Looking for a way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month? The Sie Film Center has a few ways for you, 15 in fact. Back for a third go around, CineLatino is one of the Front Range’s newest and best film festivals, and from September 22–25, CineLatino takes over the Sie with 12 narratives and three documentaries for a celebration of Latino cinema.
CineLatino kicks off Thursday night (Sept. 22, 7:00 p.m.) with The Vessel from writer/director, Julio Quintana. Shot on location in Puerto Rico, The Vessel is set in a town so ensconced in the aftermath of tragedy, that all of the women wear only black. Ten years ago, a tidal wave struck the seaside village’s elementary school, killing all the children inside. A small community to begin with is suddenly threatened with obsoletion in one fell swoop. The local priest (Martin Sheen) tries the best he can to instill faith back into the community, but to make that happen, he will need the help of Leo (Lucas Quintana), a young man who drowned, but miraculously awoke three hours later.
The Vessel is Julio Quintana’s first film as director, but he is far from a newbie to the business. Quintana is the protégé of three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki who, along with legendary director Terrence Malick — who is also an executive producer for The Vessel — developed a new and enchanting way of looking at the world. The Vessel contains Lubezki and Malick’s fingerprints, but Quintana eschews abstraction in favor of story, and he presents The Vessel in a straightforward manner with unabashed spiritualism. The result is an impressive debut from a strong new voice. And that new voice, along with lead actor Lucas Quintana and producer Maria Quintana, will attend CineLatino’s opening night festivities.
CineLatino is also the Front Range’s first chance to view director Pablo Larraín’s metafictional biopic, Neruda (Sept. 23, 7:00 p.m.). Neruda, Chile’s submission for the 2016 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, explores the poet and political figure Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) after he became a fugitive in his own country. The future Nobel Laureate manages to stay one step ahead of the ambitious officer (Gael Garcia Bernal) hot in pursuit. Larraín is a director who’s stock is on the rise — he was recently awarded the Silver Medallion at the Telluride Film Festival and the Platform Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival for his other new film, Jackie. With Neruda, Larrain flexes his stylistic muscles while embracing the poetry and imagination necessary to bring Neruda to life.
Like all worthy festivals, CineLatino offers something for everyone. A free screening of Nacho Libre (Sept. 24, 11:00 a.m.) starring Jack Black as a cook in a Mexican monestary who starts professionally wrestling as a luchador to raise money is perfect for young cinephiles looking for a laugh. For adults looking for something completely left of the dial, Neon Bull (Sept. 24, 9:30 p.m.) is a fascinating and unusual look at a Brazilian team of cow herders that work alongside traveling carnivals. Much like the director Gabriel Mascaro’s previous film, August Winds, Neon Bull presents an image of the world rarely seen and beautifully photographed.
And there are still 11 more offerings in this stellar program to discover. Movies, showtimes, tickets and passes are available at denverfilm.org
On the Bill: CineLatino. Sept. 22-25. Sie Film Center. 2510 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 720-381-0813. For more info go to denverfilm.org.