Thursday, December 3, 2009


The Sundance FIlm Festival, a.k.a. the golden ticket of independent filmmaking, recently announced the complete roster for its upcoming 2010 edition. It includes a good number of Latino films from the U.S., as well as Spanish and Latin American fare. Even Colombia and Bolivia (the latter rarely, if ever, has a film in the festival). Here are all the selected films by category:


Secrets of the Tribe/Brazil (Director: José Padilha)—Scandal and infighting abound in the academic Anthropology community regarding the representation and exploitation of indigenous Indians in the Amazon Basin. World Premiere

Sins of My Father/Argentina,Colombia (Director: Nicolas Entel)—The life and times of notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar are recounted through the eyes of his son, who fled Colombia to move beyond his father’s legacy. North American Premiere (I'm pulling for this one since my good friend Juan Aceves did the sound work on it!)


Contracorriente (Undertow)/Colombia, France, Germany, Peru (Director and screenwriter: Javier Fuentes-Leon)—An unusual ghost story set on the Peruvian seaside, a married fisherman struggles to reconcile his devotion to his male lover within his town’s rigid traditions. Cast: Cristian Mercado, Manolo Cardona, Tatiana Astengo North American Premiere

The Man Next Door (El Hombre de al Lado)/Argentina (Directors and Screenwriters: Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat)—A small incident over two neighbors common wall sparks a conflict which affects the intimacy of the view over the chimney; the protagonist sparks a conflict and with a paranoiac obsession destroys everyday life. Cast: Rafael Spregelburd, Daniel Araoz, Eugenia Alonso, Ines Budassi, Lorenza Acuna. International Premiere

Me Too (Yo también)/Spain (Directors and screenwriters: Álvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro)—A 34-year-old college-educated man with Down syndrome and his free-spirited co-worker forge an unconventional relationship. Cast: Pablo Pineda, Lola Dueñas, Antonio Naharro, Isabel Garcia Lorca, Pedro Alvarez Ossorio. International Premiere

Southern District (Zona Sur)/Bolivia (Director and screenwriter: Juan Carlos Valdivia)—In La Paz, Bolivia, in a villa surrounded by beautiful gardens, an upper-class family experiences final halcyon days of luxury as social change penetrates their bubble. Cast: Ninón del Castillo, Pascual Loayza, Nicolás Fernández, Juan Pablo Koria, Mariana Vargas. North American Premiere


Abel/Mexico (Director: Diego Luna; Screenwriters: Diego Luna and Agusto Mendoza)—A peculiar young boy, blurring reality and fantasy, assumes the responsibilities of a family man in his father’s absence. Cast: José María Yazpik, Karina Gidi, Carlos Aragon, Christopher Ruiz-Esparza, Gerardo Ruiz-Esparza.. World Premiere


Memories of Overdevelopment / USA (Director and Screenwriter: Miguel Coyula)—Live action mixes with animation and newsreel footage of historical events to form a collage that emulates the way personal memory works for a misanthropic Cuban intellectual. An adaptation of a novel by Cuban author Edmundo Desnoes. Cast: Ron Blair. World Premiere

Oddsac/USA (Director: Danny Perez)—Perez)—An earthy, psychedelic experimental narrative infused with the band, Animal Collective’s aural and musical sensibilities. World Premiere


Buried/Spain,USA (Director: Rodrigo Cortes; Screenwriter: Chris Sparling)—A U.S. contractor working in Iraq awakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter and a cell phone it’s a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap. Cast: Ryan Reynolds. World Premiere


