The Eighth Cine las Americas

Through Sunday, April 24

The Eighth Cine las Americas

What follows are the Chronicle's recommended Cine las Americas screenings, based on the pool of films that we've previewed as of press time. More than 100 films – starting with the opener Machuca on Wednesday (see "Chile's 'Machuca' Opens Eighth Cine Las Americas") – will screen through Sunday, April 24, at the Hideout (617 Congress), the Metropolitan (901 Little Texas Ln.), and the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex (1154 Hargrave). For the full schedule, see www.cinelasamericas.org or the ad on p.71. All-access passes are available for $60 and can be pur-chased at the festival's Web site or by calling TicketWeb at 866/468-7621. Individual admission prices vary.

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5TH WORLD

D: Larry Blackhorse Lowe; with Liva'ndrea Knoki, Sheldon Silentwalker

Shot on a shoestring with friends and family members in rural Arizona, this first feature shows a young Navajo couple getting closer while hitchhiking to a family gathering. The movie is long on visual hijinks (such as jokey intertitles and an 8mm scene shot in a carnival's hall of mirrors) and buddy talk. When Knoki and Silentwalker reach their destination, the movie finally settles into a warm, familiar rhythm infinitely more pleasing than its road-movie desolation, and it gives a tangible sense of the difficulties of cultural survival. Technical problems abound – some scenes are backlit, the wind interferes with the dialogue recording in the exteriors, and the original music score is a serious detriment – but Lowe is a talent to watch out for. – Marrit Ingman

Thursday, April 21, 8pm, Metropolitan

El Abrazo Partido (The Lost Embrace)

D: Daniel Burman; with Daniel Hendler, Adriana Aizemberg, Jorge D'Elia, Sergio Boris, Diego Korol, Atilio Pozzobón, Silvina Bosco

Everyone has certain oft-told stories about their family, and alternately the same tales can offer comfort or drive you away from the nest. As he applies for the Polish passport that will aid his escape from behind the counter of mom's lingerie store in Buenos Aires, Ariel (Hendler) struggles with knowing little about his father beyond the story of an incident with some rancid mayonnaise and that the man left home for the Yom Kippur War and never returned. As the sorts of stories a family doesn't like to repeat start to emerge, Ariel's departure to Europe might resemble what he resents in his father. If the psychology remains a bit thin, this energetically quirky comedy is carried by fine performances, chiefly from Hendler (Best Actor at the 2004 Berlin Film Festival), as well as director Burman's sharp timing and observational smarts. El Abrazo Partido is a film of engaging nuance and an impressive array of modest cinematic coups. – Spencer Parsons

Friday, April 22, 8pm, Metropolitan

Habitaciones para turistas (Rooms for Tourists)

D: Adrián García Bogliano; with Elena Siritto, Jimena Krouco, Oscar Ponce

Although this low-budget, black-and-white slasher film heralds a breakthrough for Argentinean cinema, the filmmakers reveal a delightfully intimate knowledge of the film's North American predecessors. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Tourist Trap will immediately come to mind as five young women miss their train connection and are stranded overnight in a backwater village. For all intents and purposes, this place could be a town of 2,000 maniacs, whose weapons of choice are knives, cleavers, and axes rather than chainsaws and spiked barrels. Even though this town is in the middle of nowhere, it is not godforsaken: Turns out, it's on the public transportation route between Buenos Aires and a distant abortion clinic, and the inhabitants have taken it upon themselves to make sure the girls who pass through remain on God's path. Far grislier than one ordinarily expects from black-and-white, Habitaciones Para Turistas is a real homemade fright. – Marjorie Baumgarten

Saturday, April 23, 10pm, Metropolitan

Tel Aviv
"Tel Aviv"

