FIRST TIME DIRECTORS
Distancia / Distance, dir. Sergio Ramírez (Guatemala, 2010)—With over 150,000 killed, 45,000 disappeared, and a million people internally displaced over 30 years of ruthless war, the statistics of horror are even more harrowing when put in the context of a small country such as Guatemala, which didn't surpass 10 million inhabitants during the time of these events. A delicate and moving fiction portrait with an almost documentary precision and aching honesty, Distance tells the story of Tomás Choc, an older man who learns that his three-year-old daughter—who was taken from him during a military incursion on their K'iche' community—is still alive. Tomás decides to take a long trip to finally meet her after 20 years of separation.
Fecha de caducidad / Expiration Date, dir. Kenya Márquez (Mexico, 2011)—Ramona is a widow whose whole world changed when her only child disappeared. The only clue she has to find him is a minor cut she caused him when clipping his toenails. While looking for her son in desperation she meets the enigmatic Mariana, and at the morgue, the pathetic good-for-nothing Genaro. Expiration Date won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Miami International Film Festival. IMDb. Facebook.
Las Acacias, dir. Pablo Giorgelli (Argentina, 2011)—Rubén drives his truck from Asunción, Paraguay to Buenos Aires, Argentina. In this journey of 1,500 kilometers, he must take Jacinta and her five-month-old daughter, Anahí. The result of this trip turns out to be a triumph of the heart. It's clear to me why, at this point, Argentine filmmaker Pablo Giorgelli's debut feature Las Acacias has won 20+ awards on the festival circuit, including the Camera D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Las Acacias tells a spare but resonant story, hewing away all excess to reveal perfect sentiment. A film about fathers and loneliness and transformation; it is everything I love about Latin American cinema. Most audiences watching Las Acacias will presume it was easily made with a handheld camera, a couple of actors and a truck; but, this is the elegance of Pablo Giorgelli's artistry: he is a master at complicated simplicity. IMDb. Facebook. Wikipedia.
Octubre / October, dir. Diego Vega & Daniel Vega (Peru, 2010)—This award-winning film centers on Clemente, a middle aged loner who has made a living for years as a moneylender, a job that suits his almost neurotic, selfish way of seeing life. A master in taking advantage of people going through rough patches, Clemente is about to face a challenge for which he is clearly unprepared when he is entrusted with a baby girl. Enter Sofía, a devoted neighbor who can't help but care. As she becomes involved in Clemente's life, she will open a window for him to see beyond his own immediate needs, and maybe even start sharing other people's hopes and small joys. My interview with Diego Vega at October's North American premiere at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was published earlier on The Evening Class. IMDb. Facebook. Wikipedia.
Rompecabezas / Puzzle, dir. Natalia Smirnoff (Argentina, 2010)—Puzzle tells the story of María del Carmen (María Onetto), a woman whose main purpose in life is taking care of her husband and children. Her routine has a drastic change when she receives a puzzle as a present on her 50th birthday. She's as surprised as everybody in her home with the natural talent she shows at solving puzzles, and begins to work towards winning an important national tournament. Puzzle won Best First Film at the 2011 Argentinean Film Critics Association Awards and Best Screenplay at the 2011 Cartagena Film Festival. IMDb. Wikipedia.
At Variety, Jay Weissberg described "this femme-skewed chamber piece [as] a low-key charmer for auds open to its honest subtleties, boosted in no small part by María Onetto's beautifully modulated performance." At The Flickering Wall, Jorge Mourinha concurred that Puzzle is a "sensible, charming character study that effortlessly overcomes its slight narrative through attentive performances and handling." At Slant, Nick Schager concluded that "the film ultimately recognizes that liberating escape—or others' acceptance of new social-order dynamics—is usually the stuff of daydreams, and that the best subjugated individuals can often hope for is simply an opportunity to carve out a small, personal nook for themselves."
Ruta de la luna / Route of the Moon, dir. Juan Sebastian Jacome (Panama / Ecuador, 2012)—Tito, an introverted bowling champion must, suddenly and against his will, travel from his native Panama to San José in Costa Rica to take care of Cesar, his father who has fallen ill. They have a disaffected relationship. Cesar and Tito barely know each other. Tito's only wish is to go back to Panama as soon as possible to be able to participate in a Bowling Tournament, but Cesar has different plans for him. Route of the Moon boasts its world premiere at Panama IFF. Official site. IMDb. Facebook.
