Monday, January 4, 2016

Neighboring Scenes Starts Thursday- here are some capsule reviews

Neighboring Scenes is a fantastic way to begin a year.

Normally my film year gets going with the New York Jewish Film Festival but this year we’re getting treated- and I do mean that- to some films from Latin America via the Neighboring Scenes series and we so much better for it.

The films cover a wide variety of genres and styles and based on the handful I’ve seen all kick serious butt. This truly is a sampler of the best of the best of films from the region. One of the films is the crushing THE CLUB and is so good it was a late addition to my Best of the Best for 2015.

While all of the information for the series can be found at the festival web page here, I’ve written up the small number of films I’ve seen below in the hope of getting you to go see something. The reviews are short at the request of the festival. I’m told all of the films are getting released over the next few weeks and they would prefer that full reviews run when the films actually hit US theaters.

In all seriousness based on the handful of films I’ve seen you need to get tickets and go. I’m in the process of rearranging my schedule so I can make a few more films because I am so high on what Ive seen.

Go see something.

Here’s the festival info.

And these are my reviews

Bleak is right.

Life in the slums of Mexico has two midget luchadores being drugged, robbed  and worse by two middle-aged prostitutes they pick up to celebrate a win. Based on a real life  incident this film is time in a dark and twisted place. Shot in a gorgeous black and white the film follows events as they happen which mostly involves everyone abusing and being abused. Its an overwhelming experience that follows possibly too many characters before focusing on the plight of the wrestlers. Recommended for those who like dark places.

This film will kick you to the curb.

It's a damning look at the Catholic Church and the evil that priests do as revealed by a bunch of priests who are being warehoused in a small coastal town in Chile. They are there because of what they did to children. Locked away they go through their days kept away from the other villagers and controlled in a strictly regulated manner. Their only outlet is training a greyhound for a race. One day a new priest arrives and before he can barely even sit down a young man claiming to have been abused by the priest stands outside and begins to shout graphic details about what happened to him. Everyone is terrified about being found out-when one of the men produces a gun and tells the new priest to go scare the shouting man - he does go outside and shoots himself.  What happens in the wake of shooting is the film.

Billed as a darkly comic film, all humor is choked out of the film in the first 20 minutes as a the screws are turned and it ll becomes more and more harrowing. By the time the black humor arrives with a crisis counselor there is nothing to laugh out at only pain and suffering and the urge to get sick. If the film is flawed in any way it's that it's just not funny despite a couple of attempts at uncomfortable humor.

I don't have words beyond this film will rock your world and it's easily it will be the first great film you will see in 2016. An absolute must see-but only for those with strong constitutions.

Treasure Island meets the Gold Bug in a hyper meta film about an actor who discovers the location of a treasure who tries to talk his friends int making a movie as a cover for a treasure search only to find out he's in a movie which he then bends to his ends to use as a cover  for the treasure hunt...but there is more as the film spins out in a several different directions as it ponders all sorts of questions and issues as it drifts in and out of levels of reality as it even questions reality and truth.

To be honest I stopped taking notes a short time into the film. It was not because the film was bad, more it was that I was being carried along by it's always surprising nature. Story threads and themes and issues keep raising their heads as we treated to a film that has a great deal on it's mind and is going to tell you in one stream of consciousness  telling. This is the sort of film that when it finished I wanted to go back through because I finally knew what it was doing.

While that is not perhaps a great review it should hopefully be enough to get you out to but some tickets for it.

Luis Ospina tracks the course of the Cali Group, a group of artist and friends who came together to change film, art and culture in Columbia through his own story.

If you can forgive some navel gazing and a longish section at the start focusing on Ospina's childhood and recent diagnosis with cancer this is a really good look at creativity and the need to create even if it's turning one's own life into fodder for the art gods.  This is one of the best looks at artists as human beings you'll ever run across and if you're up to its three and a half hour running time you'll come out both enlightened and as if you've spent time with a bunch of good people.

Worth a look if the subject interests you.

For more information and tickets on the series go here

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