International Shorts

D: various

In the spirit of bringing south-of-the-border films north, the International Shorts program reverses roles and upsets stereotypes. "Wednesday Afternoon" features a drug-dealing father and his necessarily mature son as they explore their inverted relationship and how to upright their situation. Tension mounts as opposing familial obligations vie for dominance. Filmed mostly upside-down or with its actors hanging from the ceiling, the discombobulating "Uninverso" features characters trying to remain upstanding and keep their feet on the ground – literally. A trio of Muslims rescues a Jewish man on a desert road in Israel in "Tel Aviv." Preconceived notions lose their moorings as more similarities than differences float to the surface. The hitman and the woman hiring him to kill her husband argue the merits of marriage in "Premeditation" only to discover the varieties of love between their respective spouses and – here's a twist – each other. A man obsessed with his competition in the roasted-nuts business finds himself wrapped up in "La Guerro Que No Fue." And before this nonexistent war ends, friends will be enemies and vice versa. – James Renovitch

Saturday, April 23, 3pm, Metropolitan

I Faderns Namn (In the Name of the Father)

D: Nitza Kakoseos

When Raymond Paredes returned to Chile after 30 years in exile, he arrived holding high the banner of peace and reconciliation, an act of no small significance for a man who as a child was forced to flee his home country to escape Pinochet's repressive military junta, which bled Chile for 17 years and tortured and murdered Paredes' father, Eduardo. What could have been a simple and personal tale of forgiveness, however, becomes much more complicated when the relentlessly self-promotive and deeply scarred Paredes improbably seeks out the support of several of Pinochet's former aides, ministers, and allies. Admitting as much confusion as the viewer, director Kakoseos tries her best to understand the contradiction at the heart of a man who has blurred the line between history and personal experience and who, like his country, is lost in the subjectivity of truth and the inconstancy of memory. – Josh Rosenblatt

Saturday, April 23, 9pm, Metropolitan

Screens String

MAID IN AMERICA

D: Anayansi Prado

This is no Jennifer Lopez fairy tale. "I didn't come here to clean bathrooms," says Judith, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. "But I had no other choice." Like so many of the more than 100,000 domestic workers in Los Angeles, Judith has left children, four daughters, in her home country. Prado's film follows Judith and two other maids through their work. Telma is a nanny and housekeeper for a well-heeled African-American couple, and Eva cleans houses while she studies to be a tax preparer. The film is circumspect about the women's choices and realities – for Judith's family, her paycheck means three meals a day and a bathroom for their house – while acknowledging how unrewarding their work is, financially and emotionally. From a fly-on-the-wall perspective, Prado works at the complex knot of race, class, and labor issues at the heart of the film. Better still, she fashions a brisk and absorbing narrative, finding a natural dramatic arc in their stories. – Marrit Ingman

Friday, April 22, 7pm, Metropolitan

Chamaco
"Chamaco"

Mexican Shorts

D: various

Looking at either side from the center of the generation gap, the Mexican Shorts program depicts the young and naive getting a crash course in reality while their elders bravely face or destructively avoid that same reality. In the starkly magical "La Fiesta Ajena," young Angeles stubbornly ignores her mother's pleas to not attend an upper-class friend's birthday party. Seemingly the hit of the party, Angeles spotlights the heartbreakingly fine line between being helpful and being the help. A father at the end of his rope abandons his ever-wandering son in "Un Viaje" and learns that a second chance isn't always redemptive. "Chamaco" and "Tromba d'Oro" show the lighter side of youthful exploration. Using his street smarts, the titular chamaco gets his education on the mean streets, but sex-ed proves comedically elusive. A young mariachi discovers Chet Baker's mystical tromba and is soon possessed by the legend's womanizing and self-destructive spirit. Thankfully, an older priest will happily accept the burden of the trumpet's curse. The experimental "Srita. C.J." and her stop-motion eyebrows just go to prove the old adage, "Oh, you crazy kids." – James Renovitch

