This cinephilic eye gazes South whenever festival line-ups are announced and is pleased that the 34th edition of the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF) offers a satisfying sampling of films from Latin America. Contributing writer Dominic Mercurio has already commented on three cortometrajes entered into MVFF's 5@5 programs: the U.S. / Mexican co-production Moonless Night (2010), the Argentine animation Luminaris (2011) and the Peruvian short A Doctor's Job (2010).
Wearing multiple hats, Julio O. Ramos serves as director, producer, screenwriter and editor for his award-winning 11-minute short A Doctor's Job (¡Una carrerita, Doctor!, 2010) wherein a young doctor (Miguel Iza) likewise wears multiple hats, moonlighting as a taxi driver on the streets of Lima to make ends meet. No matter where he finds himself working, however, his true "job" is to keep people alive: whether in the hospital emergency room, in the apartment where he houses his ailing mother, or in his cab when an unexpected emergency requires triage. Which job pays him the most is the narrative's implicit critique and moral quandary. Cinematographer Phil Klucsarits competently fills vehicular spaces with the kind of gripping intensity found in the films of South American compatriot Pablo Trapero. A Doctor's Job screens in 5@5: Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me.
From Argentina's Zaramella Animation Studios comes Juan Pablo Zaramella's incandescent and romantic fantasy Luminaris (2011), which suggests what it might be like if Jan Švankmajer took a shine to Buenos Aires. In a world controlled and timed by light, a common man (Gustavo Cornillón) dreams a plan to alter his destiny. As methodically as his window shutters open when the sun rises and close when it sets, our protagonist dutifully commutes to and from work each day; a slave to the diurnal. His work consists of chewing up clear marbles, blowing them out as light bulbs, and passing them over to his co-worker at work station 37, a young woman (María Alche). Like a true shakti, her skill is to envision the filaments glowing. Pilfering marbles and storing them in a large jar at home, our young man is discovered at work, given the boot, and drags himself back to his apartment, his dreams dashed. But his co-worker comes to his rescue with enough marbles to fill the jar, allowing the young man to create their dream vehicle of escape. But of course without her to bring light to his dream, neither can achieve mastery of the night sealed by a kiss. Lovely and imaginative, buoyantly scored to Osmar Maderna's vintage tune "Lluvia de Estrellas", Luminaris is an undisputed charmer, winner of the Annecy 2011 Audience and Fipresci Awards. Luminaris screens in 5@5: Hard Times. Trailer.
Also addressing the nocturnal is Bethynia Cardenas Iñiguez's thesis film Moonless Night (Noche Sin Luna, 2010). Without the benefit of moonlight, however, it becomes difficult for witnesses to recount what they really saw on an evening in the late '70s when Julio Hernandez (Alejandro de la Madrid) plummeted to his death from a high story apartment balcony. Accused of his murder, Oscar Rodriguez (Alberto Estrella) is unable to admit his misfortune as homophobic law enforcement railroads him into confessing a crime he did not commit, unable to accept a love he dare not admit. At a time when love dare not speak its name, how can love voice its truth? Moonless Night approaches an era of intolerance with forensic insistence and respectful insight. Moonless Night screens in 5@5: Just Like Strange Rain.