There are tons of small film festivals around the world, good ones, bad ones, specialized ones, generalized ones. The very best of these are the well-curated festivals of discovery - the ones whose lineups reflect a scholarly approach by expert programmers. We're lucky enough to have a number of these in Austin, none better than Cine Las Americas
, in its 19th year of presenting films from Latin America and the Iberian peninsula.
"Cine" (as it is most frequently abbreviated by Austinites, in the same manner as "South-By"), presents films that are far off the radar, like MAGALLANES, the opening night presentation, which screens on Wednesday May 4 at the Marchesa.
Made in Peru by actor-turned-director Salvador del Solar, MAGALLANES is, as you might expect for a film made by an actor, a showcase for its exceptionally fine performers, who enact a story full of historical resonance for Peruvians and Americans alike. The theme of a nation coming to terms in a hard way with its cruel past is a big one, and its maker makes exactly the right choice by making the story a small one - a morose middle-aged taxi-driver, formerly a member of a paramilitary torture squad, spots a young woman who had escaped from the general's clutches as a child and is attempting to make a life for herself in the city. He attempts to make amends secretly by helping her, but the buried past is powerful and casts a shadow on their lives and the lives around them. It's a remarkable film and the climax packs a rare punch.
MAGALLANES, like so many films in the fest, will likely never have American theatrical distribution, which means that for most of us, this fest will be the only way to see this film. This is the case with most of the films presented by Cine Las Americas, and that's a big part of what makes the fest so important.
On Friday May 6, AFS is honored to copresent the Chilean film LAS PLANTAS, a dark, transgressive coming-of-age story about a teenage girl who escapes her familial problems first via the fantastic world of a popular comic book and then through the world of furtive, internet-aided sexual assignations.
Cine Las Americas runs from May 4-8 at a variety of Austin venues, including the Marchesa Hall & Theatre. There are 38 feature films this year and a whole raft of short films. Badges are available, as are individual tickets. One third of this years presentations are free for all. More details at cinelasamericas.org.