Mother & Child/USA/Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Rodrigo García)—The lives of three women—a physical therapist, the daughter she gave up at birth three decades ago, and an African American woman seeking to adopt a child of her own intersect in surprising ways. Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Naomi Watts, David Morse, Annette Bening, Amy Brenneman U.S. Premiere
This year, Sundance decided to start a new category called "Next" to highlight films made on microbudgets that were being left out in previous editions of the festivals. The criticism that I've heard time and time again from filmmakers is that if your submission is unsolicited it's practically impossible to get into Sundance. In other words, without an agent or a friend with power in Hollywood your film doesn't stand a chance. Presumably, the films included in the "Next" category came from average Joes with no connections. But is that enough for Sundance to combat their elitist reputation? Looking at the competition categories, there are a number of films that easily exceed the $1 million dollar budget mark. The question is, why do they need to make special categories for lower-budget films? Does the quality and artistry of a film really depend on the money required to make it? I think Sundance still needs to do more. For starters, how about publishing a list that lets the public know which films were selected via regular submissions versus the ones that were pushed by rep agencies like Cinetic. Until there's more transparency, Sundance will remain, at least in my mind, an exclusive playground for a select few.

1. Sundance Film Festival marquee
2. Poster: "Los pecados de mi padre" ("The Sins of My Father")
3. "Zona Sur" ("Southern District")
4. "Mother and Child"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


DiazFilm, in association with Cinema Tropical, today unveiled the Top Ten Latin American Films of the Decade, as chosen by a select group of New York film professionals whose work has been focused on the promotion and dissemination of Latin American cinema in NY and the U.S. Lucrecia Martel's seminal "La cienaga" took the top spot on the list. Rather than writing a separate article, I'll just post part of the press release we drafted, which has now made its way to news agencies all over Latin America and the world:


New York, December 1, 2009 – Cinema Tropical, the premier purveyor of Latin American cinema in the U.S., has compiled a list of the Top Ten Latin American Films of the Decade (2000-2009) based on a survey of distinguished critics, scholars and film professionals based in the New York City area.

The respected Argentine director Lucrecia Martel, accomplished an amazing feat by making the top ten with the three films she has directed to date. Her first film La Ciénaga got the first place spot and she also occupies the eighth and ninth spots with La mujer sin cabeza (The Headless Woman) and La niña santa (The Holy Girl) respectively.

Under the initiative and coordination of filmmaker and blogger Mario Díaz ( this first-ever survey of its kind was culled from 33 prominent local voices in film whose work has been devoted to the promotion and dissemination of Latin American cinema in New York and the United States. In all, 122 films representing 13 Latin American countries were nominated for the distinction of being Best of the Decade, demonstrating the great quality and diversity of films from the region.

“The project of creating this list had a two-fold intention, on one hand to serve as a promotional campaign to honor all the great film work that the region has produced in the past few years, and secondly to pay some kind of tribute to the professionals that have helped promote Latin American cinema in this city” says Carlos A. Gutiérrez, co-founding director of Cinema Tropical.

The so-called “Three Amigos,” Mexican directors Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros) all made the top ten. Their three breakout films earned a combined $56 million dollars at the U.S. box office alone, elevating each of them to A-list status. Indeed the “Three Amigos” went on to direct such high-profile international films as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Cuarón), Hellboy II (Del Toro), and Babel (González Iñárritu). In 2006, they joined forces to form a production company called Cha Cha Cha Films.

Argentina is the country with the most films on the overall list with 43 mentions, whilst Mexico has four films in the first ten places. However, Brazil has a significant presence throughout the survey with 30 films out of 122 films mentioned. This includes two in the top ten: Fernando Meirelles’ City of God at number four and the documentary feature Bus 174 by directors José Padilha and Felipe Lacerda at number five. Looking at the top twenty-five, Karim Ainouz’s Madame Satâ came in at number 14, while the feature documentaries Santiago by Joâo Salles and Jogo de Cena by Eduardo Coutinho came in at 20 and 22 respectively.

Despite the fact that many of the films in the list never had a US theatrical release and that Latin American cinema is not yet widely seen in the U.S., the list demonstrates that there is a wealth of films being produced in the region year after year, and that cinephiles outside the country (or at least in New York) are taking notice. For example, Brazilian director Eduardo Coutinho, who remains largely unknown to audiences in America, has four films on the overall list: Jogo de cena (Playing, #22), Edificio Master (Master, a Building in Copacabana, #27), Peões (Metalworkers, #45), and O fim e o principio (The End and the Beginning #78).

