Between October 2 and 10 – and, again, in person – the Hola México Film Festival returns to Los Angeles. The event prides itself on being the largest outside of Aztec lands dedicated exclusively to cinema from the southern neighbor of the United States.
This 14th edition of the festival will present an official program of feature films, either Mexican productions or co-productions with English subtitles. This focus on producing from a single country sets Hola apart from the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival (LALIFF) and the El GuadaLAjara Film Festival (GLAFF).
But while all of Hola México’s offerings come from the same country, festival founder and director Samuel Douek offers a wide-ranging lineup in terms of themes, genres, genres, and filmmakers’ worldviews. The choice of Douek for the Sunday opening of his festival, “Lecciones para canallas” (whose English translation is “Lessons for Scoundrels”) illustrates this mission.
The comedy arouses interest due to the main role it gives to Joaquín Cosío, who, in addition to being widely known for his performances in popular Mexican films such as “Matando Cabos” and “El Infierno”, has become familiar to American audiences for his roles. in high-profile Hollywood productions like the James Bond film ‘Quantum of Solace’ and ‘The Suicide Squad’, as well as the acclaimed Netflix series ‘Narcos: México’.
A persuasive naturalist actor with a big personality, Cosío in “Lecciones” plays Dirty Barry (an obvious nod to Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry), a trickster whose moral wickedness is balanced by his burgeoning charisma. In the film, he unexpectedly teams up with his daughter, Jenny (Danae Reynaud), whom he hasn’t seen since she was a child, as a potential accomplice.
Director and co-writer Gustavo Moheno (“Eddie Reynolds and the Steel Angels”) crafts an entertaining, perversely contoured thriller that nonetheless fails because its risk-averse script fails to establish real emotional connections between the characters. Even so, the film breaks the mold of unimportant romantic comedies that abound in Mexico today. It will be screened on Sunday as part of an opening ceremony that begins at 4:30 p.m. and includes an after-party at the Montalbán Theater.
Opposed to the festival lineup is “El diablo entre las piernas” (“The devil between the legs”), the latest feature film (2019) by legendary filmmaker Arturo Ripstein, for whom a separate category should be created . At 78, the teacher is still as irreverent as ever: although his protagonists are an elderly couple (excellently played by Sylvia Pasquel and Alejandro Suárez), he refuses to soften his proposal – contrary to what the German director Michael Haneke did in his geriatric love. fable “Love” – showing its characters actively involved in a toxic relationship, with sexual situations and nude scenes.
Shooting in black and white, as he has done occasionally throughout his career, Ripstein once again draws inspiration from a script written by his collaborator and life partner, Paz Alicia Garciadiego, to develop a sordid story. laced with black humor. Some viewers will find his relentless investigation of macho sexuality and female submissiveness uncomfortable to watch. Yet, in the midst of their intentional excesses, Ripstein and Garciadiego end up achieving a curious balance between the characters, maintaining performances that are as risky as they are impressive, and in a staging whose virtuosity allows us to face a film at the both demanding and long (nearly two and a half hours). It will be screened on October 6 at 6 p.m. at the Montalbán Theater.
Hola México’s feature film lineup includes two dramas that depict tragedies born of the chaos generated by drug trafficking and the war on drugs and which, like “Miss Bala” (2011), “Rosario Tijeras” ( 2005) and “Maria, Full of Grace” (2004), focus on female characters.
In “Manto de gemas” (“Dress of Gems”), director and screenwriter Natalia López Gallardo – a Bolivian based in Mexico for two decades who is the wife and collaborator of acclaimed filmmaker Carlos Reygadas – takes a gendered perspective on her story of three women living in a desolate rural area: wealthy housewife Isabel (Nailea Norvind); his maid María (Antonia Olivares); and police officer Roberta (Aida Roa).
Norvind, known to Latin audiences for her appearances in 80s and 90s telenovelas, has been involved in several interesting independent film projects in recent years. Here she shows histrionic talents as a mother of two, recently estranged from her husband, who suddenly becomes obsessed with finding her workman’s missing sister.
