September is Hispanic Heritage month and to celebrate, the Sie Film Center welcomes the return of CineLatino, a four-day film festival featuring 12 titles that showcase exemplary work coming from countries and cultures to the south.
This year’s lineup features many fine works from countries including Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Peru. Of the 12, the Colombian Manos Sucias (Sept. 26) is an exemplary piece of work about two estranged brothers hailing from the port of Buenaventura — the most dangerous city in Colombia — who find themselves at the bottom of the drug trade.
Hired to transport a torpedo filled with cocaine up the Colombian coast, Jacobo (Jarlin Javier Martinez) and Delio (Cristian James Abvincula) reconnect as director Josef Wladyka juxtaposes the horrors and violence of the drug trade with the quotidian: discussions about soccer, the prettiest girl in Buenaventura and fantasies about who their sons will grow up to be. All of this set on a rickety boat cutting through the Pacific with lush greenery as a backdrop. There is a familiarity to the story, but Wladyka tells it well and from an angle rarely seen. For his efforts, the Tribeca Film Festival awarded him with the Best New Narrative Director Award.
Manos Sucias isn’t the only entry from South America as CineLatino opens and closes with two uplifting documentaries from South America: one revolving around food, the other music. Finding Gaston (Sept. 24) opens the festival with a look at Peruvian master chef, Gaston Acurio, and his mission to bring Peruvian cuisine to the restaurants of Peru — where French cuisine still has a sizeable foothold — and, eventually, the world.
Acurio travels to various locations and learns the local recipes, but more importantly, he learns the stories behind them. Food is much more than substance for the body; it is a story and represents the people that cook these foods. Gaston makes it his mission to identify, disperse and preserve these recipes and stories. Finding Gaston is an excellent doc, but not one you should see on an empty stomach. Thankfully, the film center will host a pre-show reception to commemorate the festival.
The closing night documentary, Landfill Harmonic (Sept. 27), transports viewers to Cateura, Paraguay, a city of 2,500 families roughly 7 miles south of the capital, Asución. Asución is home to 2 million and is capable of producing 1,500 tons of trash daily, almost all of which end up in Cateura, making Gancheros — workers that comb through the rubble looking for recyclables — a major employment opportunity. For Favio Chavez, an idealistic teacher, all this garbage might lead to something more, and he recruits craftsmen to fashion musical instruments out of the refuse. The instruments are effective and Chavez uses them to teach children to play and assembles the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura.
The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura is a hit. Their YouTube videos go viral, they go on tour, share the stage with Megadeth and bring exposure to their small town. But while music soothes the savage beast, it cannot stop the waters from rising, and Cateura is dangerously located in a flood plain. Landfill Harmonic is a hopeful but honest look at how art can be used to transcend the personal struggle.
CineLatino offers movies, receptions, special introductions and activities for the whole family. Visit www.denverfilm.org for more information.