevideo on a Sunday in 1993. A particularly suspicious man enters the last screening of a horror film at a downtown cinema. The room, which is not very crowded due to the storm outside, slowly starts to get stained with blood. Ana, the projectionist’s daughter, who has taken her father’s place just for the night, is in charge of the show. In the darkness of the cinema, the spectators fall one by one into the hands of the killer. From the projection room, Ana begins to notice that something strange is happening. A teenager and a boy who slipped into the room meet Ana as they try to escape. Together they must face this sadistic and ruthless killer, to save their lives and avoid a massacre in the matinee.
New Order (Nuevo Orden)
Director: Michel Franco
Country: Mexico; Running Time: 88 min
While protests rage in the streets, Marianne’s high society family prepares for her wedding. At first, only splatters of green paint and the appearance of Rolando, a former employee seeking emergency medical funds, intrude on the festivities. But soon the party is unable to keep the reckoning at bay, and what follows is a swift disintegration of law and order defined first by class lines, then by disastrous government recapitulation.
The Siamese Bond (Las Siamesas)
Director: Paula Hernández
Country: Argentina; Running Time: 80 min
Clota and Stella are mother and daughter, they live by themselves in an old family house confined by an endogenous routine. One day, Stella receives the news that her father has died and that she has inherited two small apartments located in a desolate seaside town. Stella decides to set out on a trip to discover that miracle which appears as the last possibility to finally become independent, but Clota perceives it as a surgical and terrifying separation.
The Wanderer (La Viajante)
North American Premiere
Director: Miguel Mejías
Country: Spain; Running Time: 84 min
Angela has a life that wipes out in front of her eyes. Living in a routine which seems impossible to run away from until the moment she ventures herself on a journey through the remote lands, where she will discover a special interest filming insects on her mother’s camera while she deals with the unexpected and unknown impulses of her loneliness.
HECHO EN TEJAS
Missing in Brooks County
Directors: Jeff Bemiss, Lisa Molomot br>Country: United States; Running Time: 81 min
Missing in Brooks County follows the stories of two families searching for their loved ones who went missing in the fields of Brooks County, Texas. A gripping drama, it is also a deeply humane portrait of the human rights workers, activists, and law enforcement agents who confront the life-and-death consequences of a broken immigration system.
Director: Wojciech Lorenc
Country: United States; Running Time: 89 min
In small-town Texas, a non-profit boxing gym is the location where Nancy Wagoner and James Reyna provide a space where participants “have a safe, educational and encouraging place to learn their skills.” Dispelling the myth of lifting oneself up by one’s bootstraps, Fearless is an observational documentary focused on the difficulties facing people of color and immigrants in the United States today by unpacking the concept of American optimism and the unrealistic expectations that accompany it.
Vecinos: Love Thy Neighbor
Director: Alex Avila
Country: United States; Running Time: 88 min
Roberto hasn’t done much changing lately, but even from his couch he’s seen his neighborhood become a place he barely recognizes. When Maria moves in down the hall from him, though, Roberto has no choice but to consider the good side of change. Vecinos reminds us that no matter how easy it is to lose your identity in a city that won’t sit still, it’s even easier to lose it when you’re the one sitting still.
NARRATIVE FEATURES COMPETITION
The Border (La Frontera)
Director: David David
Country: Colombia; Running Time: 90 min
Amid a political crisis, on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, an Andean woman, her husband, and brother live on looting travelers. However, fate pushes her to the brink of illusion and getting lost in mysterious dreams.
Director: Diego Mondaca
Countries: Bolivia/Argentina; Running Time: 77 min
1934, Bolivia is at war with Paraguay. Liborio and Ticona and other Bolivian indigenous soldiers are under the commandment of a retired German officer fighting for the Bolivian army. They’re lost in the hell of the Chaco, looking for an enemy that they will never find. Walking like shadows, wandering forever in the middle of dust and silence.
Director: Nadia Benedicto
Country: Argentina; Running Time: 77 min
We’re in the middle of nowhere and with my half-dead boyfriend stuck in there. -‘My boyfriend’? You call that piece of shit ‘my boyfriend’?! Helena and Kira argue on the side of the road. They don’t have a destination in mind, they don’t have a plan to follow. The journey unveils itself mile by mile, a journey that soon becomes a ritual.
