American Movie

Cine Las Americas Sixth International Film Festival of the Americas

"Movies are daydreams we share in public," F.X. Feeney writes in the April issue of Written By. If this is true, then there are several extraordinary opportunities in this year's Cine Las Americas International Film Festival of the Americas to experience those dreams. Some films take viewers to the past. Others make the present moment alive with a new or unheard of view of the world in a language and aesthetic that reflect the many cultural traditions of Latin America, but in the end provide an experience that is unmistakably human.

While many film festivals overwhelm with a jam-packed schedule, this year's Cine Las Americas Festival provides ample opportunity to check out films without missing others. The downside is that films are rarely screened more than once. Therefore, the following is a list of "must see" films. Most films were screened prior to press time. Save up the popcorn money, and wear some comfy clothes. It's time to go to the movies.

Full-access festival passes are available for $50; half-festival passes (good for six screenings) cost $30. Individual tickets may be purchased before shows, space permitting. Venues include the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown (409 Colorado), the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex (1156 Hargrave), and the Hideout (617 Congress). For more information, see

Thursday, April 24


D: Justine Shapiro, B.Z. Goldberg, Carlos Bolado.
Documentary Feature, USA

If you've not seen this heart-wrenching, truly inspired film on PBS, now is your chance. In Promises, the tensions between Palestinians and Israelis are explained through those who may experience it the most distinctly -- seven children, some Palestinian, some Jewish, some Israeli. The children's deep understanding of politics is astounding when compared to that of ordinary adults in this part of the world. But there's a reason for that. Political turmoil and violence touch their day-to-day lives in ways we've only recently come to know in the U.S. When filmmakers bring together the children for an unprecedented meeting, the children make important discoveries about each other that reshape their opinions for the moment and perhaps -- perhaps -- provide a promise of future peace. (9:45pm, Alamo)

Also screening ...


5pm: A Gleam in the Dark (Documentary Feature, Argentina)

7pm: Bajo California: El Limite del Tiempo (Narrative Feature, Mexico)

Friday, April 25

To the Left of the Father

D: Luiz Fernando Carvalho; with Selton Mello, Raul Cortez, Juliana Carneiro da Cunha, Simone Spoladore, Leonardo Medeiros, Caio Blat.
Narrative Feature, Brazil

From the first magnificent moments of this cinematically stunning film, you know you are seeing a canvas where no image is taken for granted, no gesture unspoken, no words wasted. Based on the novel by Raduan Nassar, this version of the prodigal-son story from Brazil is deeply pensive in its approach but sublime in its artistic sensibility. With two screenings, there's no reason to miss this film. Mature audiences highly recommended. (9pm, Millennium)

"Made By Hand: Three Stories from Guatemala"

D: Saul Roblero, Ryan Polomski, Frank Bustoz.
Documentary Short, Guatemala/USA

This first film by three UT film students is a refreshingly cut-and-dry approach to documentary filmmaking. With deep conviction, the very likeable Saul Roblero (one of the directors) explains his desire to be a journalist so that he can "find the truth that exists in Guatemala." With this simple goal, the camera follows him to three Guatemalan villages where he asks residents about their lives and traditions. At first glance, Made by Hand lacks magnitude. In reality, the film reaches the heart of all good documentary filmmaking: It lets its subjects tell their stories in their own words, without filmmakers getting in the way. (7pm, Millennium)

Discovering Dominga

D: Patricia Flynn.
Documentary Feature, Guatemala/USA
This emotionally charged documentary examines the troubling, always-surprising experience of recovering cultural identity. Dominga left her native Rio Negro in Guatemala during the 1982 reign of terror against the Maya Indians who opposed corporate development of their native lands. Orphaned after experiencing unspeakable horrors at age 9, Dominga arrived in the U.S. two years later and was adopted by an Iowa family and renamed Denese. As an adult, she returned to the homeland of her memory -- and nightmares. Her journey is a bittersweet reunion with her past and an indomitable search for justice as she lays her ghosts to rest. (7pm, Millennium)

Also screening ...


5pm: The Sapphires, Music From the Edge of Time (Documentary Feature, USA)

Saturday, April 26


D: Carlos Reygadas; with Alejandro Ferretis, Magdalena Flores, Yolanda Villa, Martín Serrano.
Narrative Feature, Mexico
Unscreened at press time. This critically acclaimed film by new filmmaker Carlos Reygadas concerns a man from the city who prepares for his suicide in a remote canyon. There, he encounters a woman who appears to be not only a dweller but an integral part of the landscape. Critics call it "an excellent debut ... a startling achievement." Awards received in 2002 include Best First Film Special Mention at Cannes, Best New Director at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Best First Work at the Havana Film Festival, among others. (7pm, Alamo)


D: Adrián Caetano; with Freddy Flores, Rosa Sánchez, Oscar Bertea, Enrique Liporace, Marcelo Videla.
Narrative Feature, Argentina
Budget? Who needs a stinking budget? Shot in 16 mm black-and-white in three-day increments, over three years, this amazingly fluid film offers what first appears to be a slice-of-life portrait of everyday working people. Instead, the film steadily accelerates to reveal a ticking time bomb of frustration stoked by unseen social and economic forces. Caetano's film shows that any project can be made with determination. (9:45pm, Alamo)

To Live With Terror: The Unsolved Attacks in Buenos Aires

D: Ton Vriens.
Documentary Feature, Argentina/USA
This well-crafted, disturbing film provides a primer for those unfamiliar with the cause and effect of terrorism and more importantly, its human cost. (1pm, the Hideout)

Also Screening ...