María deals with this drama as she works undercover for a group of drug traffickers, while Roberta deals with the possibility that her teenage son belongs to the same criminal circle, part of a whirlwind of crimes that López Gallardo sometimes manages with a fairly direct narrative style. , but which she renders on other occasions with allegorical images and an artistic approach that is not entirely accessible.
Either way, the film stands out not only for its flawless finish and excellent performances, but also for the way it presents the devastating aftermath of the drug wars without depicting graphic violence. It will screen on October 4 at 5:15 p.m. at Regal LA Live.
“La Civil,” by Belgium-based Romanian writer-director Teodora Mihai, also focuses on a housewife separated from her husband. Much like Isabel, Cielo (brilliantly played by Arcelia Ramírez) puts his life on the line to find a missing person – his teenage daughter, who has been kidnapped by a cartel in northern Mexico.
However, unlike the “Robe of Gems” character, who aspires to be a white savior, Cielo is a woman of modest means who takes even more risks by closely following criminals and becoming an informant for the military. Although his adventures end up testing credulity, through his script – inspired by real events – Mihai manages to completely entangle the viewer in a story that combines social drama with elements of thriller, espionage and vigilante. It never weakens despite its 2h30 of autonomy. It will be screened on October 7 at 6 p.m. at the Montalbán Theater.
Finally, Hola México resumes its Nocturne section, dedicated to incursions into the fantastic, testifying to the advances of the genre within the Mexican industry. This is clearer in “Huesera,” another female auteur film, directed by Michelle Garza and written by Abia Castillo, with a female lead that employs a somewhat complex and not entirely new symbolism of motherhood as a kind of curse. Although this theme evokes Hollywood films like “Rosemary’s Baby”, Garza’s film relies on a series of specific circumstances and twists to acquire its own identity.
Valeria (beautifully played by newcomer Natalia Solián) is a young married woman who manages to get pregnant after several failed attempts and initially finds herself subject to the dictates of patriarchy reinforced by the women of her own family, in accordance with the scope of a Latin American machismo that is not limited or enforced only by men.
But Valeria is slowly freeing herself from these bonds, even in terms of sexual identity. The flashbacks that show her as a teenage punk rocker are offset by her current devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe and her later attempts to free herself from the curse that afflicts her with the help of certain healers.
Despite the fact that this is her first film, Garza is no stranger to the excellent performance of the lead actress, and her obvious mastery of cinematic language allows her to shake the viewer without resorting to resources. extravagant visuals. The special effects, supported by shocking sound clips, never cease to amaze. It is screened on October 7 at 9:30 p.m. at the Montalbán Theater.
The same section includes another film that commands attention, more for the concept it adopts than for the results it achieves, although these are not negligible. “Satanic Hispanics” is one of those essentially irregular horror anthology films, with a central narrator who tells stories thematically disconnected from each other and united simply by their belonging to the school of fear.
The strategy allows you to discover or rediscover the work of five directors already very popular with horror fans and who are not all of Aztec origin: the Argentineans Alejandro Brugués (“Juan of the Dead”) and Demián Rugna (“Terrified”) , Mexican American Mike Mendez (“Big Ass Spider!”), Cuban American Eduardo Sánchez (“The Blair Witch Project”) and Mexican Canadian Gigi Saul Guerrero (“Culture Shock”).
Each filmmaker directs one of the five episodes shown, almost always in Spanish and each displaying their own style. Although the alternation between the comic and the “hard” aspects of the genre means that the whole thing does not completely link together, the cultural elements that frequently seep into the stories give the whole film a very particular character. free from obvious budgetary constraints. There’s even more than one pleasant special effects surprise. Wait until you see the chilling depiction of La Santa Muerte, a deity the drug cartels have adopted as their patron “saint”. It will be screened on October 8 at 9:30 p.m. at the Montalbán Theater.
The 2022 edition of the Hola México Film Festival will include more than 20 feature films and 20 short films from Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today program.