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Cinema Latino Spotlights Best New and Classic Latin Films

COLUMBUS, OH.- Cinema Latino—the popular film series now in its fourth year, organized and hosted again by the Wexner Center January 8-30—offers the Columbus community a survey of recent and classic films from Latin America. The series includes a variety of genres from animation to documentary, drama to comedy. The films this year are influential (as many are international award winners) or explore the influence of Latin culture itself (seen in Walt & El Grupo, which documents the effects that a southern excursion had on Walt Disney’s creative pursuits). Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Venezuela are represented in the series.

Notes Chris Stults, organizer of the series and assistant curator in Wexner Center’s film department, “This series showcases the breadth and diversity of films coming out of Latin America, and features some of the most acclaimed films being produced anywhere in the world. At a time when foreign films rarely get widely distributed in the US, we think it’s important to bring these films to local audiences and celebrate the remarkable movies being produced throughout Latin America.”

Opening night begins with a short animated film by conceptual artists Mel Chin. 9 11/9-11 tells a tale of two cities 23 years apart: New York City on September 11, 2001, and Santiago, Chile, on September 11, 1978, when the Chilean president Salvador Allende was overthrown.

With Liverpool, Argentine director Lisandro Alonso enters “into the first rank of contemporary filmmakers,” according to Toronto’s Eye Weekly. The film follows a sailor on leave in snowy Ushuaia, the southernmost city on Earth, as he travels to visit his estranged mother. Alonso weaves together small details and expressive settings throughout the film to create an evocative portrait, named the best films of 2008 by CinemaScope.

Walt & El Grupo is a documentary about a 1941 trip through Latin America that changed the course of Disney Studios. In 1941, Walt Disney, his wife, and 16 of the studio’s most creative artists toured Latin America on a trip orchestrated by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The tour, which influenced Disney films and ride attractions for decades to come, is retraced by Theodore Thomas through home movies, rare newsreels, photographs, and interviews.

Winner of World Cinema Jury Prizes and a Golden Globe nominee this year for Best Foreign Film, The Maid is a black comedy about Raquel, a housemaid for an upper class family in Santiago, Chile. Raquel is so devoted to her work that the family decides to assist her by hiring more help. Threatened Raquel unleashes mind games on the family she serves.

While it was never released in the US, the fantastic Venezuelan film Araya shared the International Critics Prize with Hiroshima mon amour at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. Araya shows the routines, profound joys, and agonies of the salt harvesters working (as they have for hundreds of years) in the arid marshes of the Araya peninsula in Venezuela. This classic was rescued from obscurity by Milestone Films, the company that has also restored and rereleased Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba, Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, and Kent Mackenzie’s The Exiles.

Lake Tahoe, a winner of three prizes at last year’s Ariel Awards (the Mexican Oscars), tracks the absurd encounters of a teenage boy as he searches for someone to help him fix the car he’s crashed. Eimbcke’s Duck Season was a favorite of the 2008 Cinema Latino series, and his highly acclaimed follow-up Lake Tahoe does not disappoint.

A sleeper hit of the 2008 New York Film Festival, the Mexican film I’m Gonna Explode is a stylish, sexy meta-movie in the vein of early French New Wave classics. Two disaffected suburban highschool kids become pretend outlaws—without leaving home. I’m Gonna Explode is a thoroughly entertaining couple-on the-run movie in the tradition of Bonnie and Clyde and Pierrot le fou.

Wexner Center | Chris Stults | Cinema Latino | "The Maid" | "Lake Tahoe" | "I'm Gonna Explode" |

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