MADRID — Carlos Reygadas’ “Our Time,” Alvaro Brechner’s “A Twelve-Year Night” and Ana Katz’s “Sueño Florianópolis” feature in San Sebastian’s Latin America-focused Horizontes Latinos, the biggest section at the Spanish festival after its main competition and New Directors’ strand.
Opening with Marcelo Martinessi’s “The Heiresses,” winner of the Sebastiane Latino Prize, Horizontes Latinos, as is its wont, mixes fest players, drawn from Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and Venice, with a brace of lesser-known movies – this year María Alche’s “A Family Submerged,” Eugenio Canevari’s “Figuras” and Ignacio Juricic’s “Enigma” – whose presence in such august company only serves to highlight their titles all the more.
Three titles are drawn from Cannes Directors’ Fortnight – an indirect tribute to the passion for Latin American movies of Edouard Waintrop, Directors’ Fortnight head from 2012 to this year’s edition.
The large theme which courses through the selection is, however, women. Only three of this year’s Horizontes Latinos movies are directed by women. Just half the movies have women as their protagonists. 11, however, portray a world where women, or a man who later undergoes transgender change, are tentatively exploring or demanding new freedom (“Our Time,” “Heiresses,” “Sueño Florianópolis,” “A Family Submerged,” “Marilyn”), or suffer, whether rape (“Marilyn”), robbery (“The Snatch Thief”), sexting (“Rust”), pressure to conform (“Enigma”), the psychological toil of civil conflict (“Los Silencios”), cartel violence (“Buy Me a Gun”) or the inattention of state authorities (“Figuras”). Women’s struggles provide the grand leitmotif of this year’s selection.
Horizontes Latinos aren’t just women’s titles, however. A buzz title set to world premiere in September’s Venice Horizons, and one of Latido Films’ top fall titles, in “A Twelve-Year Night,” Uruguayan Alvaro Brechner chronicles the extraordinary solitary confinement of Pepe Múgica, who went on to become (an exemplary) president of Uruguay, under its military dictatorship of 1973-85. Word-of-mouth describes the movie as a sensorial, humored and humanistic homage to the resilience of the human spirit.
After “Post Tenebras Lux,” a medley of perceptions, Reygadas appears to peel away the veneer of a Westernized Mexican society in “Our Time,” an unseen Venice competition entry. Set in a macho context of a fighting-bull rearing estate in Tlaxcala a poet of world renown has an open relationship with his wife – the height of Western sophistication – until her infatuation for a foreigner punctures his sense of masculinity. Jaime Romandia lead-produces an awaited co-production between Mexico, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden.
In “The Heiresses,” a double Berlin Silver Bear and Fipresci winner, Chela, a middle-aged member of Paraguay’s well-healed elite, falls on hard times and is forced to find a job, which re-awakens long-dormant sexual longings.
“Sueño Florianópolis,” from Argentina’s Ana Katz (“Musical Chairs,” “My Friend from the Park”), pictures a family whose parents are separating comes closer together as, with two young adult children, it faces a future where it will live further apart. A wry, naturalistic summer vacation dramedy blessed by laid-back mobile camerawork from Gustavo Biazzi, it won a Fipresci and special jury prize at July’s Karlovy Vary Festival.
In “Sueño Florianópolis,” “I wanted to gently deconstruct the moral weight on a woman with teenage children and in crisis with her husband,” Ana Katz told Variety, talking of the mother in the film, who embarks on a fling.
Described by sales agent Visit Films as “a moody, textured ode to a woman reborn,” “A Family Submerged” marks the feature debut as an actress of Lucrecia Martel star María Alché.
Also toplining “Sueño Florianóplis” and San Sebastián opener “An Unexpected Love,” Mercedes Morán plays Marcela, a middle-aged woman who, turned upside down by her sister’s sudden death, is drawn to Nacho, a friend of her daughter’s, as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
Argentine Martín Rodríguez Redondo’s “Marilyn” – like “Sueño” a Film Factory title – is inspired the true story of then Marcelo B, now Marilyn, centering on his finally brutal battle to assert his feminine personality.