Las malas intenciones / The Bad Intentions, dir. Rosario García Montero (Peru / Germany, 2011)—Only Cayetana knows what is going on inside her head. It's not just anger at her absent father or her pretentious high-class stepfather and mom, for whom she seems almost invisible. There is also her obsession with painful death, with the gruesome battles, the heroes of the independence wars, and the experiments with physical suffering and furtive stealing, that have consequences she doesn't seem willing to understand. In her loneliness, the intelligent and gloomy 8-year-old decides her life will end as soon as her little brother is born. As this happens, her family also remains oblivious to the change that's breeding in the mountains, where guerrilla forces prepare to take on the establishment for its disregard of the poor. A trip to the beach might be the beginning of a true journey for Cayetana. This offbeat drama tackles the tumultuous Peru of the early '80s through the point of view of a kid in need of a real connection and a new outlook on the life that surrounds her. It won amongst others the best Latin American Feature Film Award at the Mar del Plata Film Festival. Official site [Spanish]. IMDb. Facebook. Wikipedia.
At Variety, Alissa Simon describes The Bad Intentions as "atmospheric" and "death-haunted" but claims the film offers more to admire than engage, bearing seemingly stylistic leanings towards Argentine auteur Lucrecia Martel "with realist, claustrophobic slice-of-life visuals that offer viewers only sparse background information and few emotional hooks." At The House Next Door / Slant, Oscar Moralde praises Montero's "nuanced portrait of childhood, clear-eyed yet sympathetic" that uses the terrible violence of The Shining Path as "the backdrop for a darkly comic portrait of Cayetana's morbid childhood." At Smells Like Screen Spirit, Don Simpson writes: "Garcia-Montero's film functions as an absurd allegory for bourgeois feelings of ambivalence towards an uncertain future."
Los colores de la montaña / The Colors of the Mountain, dir. Carlos César Arbeláez (Colombia / Panama, 2011)—Manuel is a nine-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a great goalkeeper. Ernesto, his father, gets him a new ball for his birthday; but the ball falls in a mined field that same day. Manuel convinces his two best friends, Julián and Poca Luz, to help him recover the ball: an adventure for these kids that live amidst the armed conflict in Colombia. Arbeláez was given the New Director's award at the 2010 San Sebastian Film Festival. The Colors of the Mountain also won Best Colombian Feature at the 2011 Bogota Film Festival and Best Screenplay at the 2011 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. IMDb. Facebook. Wikipedia.
At Eye For Film, Amber Wilkinson writes: "Shot almost entirely from the children's perspective, Arbeláez tackles universal themes of conflict and its impact on ordinary people without getting mired in specific politics. He deftly shows how quickly normality can disintegrate when conflict appears on the horizon. And despite having serious subject matter, he has a lightness of touch, an avoidance of outright displays of violence and an eye for the comedic that means older children could enjoy this as much as adults." At Film Lounge, Neil Young praises the "outstandingly fresh child-performance in the central role by pint-sized newcomer Hernán Mauricio Ocampo (a real find)" and claims that Ocampo's work was as good as anything he saw from an adult actor at the San Sebastian Film Festival. At Slant, Chuck Bowen describes The Colors of the Mountain as "a poetic and striking experience" and praises Arbeláez's understanding of "the succinct power of images."
El Estudiante / The Student, dir. Santiago Mitre (Argentina, 2011)—Upon arriving in Buenos Aires from a small Argentinean town to attend university, Roque Espinosa soon gets involved in the political moves that are quietly shaking his faculty. He proves himself worthy of the trust but will face further ethical questions surrounding his militancy. My TIFF 2011 interview with Santiago Mitre was previously published at MUBI. IMDb. Facebook.
Sangue do meu Sangue / Blood of My Blood, dir. João Canijo (Portugal, 2011)—This is a story of passion, adultery, incest and drugs from the reknown Portuguese director João Canijo. In Blood of my Blood, Marcia is a single mother of two, who works as a cook and shares her house with her sister Ivette. Claudia, Marcia's daughter falls in love with a married man, many years her senior; an affair that leads to disaster. Winner of the FIPRESCI prize at the 2011 San Sebastián International Film Festival. IMDb. Facebook. Wikipedia.
Diana Sanchez synopsized for TIFF 2011: "Magnificently acted and orchestrated, João Canijo's family saga, Blood of my Blood, depicts the harshness of life in inner city Lisbon and the sacrifices that two women are willing to make for their family. