July 28, 2000
Sundance Channel, the premiere television destination for the film festival experience, celebrates Latin American cinema with its August FilmFest, "Arte Latino."
Since the late 1950s, Latin American filmmakers have pioneered an innovative, highly imaginative approach to their art in historical epics, multi-layered allegories, dark satires, picaresque comedies, and bracing works of realism. This unique FilmFest offers viewers a rare opportunity to sample a cross-section of films from both veteran and emerging artists, a selection that spans countries, decades and genres. At present, the "Arte Latino" line-up includes fourteen features, representing Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, and the United States.
"Arte Latino" continues and expands upon the commitment of the Sundance Film Festival and the Sundance Institute to Latin American cinema. In nations throughout Latin America, filmmakers can encounter difficulty finding creative support and technical resources as well as reaching international markets with their work. The Sundance Institute has undertaken to address those circumstances through workshops, financial programs and other means; its work in Latin America constitutes its oldest and most extensive international involvement. Many of the films that grow out of the institute's work receive their first public exposure at the annual Sundance Film Festival, in the special section devoted to Latin American cinema.
Says Liz Manne, Executive Vice President, Programming and Marketing, Sundance Channel. "We're proud to be joining the Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival in making a strong commitment to the work of Latino filmmakers. There is a passion and an imagination in both American artists and Latin American cinema that is unparalleled and all-encompassing. Great films transports you to another place, another dimension of thought and feeling; that is what the films of `Arte Latino' do. By programming films from across the region, we hope to give viewers a feel for the tremendous scope and richness of Latin American cinema."
"Arte Latino" showcases some of the most talked-about features to have come out of Latin America in recent years. Several are U.S. premieres, including Silvia Prieto, a deliciously understated comedy about identity and chance, written and directed by Argentine filmmaker Martin Rejtman. Silvia is a Buenos Aires slacker who decides to change her life on her 27th birthday, which leads to all sorts of weirdly connecting events that involve Sylvia's ex-husband, a detergent vendor named Brite, Brite's ex-husband, an orange canary, a yellow Armani jacket, and lots more. With its deadpan humor, zippy pace and playful plotting, Silvia Prieto is original and irresistible. The film made it's American debut at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.
Also making its U.S. premiere is Argentine filmmaker Mercedes García Guevara's impressive debut feature, Hidden River (Rio Escondido), which screened at the 2000 "New Directors/New Films" series presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and New York's Museum of Modern Art and at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. Provocative and poetic, Hidden River tells the story of a working mother in Buenos Aires who suspects her husband of infidelity when she discovers some letters sent to him from a remote village in western Argentina's mountains. Traveling to the village to investigate, she finds a situation very different that what she expected, leading her to take a hard look at her life, her marriage and her innermost feelings. Breathtaking visuals, tautly emotional storytelling and outstanding performance make Hidden River a film that lingers in the memory.
Definitely not to be missed is the gorgeous Under California: The Limit of Time (Baja California: El Límite del tiempo), winner of the 1999 Golden Ariel, the Mexican Academy award for best film and a hit at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Carlos Bolado, Under California: The Limit of Time is a richly textured road movie about an artist named Damian (Damian Alcázar) who journeys into the Baja desert yearning to reconnect with some elemental part of himself. Encountering various souls as he travels the haunting desert landscape, eventually reaching his family's ancestral home and the ancient painted caves high in the Baja mountains, Damian finds what he needs to continue his life as an artist, husband and father-to-be.
"Arte Latino" presents several films about Cuba, including the seminal 1968 classic Memories of Underdevelopment (Memorias del sub-desarrollo), by the great Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, (Strawberry and Chocolate). Ground-breaking in form and content, the film integrated fiction and documentary footage to explore the growing alienation of a bourgeois intellectual in post-Revolutionary Cuba. Earning top awards at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and a special award from the National Society of Film Critics, Memories of Underdevelopment sealed Gutiérrez Alea's reputation as a master filmmaker.
Contemporary Havana is the setting for Leon Ichaso's powerful 1996 drama Bitter Sugar (Azúcar amarga). Ichaso, who emigrated to the U.S. at age 14, drew upon real-life events and the experiences of his family in creating the story of an idealistic Communist student and a would-be emigré who fall in love despite their diametrically opposed political views. Marvelously acted and gorgeously photographed in black and white, Bitter Sugar works both as a stirring love story and a passionate critique limning the impact of government policies, pervasive shortages, and booming foreign tourism on the lives of ordinary people.
Another perspective on modern Cuba can be found in Michael Skolnik and William O'Neill's documentary The Hot Corner (La Esquina caliente), which makes its world premiere as part of "Arte Latino." Winner of a Special Jury Prize at the 1999 Latin American Film Festival, the film examines the lives of eighteen people and how they were affected by the March 1999 baseball games between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban National Team. Also airing is Life is to Whistle (La Vida es silbar), Cuban director Fernando Pérez's delightfully lyrical love letter to his island home. Perez brings an invigorating blend of absurdist humor and narrative fabulism to a trio of interconnected stories about a lustful ballerina, a lovelorn fisherman and a middle-aged woman who faints upon hearing the word "sex." A sure-fire audience pleaser, this dazzling, sensual film won the special Jury Award for Latin American Cinema at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.
Additional films airing as part of "Arte Latino" include Laura Angelica Simon's documentary Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary (USA), an up-close look at the disastrous impact of California legislation denying education and health benefits to undocumented immigrants; Ray Telles' documentary The Fight in the Fields (USA), which chronicles the formation of the United Farmworkers Union and explores the life of its founder, Cesar Chavez; Bruno Barreto's Gabriela (Brazil), a sultry love story starring the incomparable Sonia Braga and Marcelo Mastroianni; Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas' Midnight (O Primeiro Dia) (Brazil), a parable of disconnection and yearning that takes place on New Year's Eve 1999; Vicky Funari's award-winning documentary Paulina (Mexico), an incredible saga of rural Mexican life, injustice and survival; Nancy Savoca's The 24 Hour Woman (USA), a keen satire starring Rosie Perez as an overextended television producer; and Patricia Cardoso's award-winning The Water Carrier (El Reino de los cielos) (Colombia), an entrancing, fact-based tale about a blind old man who recovers his sight after undergoing his country's first cataract operation in 1926. Short films include Siesta, Day to Day, El Corrido de Cecilia Rios, The Road to the Coast, El Rio, The Tortured Clown, Sonido Blanco and Fidel.
Sundance Channel (www.sundancechannel.com), a premium television service under the creative direction of Robert Redford, brings television viewers the film festival experience by presenting a diverse selection of feature films, shorts, documentaries and international cinema, all uncut and commercial-free.