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Ventana Sur’s Copia Final: Women Fighting Back, Social Issue Movies With a Mainstream Edge

MADRID — Women fighting back. Three of the six titles in Ventana Sur’s Copia Final this year picture women confronting outrage or tragedy – gender violence (“Do You Like Me?”), the abduction of a new born baby (“Song Without a Name”) or the death of a husband (“Venezia”) – and reacting, in multifarious fashions.

“Do You Like Me?” has a thriller edge. Three more, underscoring Latin American cinema’s current broad range, show Latin American filmmakers enrolling mainstream beats to appeal beyond traditional arthouse audiences in more accessible titles, whether in an unusual immigration drama (“Marionette”), or via empathy with a challenged protagonist (“The Friendly Man”) or a straight-up coming of age tale (“This Is Not Berlin”).

Set in Buenos Aires’ housing projects, “Do You Like Me?” starts as a crime thriller, then bucks generic commonplaces as it delivers a numbing gender violence and revenge drama. Authentic in setting, observance of daily life and the near documentary cast of the brief aftermath to its dramatic climax, “Do You Like Me?” also boasts a talent-to-track lead in newcomer Marina Krasinsky playing a teen daughter who joins her local gang’s Japanese restaurant heist in order to pay off her family debt. The consequences, in a world rife in machism, are traumatic.

The debut feature of Peru’s Melina León, “Song Without a Name” is shot in black and white, like her breakthrough short “El paraíso de Lili,” which bowed at the New York Film Festival in 2009. Inspired by a real event, co-produced by New York’s Torch Films and lensed by Inti Briones, DP on Dominga Sotomayor’s Locarno winner “Too Late to Die Young,” it turns on a Andean woman musician whose newly-born baby mysteriously disappears. She initiates a desperate search, helped by a journalist in a film which, in its portrait of the Peruvian city of Ayacucho, borders at times on a near documentary, said Copia Final co-curator José María Riba.

Maybe the most classic art film of the six, “Venezia” weighs in drama about a woman who is forced to stay in Venice after her husband dies on their honeymoon. The event allows her to reconsider her life. Set up at Twins Latin Films, it is directed by Argentina’s Rodrigo Guerrero (“The Winter of the Odd Ones Out”).

Copia Final titles were chosen by Eva Morsch Kihn, head of programing at the Toulouse Cinelatino Festival, José María Riba, Different! co-organizer and journalist, and María Nuñez, one of the creators and curators of Ventana Sur’s industry showcases from their origins. In contrast with Ventana Sur’s Primer Corte pix-on-post strand, Copia Final titles are little-seen, completed but fresh movies yet to see commercial release outside their country of origin, Riba said.

With two titles also in Primer Corte and Copia Final, it looks like Mexico has had a good year, Riba said, stressing the titles’ inclusion had nothing to do with Mexico being Ventana Sur’s country of honor this year.

One Mexican title, “Marionette,” is a take on Cuban immigration, not to the U.S. but Mexico, just as the “Acorazado,” the Morelia-winning feature debut of Alvaro Curiel de Icaza, a prolific big series director (Fox’s “Besieged,” Disney’s “Hasta que te conocí”), was the tale of a Mexican who rafts towards Miami and ends up in Cuba.

Less broad farce than “Acorazado,” more of a romantic dramedy, “Marionette” turns on a famed Cuban actor, out of work and up to his neck in Mexico when he starts teaching his acting skills to a small-time mob’s network of beggars and falls for its boss’ woman. The co-producer is Monica Lozano’s Alebrije Producciones, producer of “Amores perros” and “Instructions Not Included,” and a shrewd judge of made-for-an audience movies.

A suspense film in which the political situation of Brazil is present, without being addressed head-on, Riba said, in another title inviting spectators to invest in the fortunes of its lead, Iberê Carvalho’s “The Friendly Man” has a now 60-something singer in an ‘80s punk rock band accidentally murdering a police officer. Over one long night in Sao Paulo, as a video of the murder goes viral, he gets to reconsider his political credos. “A thriller and kind of ‘After Hours,’” said Riba, “The Friendly Man” is written by Carvalho and Pablo Stoll, a leading light of the New Uruguay Cinema.

A straight-up coming of age film dealing in art, discovering one’s sexuality and friendship which will survive adolescent perils, “This Is Not Berlin” marks the fifth feature of Hari Sama who has carved out a hallmark as a director-producer at Mexico’s Catatonia of high-end open arthouse movies, sluiced with cinematic or artistic echoes and focusing on the broad tribulations of Mexican youth. His own films and Alonso Ruizpalacios’ “Güeros,” Berlin’s 2014 best first feature winner, are the most prominent examples.

VENTANA SUR, 2018, COPIA FINAL

“Song Without a Name,” (Melina León, Peru)

“This is Not Berlin,” (Hari Sama, Mexico)

“Marionette,” (Álvaro Curiel de Icaza, Mexico)

“The Friendly Man,” (Iberê Carvalho, Brasil)

“Venezia,” (Rodrigo Guerrero, Argentina, France)

“Do You Like Me?,” (Edgardo Mario González, Argentina)

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