Anyone who’s spent a block of days at any film festival knows that despite an event’s name or reputation or pedigree, in the end it’s all something of a crapshoot: the mid-afternoon film that you go in knowing nothing about, a few hours later becomes the film you can’t stop talking about; the hot-ticket number with a line around the block might elicit little more than a shrug and a few polite adjectives that night over drinks. You know what I mean.
Still, as fickle and as I can be when it comes to cinema, it has to be said that least year’s FICG in LA lineup was, film for film, one of the best-curated events I’ve had the pleasure of attending. Maybe it’s that FICG in LA gets to cherry-pick from the best if Guadalajara International Film Festival, itself the world’s premiere event for Spanish-language cinema (how is it I just found this out?). Maybe it’s simply a well-honed taste by a veteran programming team. Whatever combination of talent, insight and pixie dust was afoot, it was a full buffet of consistently smart, well-crafted and often challenging films with no low points to speak of. If going by the small number of films I’ve had a chance to preview is any indication, this year looks to be even stronger.
Sunday afternoon offers the festival’s first ever red-carpet event geared toward kids and their families: Anwar Safa’s award-winning EL JEREMIAS (JEREMY). A lively and touching tale of the challenges of being a kid genius in a household that just doesn’t get it, EL JEREMIAS features the criminally bright and adorable Martín Castro in a terrific centerpiece of a performance in a film that neatly balances sweetness with a smart look at class and family life in contemporary Mexico. Relatable to any kid who’s felt like an outsider and to any parent who’s struggled to give their child the best, EL JEREMIAS hits all the right notes. Did I mention how insanely adorable this kid is?
For documentary enthusiasts, or really anyone who appreciates powerful, uncompromised filmmaking, please find yourself at Saturday’s screening of Jean-Cosme Delaloye’s LA PRENDA (THE PAWN). Seriously. This is an expertly crafted profile of two women who’ve experienced the horror of Guatemala’s current kidnapping epidemic and its roots in a longstanding cultural devaluation of the lives of women and girls, and their resilience in the face of a fearfully indifferent society and a painfully slow, inept legal system. It is one of those rare, honest films that draws you in emotionally yet manages to move as an edge-of-you-seat thriller at the same time. Highly, highly recommended.
Lastly, a free screening! Maite Alberdi’s wise and wistful LA ONCE (TEA TIME) screens (appropriately enough) Sunday at 11:30am and is well worth penciling in and making your own noontime rendezvous. Warm and inviting, LA ONCE follows a tight-knit group of former Chilean schoolmates who’ve been keeping a once-a-month teatime for the past six decades. Weathering marriage, motherhood, divorce, widowhood, and whiplash-paced societal shifts, these women broach every topic with humor, insight and wisdom (and just enough goofiness to keep things fun) in this beautifully helmed documentary. Keep this appointment, dears.
See you there!