Friday, April 22, 6pm, Metropolitan

Puños Rosas

D: Beto Gómez; with Jose Yenque, Rodrigo Oviedo, Roberto Espejo

Jimmy Morales (Oviedo) is an up-and-coming welterweight boxer who works as an embalmer at his father's funeral home in Matamoros and dreams of being like Steve McQueen in The Getaway. In the alleyway one night, he accidentally witnesses a mob hit, although the perpetrator allows him to escape with his life. Later, while in prison for refusing to throw a fight in order to erase his father's gambling debts, Jimmy again encounters the hitman Germán Corona (Yenque), who is looking to cross over to Brownsville and escape the clutches of the auto-theft racket that governs his life. (Interestingly, the racket is headed by Isela Vega, the female lead in Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.) A strong gay subtext propels this film's story, even though no explicit words or actions are manifested by the men. However, the two are reintroduced in prison by the scene-stealing transvestite Lola (Espejo). Puños Rosas is a different kind of border story. – M.B.

Friday, April 22, 10pm, Metropolitan

Screens String

Residencia

D: Artemio Espinosa; with Antonio Chuaqui, Nicolás Fontaine

In order to have their films certified as Dogme 95 products, directors must follow a set of rules in order to create truthful cinema "at the cost of any good taste and any aesthetic considerations." The restriction against any cosmetic alteration or genre might suggest a sober and humorless outcome, free from melodrama, but Chile's first Dogme 95 film proves otherwise. Residencia: Dogme #33, follows a freshman from the sticks to Santiago, where he joins what is apparently a Catholic frat. The insular setting of the residence hall allows for a number of subplots involving other students, which sometimes lends the film a soap opera quality oddly reminiscent of MTV's short-lived series Undressed, sans sex. Lest that send you running for the hills, the Dogme 95 style adds needed substance, constantly provoking re-evaluation of what we as viewers consider realistic, and whether those standards have something, if anything, to do with our own realities. – Jess Sauer

Saturday, April 23, 6pm, Metropolitan

ShortMetraje: Spanish Shorts

D: various

The seven short films featured in the Spanish Shorts program utilize many similar styles and tones to convey their usually grim subject matter, but the most obvious similarity is that they are all highly entertaining works of modern cinematic art. Music is an integral component of all seven of these shorts, whether as a narrative device or in setting the tone. These films all deal with dark themes, yet instill within their jagged boundaries a hopeful and humorous vibe. Highlights include María Trenor's 11-minute animated masterpiece "With What Shall I Wash It?," which follows the tragic life of a forlorn transvestite prostitute. This short would certainly receive an NC-17 rating for graphic sexuality and explicit imagery, but its beautifully bizarre and truly astounding animation and soundtrack give a brilliant view of a life many of us could never understand or imagine. Another standout among these standouts is the headlining short "10 Minutes." A desperate man who has recently lost his lover pleads with a customer service representative of his phone company to provide him with the number he needs to contact his ex-girlfriend, which she tells him is "unavailable." As the story unfolds and his pleading escalates, tears will form as audience members root for compassion to outweigh protocol. – Mark Fagan

Sunday, April 24, 4pm, Metropolitan

The World Stopped Watching

D: Peter Raymont

This follow-up to the 1988 documentary The World Is Watching returns to Nicaragua with some of the journalists who covered the Sandinista/Contra conflict throughout the 1980s. They revisit people they interviewed 15 years earlier, many of whom have never actually seen the images of themselves that once communicated the Nicaraguan struggle to the rest of the world. The doc is most provocative in its eerie juxtapositions of that old nightly news footage to new interviews with the same people. One reporter ends up interviewing a former Contra soldier who once held him at gunpoint. The tense encounter made for remarkable footage when it aired then on ABC, but is even more so now that the soldier has become a politician. Bridging the gap between the present and the 1990 election of a U.S.-backed candidate to the presidency, which ended Nicaragua's decadelong dominance of the international media spotlight, this doc tells the tale of both Nicaraguans and the journalists whose careers were defined by them. – Nora Ankrum

Saturday, April 23, 7pm, Metropolitan

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Cine Las Americas International Film Festival

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