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Latin America's Vibrant Film Renaissance on Display at MoMA

The Latin American film scene is vibrant and booming, and it's on dazzling display at New York's Museum of Modern Art's current film series.
From left to right: Oscar Martinez in The Distinguished Citizen, Macarena Arias in Alba and Daiman Alccara in Magallanes
From left to right: Oscar Martinez in The Distinguished Citizen, Macarena Arias in Alba and Daiman Alccara in MagallanesCourtesy of Ibermedia

NEW YORK - Latin America’s film renaissance continues to ​captivate critics and audiences all over the world and some of the most thrilling films of the region are being showcased in a small but impactful series currently showing at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.

"The film scene in Latin American is very vibrant right now,” says MoMA’s associate curator La Frances Hui who curated the knockout series. “There are far more films coming out of the region than any other time,” Hui says.

According to Hui, in the last three months alone in New York City there have been four major film series featuring the work of Latin American and Caribbean filmmakers.

“There are exciting opportunities for filmmakers now, they are sharing resources, people are collaborating and cross pollinating and the result is exciting,” Hui observes.

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The selections featured in the series aptly named State of The Art explore a wide range of stories—from the tale of a former soldier during the Shining Path guerilla war in Peru, to a middle class Ecuadorian girl entering adolescence who is sent to live with her eccentric father, to an indigenous woman having to decide between her culture and her desire for an intellectual life in the western world.

One of the reasons for the area’s recent movie success, according to Hui is innovative funding sources that combines public and private sources​.

One of these is Ibermedia, an intergovernmental organization made up of twenty countries.​ The films featured in the series were created with the support of the Madrid​-based organization created to help advance the work of fiction and non-fiction filmmakers of Latin America, Spain, Portugal and most recently, Italy.

“I didn’t have a number of films or subjects or countries in mind when I started to program the series. I went in with an open mind and then curated,” Hui explains. “I was very happy to find such quality films from the region."

"These are quality films telling truthful stories through personal experiences and that tell very strong stories of the people and culture of the area,” Hui says.

There are seven gems in this series which explore the rich tapestry of Latin America. If you are in the New York area and can see them, go for it. If not, keep the list of movies handy. The series runs from March 30 through April 9th. Here are brief reviews of 3 of the films; the movie previews are hyperlinked in the title.

Magallanes (Peru)

Mexican actor Damian Alcara plays a struggling veteran in the stunning Peruvian political thriller, Magallanes.Courtesy of Ibermedia

The opening film of the series is a Peruvian political thriller that tells the story of a struggling cab driver; the lead actor is Mexico City native Dalmian Alcara. One night a woman gets into his cab and he recognizes her as a girl he once helped kidnap to become the sex slave of a general. The veteran of the Shining Path war feels guilty and comes up with a plot to extort money from the general.

It’s a layered suspenseful film that explores the residue of the decades long and bloody war with many surprising twists and turns. The film’s stories are revealed slowly and it gets to the core of how sometimes it is impossible to settle old scores.

​The ​Distinguished Citizen (Argentina)

Oscar Martinez delivers a delightful performance in The Distinguished Citizen, an Argentinian dark comedy about the conflict between small town and cosmopolitan values.Courtesy of Ibermedia

This is a delightfully dark comedy about an expat Argentine writer who wins the Nobel Prize and who decides to return to the small town he left many years ago for Europe. When he initially arrives locals embrace their famous former resident but soon conflicts arise and all the hilarity ensues. It’s a funny tale of the writer’s conflicts with the locals but a larger look at the differences and often times clashing values between small town latinomaerica​ and cosmopolitan western​ values.

Alba (Ecuador)

Macarena Arias stars as a shy 11 yr old in Ecuador's fantastic film Alba about her relationship with her equally shy and eccentric father.Courtesy of Ibermedia

This is a sweet story of a very shy 11 year old girl whose mother becomes ill and is sent to live with her eccentric father who is separated from the world. The father is shy and not very social and the young girl soon discovers that she has a lot more in common with her dad than she anticipated. As this beautiful and quiet film unfolds, the father and daughter get to know each other. “It’s a beautifully told story from a small country that is experiencing a film renaissance. I will continue to observe work coming from Ecuador,” says Hui. ​

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