Caught in rough-cut at March’s Guadalajara Festival, “Enigma” is the awaited debut feature of Chile’s Ignacio Juricic, whose 2015 short “Lost Queens” won a Cannes Festival Queer Palme. It tracks Nancy, a middle-aged hairdresser, as she comes to the decision, flying in the face of family and neighbors’ advice, to go on a cold case TV show which may throw light on the night, 10 years prior, when her daughter was beaten to death after leaving a gay club.
Women’s struggles for greater freedoms or at least dignity dictate not just the theme but sometimes style of Horizontes Latinos titles.
Sweeping San Sebastian’s Films in Progress last year before segueing to Sundance, Brazilian Ali Muritiba’s “Rust” builds to a finally searing indictment of misogyny, anchored in a case of sexting which has ghastly consequences. But Muritiba tells his story as much via contrasting mise-en-scène of parts one and two rather than on-the-nose dialogue.
For “A Family Submerged,” Alché used curtains, colored cellophane and filters to suggest that Marcela lives in what she called a “fish tank.” “I was thinking of people who do not want to be in their chronological life, who want to break free from this straight path. I wanted Marcela to open a window and go outside,” she said in an interview with Variety at Locarno.
“Marilyn” is set in rural Argentina, in a neo-Western context, where, as Jay Weissberg observed in his Variety review, families eking out hard-won livelihoods haven’t time for nonconformity.
In “Enigma,” Juricic’s camera set-up often captures in mid-shot Nancy and her huge brood of daughters and friends cooped up in a cramped family apartment where they learn deeply conservative habits from their aunt and one another. This only accentuates the pressures on Nancy to let sleeping dogs lie and not announce to the world on TV that her daughter was a lesbian.
Of Directors’ Fortnight titles, “Buy Me a Gun,” a father-daughter drama set in Mexican cartel hell, is directed by Julio Hernández Cordon, whose credits include stylish out-there titles, often bordering documentary, such as “Gasolina,” “Marimbas from Hell” and “I Promise You Anarchy.”
Exploring the gray morality of impoverished lands, “The Snatch Thief” is produced by Rizoma and sold by The Match Factory. The first solo feature from Argentina’s Agustín Toscano (“The Owners”), it turns on a small-time criminal who robs and severely injures an old lady but seeks her out to care for her, forming an unlikely surrogate family.
Brazilian Beatriz Seigner’s second feature after 2009’s “Bollywood Dream,” “Los Silencios,” a drama with touches of magical realism and echoes of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, follows a widowed mother and her two children, trying to make a living on the Colombia-Brazil-Peru border at a place where the live co-exist with the dead.
The 67th San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival runs Sept. 21-29.
66th SAN SEBASTIAN FESTIVAL HORIZONTES LATINOS SELECTION
“Buy Me a Gun,” (Julio Hernández Cordón, Mexico)
“Enigma,” (Ignacio Juricic Merillán, Chile)
“A Family Submerged,” (Maria Alché, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Norway)
“Figures,” (Eugenio Canevari, Spain, Argentina)
“The Heiresses,” (Marcelo Martinessi, Paraguay)
“Marilyn,” (Martín Rodríguez Redondo, Argentina, Chile)
“Rust,” (Aly Muritiba, Brazil)
“Los Silencios,” (Beatriz Seigner, Brazil, France, Colombia)
“Our Time,” (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico , France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden)
“The Snatch Thief,” (Agustín Toscano, Argentina, Uruguay, France)
“Sueño Florianópolis,” (Ana Katz, Argentina, Brazil, France)
“A Twelve-Year Night,” (Álvaro Brechner, Spain, Argentina, France, Uruguay)
Pictured, top to bottom, left to right: Carlos Reygadas, Ana Katz, Álvaro Brechner; “A Twelve-Year Night,” “Our Time,” “Rust. ”