Other notable performers include Argentine filmmaker Pablo Trapero who has four films included in the list, fellow Argentine Carlos Sorín with three, and Mexican arthouse favorite Carlos Reygadas who has three films as well, including the top ten entry Silent Light (#3) and Japón (#14).

“Best Of” lists usually favor recent releases, but the participants of this survey stuck to quality and personal taste as the principal criteria for their selections. The result is a balanced list made up of picks from the entire decade. In fact, six of the films in the top ten were released in 2004 or before.

“The decade that is about to conclude marked a turning point in Latin American cinema. Never before did Latin American films enjoy such critical and box office success internationally and in the U.S.” says Mario Díaz and adds, “this list is not only a powerful reminder of the great quality and abundance of films that emerged from Latin America in the last 10 years but also a celebration of Latin American cinema’s coming-of-age, for it is now considered at par with the world’s best.”

The Top 10 Latin American Films of the Decade are:

1) La Ciénaga Lucrecia Martel Argentina 2001

2) Amores Perros Alejandro González Mexico 2000

3) Luz silenciosa Carlos Reygadas Mexico 2007
(Silent Light)

4) Cidade de Deus Fernando Meirelles Brazil 2002
(City of God)

5) Ônibus 174 (Bus 174) José Padilha, Brazil 2002
Felipe Lacerda

6) Y tu mamá también Alfonso Cuarón Mexico 2001

7) Whisky Juan Pablo Rebella, Uruguay 2004
Pablo Stoll

8) La mujer sin cabeza Lucrecia Martel Argentina 2008
(The Headless Woman)

9) La niña santa Lucrecia Martel Argentina 2004
(The Holy Girl)

10) El laberinto del fauno Guillermo del Toro Mexico/Spain 2006
(Pan’s Labyrinth)

To view the complete list of films, participants, and individual selections please visit:

In case you were wondering, these are my personal selections:

1) Y tú mama también (2001) Mexico
2) La mujer sin cabeza (2008) Argentina
3) La nana (2009) Chile
4) Diarios de motocicleta (2004) Argentina
5) Bus 174 (2002) Brazil
6) Los guantes mágicos (2003) Argentina
7) Cama adentro (2005) Argentina
8) Cidade de Deus (2002) Brazil
9) Turistas (2009) Chile
10) El camino de San Diego (2006) Argentina

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


So I got all dressed up in a suit and attended the fancy 19th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards last night at Cipriani's on Wall Street. I got to rub elbows with the likes of Willem Dafoe, Alec Baldwin, and Meryl Streep, but mostly I was there to see my work projected on two big-ass screens. For the third year in a row, I've produced and edited the Tribute and Nomination Reels shown at the event. This year, the IFP (organizers of the event) paid tribute to Natalie Portman, Stanley Tucci, and director Kathryn Bigelow. I'm happy to report that the reels were well received and there were no technical issues (which is always my fear). Here's the Tribute Reel I edited for Stanley Tucci:

As far as the actual awards go, I was especially pleased that Catalina Saavedra, who gives a powerful performance in "La nana" ("The Maid"), took home an award for Breakthrough Actor. I got to meet her and chat with her for a while, and she couldn't be more gracious and sweet. Fortunately, she's nothing like the dour character she plays in the film. I think she's totally deserving of the award (she beat frontrunners Jeremy Renner and Patton Oswalt). Here's hoping this is just the beginning of a long awards run! For a complete list of winners, click here.

Speaking of awards (and "The Maid"), the nominations for the Independent Spirit Awards were announced today and wouldn't you know it... "The Maid" was nominated for Best Foreign Film. Mexican documentary filmmaker Natalia Almada was also nominated for the Truer Than Fiction award for her film "The General." Finally, Brazilian director of photography Adriano Goldman was nominated in the Best Cinematography category for his work in "Sin Nombre." Here is the complete list of nominees. The awards will take place on Friday, March 5, 2010 at 8:00 p.m and will air on IFC.