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Twenty-Eight Films, Eleven Countries, Latinbeat 2008 at Lincoln Center's Film Society
From Left: Max Lesnik and Fidel Castro in Man of Two Havanas. Directed by Vivien Lesnik Weisman, US, 2007; 93m. Photo Credit: Film Society of Lincoln Center / Vivien Lesnik Weisman.

NEW YORK.- Presenting 28 films from 11 countries, many in their New York premieres, the 2008 edition of The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual Latinbeat series features its most diverse slate ever. The popular showcase of new and classic filmmaking from a region that has re-established itself as a force in world cinema will run through September 25 at the Walter Reade Theater. Several filmmakers are expected to attend screenings, including actress Roxana Blanco and directors Vivien Lesnik, Rodrigo Marín, Jacobo Morales, Ariel Rotter, José Luis Torres Leiva, and Cristobal Valderrama, among others.

“Latinbeat has grown to become one of the premiere Latin cultural events in New York,” says Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “The Latin Media and Entertainment Commission is proud to support this 11th annual film festival, which not only showcases the wonderful traditions and vibrant styles of Latin America but also its work with the LMEC is helping fulfill our mission of making New York City the center of Latin media and entertainment.”

This year’s series hosts films from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela and the United States, while the prominence of international co-productions has never been as apparent. A quarter of Latinbeat 2008’s films were shot with the cooperation of countries outside the Americas, including France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.

“Never before has the landscape of Latin American film been richer and more varied in style, genre, theme, location and the number of countries explored,” says the Film Society’s Marcela Goglio, who curated the series with Film Society program director Richard Peña. “The number of strong, arresting works and the range of exciting unique personal voices reflect the diversity and overall cultural effervescence of the region itself.”

Adding to the series’ range is the prominence of women in Latin American film culture. Seven of this year’s Latinbeat selections are directed by women, while six feature female leads. The Film Society and New York Women in Film and Television will host a brunch celebrating women’s strong presence in the region’s cinema on Sunday, Sept. 7, at 11:30 a.m., free to ticket holders of the day’s 1:00 p.m. screening of Esteban Schroeder’s “Kill Them All” (Uruguay/Chile/Argentina/Germany). The film is also being honored as Latinbeat’s opening night selection, Friday, Sept. 5, at 6:30 p.m. Actress Roxana Blanco will attend both events.

Schroeder’s film, based on the real-life story of a Uruguayan human rights prosecutor who investigates her own family’s role in the country’s military past, is the first in a powerful set of films tackling the region’s tumultuous past and contemporary political constraints. Lucía Cedrón’s “Lamb of God,” (Argentina/France) starring Mercedes Morán and Jorge Marrale, charts a family’s struggles within the repressive regime in Argentina in 1978 and the strain their past actions have on family members in 2002. The documentaries “The Old Thieves: The Legends of Artegio” (Mexico) and “Man of Two Havanas” (USA) look at the current lives of legendary figures, whose past exploits marked them for fame and, in the latter story of Cuban freedom fighter Max Lesnik, constant death threats.

Inventive takes on coming-of-age stories also appear throughout the series as a dominant creative interest for contemporary Latin American filmmakers. They take later-in-life forms in “Encarnación” (Argentina), “Estômago: A Gastronomic Story” (Brazil/Italy), and the enticingly titled comedy “The Pope’s Toilet” (Uruguay/Brazil), as a faded actress discovers an unexpected bond with her niece, a drifter explores his newfound culinary talents with dangerous consequences, and a smuggler finds inspiration for his most ingenious get-rich scheme, respectively. Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas’s artful fable “Cochochi” (Mexico/UK/Canada) is more traditional in its coming-of-age plot but no less creative in its execution, following two children through the lush Sierra Tarahumara as they deliver medicine to a remote mountain village. The two children in “The Path” (Costa Rica), Ishtar Yasin Gutierrez’s engaging blend of documentary and drama, travel from Managua to Granada in search of the mother who left them years before.

Two films bring both of Latinbeat 2008’s most prominent themes together in searing investigations of politics, war and their effect on the lives of children. In Wolney Oliveira’s “El cayo de la muerte” (Cuba/Brazil), a young man’s ambition to be a Hollywood director survives despite his family’s flight from Havana after Batista’s police target his father. Mariana Rondón vigorously mixes comedy and tragedy together through a wide variety of imaginative cinematic techniques in “Postcards from Leningrad” (Venezuela) to present the fantasies a young girl creates to escape the guerilla warfare taking place around her.

As previously announced, several sidebars and special events will complete this year’s Latinbeat slate. Spotlight on Chile showcases six original and powerful works from the newest national force in Latin American filmmaking. Director Jacobo Morales will be on stage to introduce screenings during Latinbeat’s three-film tribute to his work, Sept. 12–16. Latinbeat joins with “Machado 21,” a citywide centennial celebration of Brazilian writer Machado de Assis on Thursday, Sept. 18, by screening two de Assis adaptations by director Nelson Pereira dos Santos at 2:30 and 7:15 p.m. And Latinbeat and the Film Society’s ongoing program Film Comment Selects join forces to screen Ariel Rotter’s “The Other” (Argentina/France/Germany), winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival, on Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 7:00 p.m. An onstage conversation between Rotter and Film Comment editor Gavin Smith will follow the screening.

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