Be sure to check out the first edition of the Cinema Tropical Awards this Friday. I was very happy to have been asked to compile my list of the 10 best Latin American films of the last decade by Cinema Tropical, a worthy and serious organization devoted to promoting quality films from south of the border.
I am in the good company of a bunch of other cinephiles and cineastes. You can check out the winners and download all the lists at the link above.
Here's what I sent:
I was relieved that I could think of more than ten good Latin American films of the last decade.
This could not have been easy 20 years ago.
The common thread in my selection is a group of talented Latin American filmmakers who are, first and foremost, masters of their craft and who are deeply invested in their social reality without ever falling into melodramatic excess. The list includes two established international talents, Lucrecia Martel, one of the best filmmakers in the world today, and Alfonso Cuarón. The rest are new filmmakers, both male and female, that show extraordinary promise. Fabián Bielinsky left us wondering what marvels he could have achieved with his impressive command of genre.
All of them have a bracing inclination for aesthetic rigor and clear eyed intelligence.
LA CIÉNAGA (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina, 2001)
With a jaundiced eye and an amazing knack for atmosphere, Lucrecia Martel explores the complex dynamics of the provincial bourgeoisie in Argentina.
Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN (Alfonso Cuarón, México, 2001)
Alfonso Cuarón shows his mastery at handling both farce and deep melancholy without sentimentality. The script is sharp, funny and subtly revealing of the contrasts in Mexican society.
THE HEADLESS WOMAN (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina, 2008)
A woman is involved in a car accident; she is disoriented, then there is a coverup. Lucrecia Martel creates a richly layered physical, psychic and political world, that resonates beyond its provinical confines.
NINE QUEENS (Fabián Bielinsky, Argentina, 2000)
A fantastically taut, smart, crisp caper with fabulous twists and the magnificent, sullen sexiness of Ricardo Darín.
DUCK SEASON (Fernando Eimbcke, México, 2004)
Mexican teenagers bored out of their wits on a Sunday afternoon, reminiscent of Ozu. The work of a young filmmaker with plenty of style and delicate wisdom.
XXY (Lucía Puenzo, Argentina, 2007)
A strong, intelligent film about a teenage hermafrodite, XXY is the movie equivalent of tough love; fierce, unsentimental, compassionate and with a breakout performance by Inés Efrón.
THE MAID (Sebastián Silva, Chile, 2009)
She lives among us! A psychologically astute film about a live-in maid, that staple of the Latin American upper classes’ happiness or dread. With a fearsome performance by Catalina Saavedra.
THE AURA (Fabián Bielinsky, Argentina, 2005)
A gorgeous, atmospheric noir that challenges convention by happening in a cabin in the Patagonian woods. Oodles of style.
TONY MANERO (Pablo Larraín, Chile)
A murderer dreams of becoming the best John Travolta impersonator during the Pinochet years. A chillingly original portrait of absolute moral rot.
LA ZONA (Rodrigo Plá, México)
Rich people literally fence themselves off the poverty around them, living in comfy, arrogant isolation in the middle of their own country. Mexico, in a nutshell.
Having said this, I also liked Martel's La Niña Santa, but I thought it shouldn't be a Martel monopoly. I also liked, less, Pablo Trapero's Leonera. I liked Cautiva, I sort of liked Whisky and Silent Light.
I did not include Amores Perros because I knew it was going to be on many of my colleagues' lists and I like Y Tú Mamá También better. I have not seen Fernando Eimbcke's Lake Tahoe, which made it to several lists. For the life of me, I don't understand why people like Pan's Labyrinth so much, but that's the beauty of film, hay de todo para todos.