Director: Ángeles Cruz
Country: Mexico; Running Time: 91
Three stories that intertwine during the patron saint’s celebration in San Mateo, a village of the Mixtec Oaxaca. María buries her mother, her father rejects her and, in uncertainty and pain, she proposes to Piedad, her childhood love, to leave with her. Esteban returns after three years to discover Chabela, his wife, is living with another man; enraged he calls the village people to prosecute her in an assembly. Toña relives her own pain in the face of the abuse of her daughter when she returns to confront her family to protect her.
Overnight (De la Noche a la Mañana)
Director: Manuel Ferrari
Countries: Argentina/Chile; Running Time: 88 min
Ignacio, a 37-year-old architect, lives an ordinary life in Buenos Aires. When his girlfriend announces she is pregnant a great weight falls upon his shoulders, as his independent life seems to vanish right before his eyes. In an attempt both casual and somehow desperate, Ignacio embarks on a trip to Valparaíso. Under the pretext of a seminar that is meant to last only a few days, a new life begins to take shape for him with greater success than ever imagined. All of a sudden, he starts considering leaving behind his life in Argentina and starting over in Chile. This is the story of an unwanted escape and a life-changing decision that only Ignacio would witness.
DOCUMENTARY FEATURES COMPETITION
The Journey of Monalisa (El Viaje de Monalisa)
Director: Nicole Costa
Countries: Chile/United States; Running Time: 88 min
After 17 years, Nicole Costa gets in touch with Iván Ojeda, her old Chilean friend from college. Back then he was a talented theater director and playwright, but it turns out he has reinvented himself. Iván now goes by Monalisa and works as a prostitute on the streets of New York. Intrigued by this transformation, Costa decides to follow Iván Monalisa, a “gender-neutral two-spirit,” in their tough and vulnerable life filled with fleeting sexual encounters and addiction to hard drugs. Nonetheless, Monalisa does continue to write beautiful, raw pieces about life and survival in New York.
Director: Sam Zubrycki
Countries: Colombia/Puerto Rico/United States; Running Time: 95 min
In 1973 by pure chance, the eleven year old Miguelito was discovered singing in the San Juan airport by the legendary New York record producer Harvey Averne. Within the year he went from the slums of Manuel A Perez, to recording an album with some of the finest salsa musicians of the time to finally performing with Eddie Palmieri at Madison Square Garden in front of 20,000 people. And then he simply disappeared. His rise to fame was ephemeral, but no less unforgettable and to his fans his disappearance remains a myth. Featuring performances from Papo Lucca’s La Sonora Poncena, Nelson Feliciano, Maximo Torres, Malo Malo and many others, Miguelito is a film that celebrates the musical and cultural depth of the Caribbean as well as revealing a story of a once forgotten ‘Salsero’ whose album became a cult classic in a country far from his own.
Director: Medhin Tewolde Serrano
Country: Mexico; Running Time: 72 min
I was about seven years old the first time someone called me “black” on the street. I turned around to see who they were talking to, until I realized it was me. That day I understood I was black, and the laughter it caused among the people nearby made me think being a black person wasn’t that great… Was this only happening to me? Or did it happen to other black women? Negra is the story of the director’s search for what it means to be a black woman in Mexico. It tells the story of five afro-descendant women from southern Mexico, exposing racism, resistance and processes of self-acceptance, strategies for transcending stereotypes, and the celebration of their identity.
Rez Metal (Rez Metal)
Director: Ashkan Soltani Stone
Countries: United States/Denmark; Running Time: 76 min
Rez Metal follows the Navajo heavy metal band I DONT KONFORM’s remarkable journey from performing on poverty-stricken reservations to recording their debut album with Grammy-award winner producer of Metallica while telling the compelling story of the thriving heavy metal scene on the Navajo reservations.
Director: Rogério Soares
Countries: Brazil/Canada; Running Time: 90 min
A poetic journey alongside four women, River Silence is witness to the human and environmental cost of a large-scale development in Brazil’s Amazon basin. The Belo Monte hydroelectric dam is but one of many scheduled to be built in Brazil—and the characters we meet represent thousands of similarly displaced women, men and children.