11am: Native American Series 1

1pm: Pote Mak Sonje: The Raboteau Trials (Documentary Feature, Haiti/USA)

Forbidden Wedding

3pm: Forbidden Wedding (Documentary Feature, Brazil/USA); "The Invention of Childhood" (Documentary Short, Brazil)

5pm: Shorts 2

7pm: Cause Effect (Narrative Feature, Argentina)


"From an Objective Point of View" screens as a part of Saturday's Youth Program.

12pm: Youth Day, a celebration of emerging filmmakers

2pm: Shorts 1

4pm: Casa Marianella (Documentary Short, USA); The Last Zapatistas, Forgotten Heroes (Documentary Feature, Mexico); "Señorita Extraviada" (Documentary Short, USA)

7pm: "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" (Documentary Short, USA); Shelter (Documentary Feature, USA)

9pm: To the Left of the Father (Narrative Feature, Brazil)


9:45pm: "Four Days" (Narrative Short, Brazil, screens with Bolivia)

Sunday, April 27

Caimán's Dream

D: Beto Gómez; with Daniel Guzmán, Rafael Velasco, Kandido Uranga, Miguel Natividad.
Narrative Feature, Mexico
Part buddy film, part screwball comedy, part telenovela -- this film has it all, in a sometimes amusing, sometimes painful account of a pack of knuckleheads who can't get their lives together. Still, there's something appealing about a loser who, try as he might, just can't get his act together. Narratively, the film can't seem to make up its mind -- whose story is it, that of Caimán or Iñaki, the son of one of the "brat packers" who joins the group to escape his own botched life? Even with some highly melodramatic performances and "surprise" character revelations, if you're looking for a comic confection, this film fits the bill. (7pm, Millennium)

"The Mexican Dream"

D: Gustavo Hernández Pérez; with Jesus Perez, Martin Morales, Jeff LeBeau, Leonard Rodriguez, Karla Zamudio.
Narrative Short, USA
Ay, ay, ay! If it wasn't traumatic enough for Ajileo Barajas to cross the border as an undocumented worker, guess what kind of work he's looking for? A quiet, live-under-the-radar life as a manual laborer? Oh no. He wants to be an actor! To make his crossing safer, he dresses as a woman, believing that if la Migra stops him, at least he'll be treated like a lady. You can't help but buy into this laugh-out-loud funny look at a starry-eyed dreamer who, alas, discovers that reality is stronger than his dreams. An excellent animated opening -- which strongly resembles the opening to Catch Me If You Can -- opens this goofy, heartfelt comedy. (This 28-minute film screens with Caimán's Dream.) (7pm, Millennium)

Queen of the Gypsies

D: Jocelyn Ajami.
Documentary Feature, USA
Carmen Amaya (1913-1963) may not be known to you, but after seeing this documentary, you'll find yourself pining for an audience with the legendary Queen of the Gypsies. Amaya was a flamenco dancer who rose from deep poverty to become an internationally acclaimed dancer and star of Spanish and Hollywood films. Her ferocious, seething style revolutionized flamenco and continues to inspire contemporary dancers. Interviews with friends, former company members, and Amaya scholars are included in this respectful tribute. But the very best part of this documentary is the heart-stopping archival footage of Amaya performing. As a witness to her first important performance recounts, Amaya so electrified the audience that a spectator reared back his head in excitement and broke a mirror. That's how it feels watching this extraordinary dancer. If there is one documentary you absolutely must see, it's this one. (1pm, Hideout)

Also screening ...


11am: Native American Series 2

1pm: "Pure Mariachi" (Documentary Short, USA, screens with Queen of the Gypsies)

3pm: "A Midwife Experience" (Documentary Short, USA); Born in Brazil (Documentary Feature, Brazil/USA)


12pm: Youth Feature: Runnin' at Midnite (Narrative Feature, USA)

Resistencia: Hip Hop in Colombia

2pm: Resistencia: Hip Hop in Colombia (Documentary Feature, Colombia/USA); War Takes (Documentary Feature, Colombia/UK)

4pm: Invited Shorts

Unconquering the Last Frontier

Native American and Youth Series

For the first time this year, films by Native American filmmakers will be grouped in a distinct series, with plans to make this a permanent part of the festival. Films in the series screen in two parts: Saturday's films include the documentaries "Forest Fast Food," "Native Youth Movement," and Unconquering the Last Frontier (11am, Hideout), and Sunday's films include the animated Stories From the Seventh Fire: Spring and the feature documentary Return of the Navajo Boy (11am, Hideout).

The weekend also features a Youth Series, featuring work by emerging filmmakers. Free admission to the Youth Series and Native American Series films are offered to AISD students (bring your ID).

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