Take Five

Recommended at Cine las Americas

Take Five

1) 'Marimbas del Infierno'

At first glance, there is nothing funny about Marimbas del Infierno (Marimbas From Hell), the Guatemalan comedy that opens the 14th annual Cine las Americas International Film Festival. A miserable musician sits alone in his home, explaining to an unseen documentarian how extortionists have wrecked his family and his career. Don Alfonso (Alfonso Tunche) is a quietly pathetic figure and a possibly delusional champion of a dying genre of folk music. His salvation from cultural alienation may be Dr. Gonzalez (Roberto González Arévalo): In his alternate identity as death metal drummer Blacko, the part-time medic is another resident of the margins of Guatemala's conservative artistic community. Along with love-struck young gas huffer Chiquilin (Víctor Hugo Monterroso), their attempts to create the first marimba metal band are as much a fusion of the nation's past and future as they are of musical styles.

Writer/director Julio Hernández Cordón describes the film as a lost story from his nihilist teen drama Gasolina (a 2007 CLA alum), but this oddly endearing comedy steers away from dark social realism and closer to the wry humor of Aki Kaurismäki. It is the humor of the absurd as Alfonso watches his culture slip away from him, all the while dragging his piano-sized marimba through the streets. Engraved with words "Sempre Juntos" (always together), Cordón lets it serve as an unsubtle but sometimes hilarious visual metaphor for Alfonso's odd plight. Making a virtue of his microbudget and inexperienced cast, Cordón draws humor from such contradictions and situations. That makes a certain pathos unavoidable as the three street-corner innovators bumble through bureaucracy and the fine art community. Yet even as he catches the poverty-stricken markets and back alleys with a photojournalist's eye, there is still a delicate charm to the threesome's misadventures. If Gasolina was born of Cordón's frustration with Guatemala's wasted youth, Marimbas del Infierno is his love song to the creative impulse in all its unlikely forms.

Thursday, April 21, 7pm, Alamo South Lamar

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