If Americans are in the midst of a golden age of access to global cinema, then Austinites are, as is so often the case, doubly blessed. The eighth annual Cine Las Americas International Film Festival opens here on Wednesday, April 20, with the Texas premiere of Machuca, Andrés Wood's coming-of-age by way of suburban Santiago class struggle and 1973 CIA-sponsored Allende coup. An Ariel nominee this year for Best Latin-American Film, it evokes everything that Cine Las Americas stands for: adventurous and assured filmmaking by Latin and indigenous peoples brought in to promote "cross-cultural understanding and growth by educating, entertaining, and challenging the Central Texas community." That being said, neither the festival nor its opening-night film (which, with its extraordinary color palette, close-ups, iconic imagery, disorienting street scenes, fits of adolescent sexual exploration, and violent outbursts, should serve as a heightened experience when seen on the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum's IMAX screen) loses the art among any potential lessons.
Machuca reminds me a lot of Stephen Frears and Hanif Kureishi's work in the Eighties: charged, gritty but pretty, restrained, well-acted (child actors Matías Quer, Ariel Mateluna, and Manuella Martelli are particularly excellent in Wood's semiautobiographical fourth feature), and, above all, as real as a fiction film can feel at the time. And it's only the first of a hundred movies long or short, narrative or documentary that will screen at this year's Cine Las Americas. Also among the programming is a Nicolás Echevarría retrospective with the producer-director-cinematographer in attendance, free screenings that will include Ginga: A Capoeira Documentary and Rocinha Hip Hop, workshops, panels, several competition categories, and more.
Next week, the Chronicle will cover the festival in greater depth, as it runs through Sunday, April 24, at the Bullock (1800 Congress), the Hideout (617 Congress), the Metropolitan (901 Little Texas Lane), and the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex (1154 Hargrave). Meanwhile, all-access passes are available for $60 and can be purchased online at www.cinelasamericas.org or by calling TicketWeb at 866/468-7621. Individual admission prices vary. Check the Web site or call 841-5930 for more information.
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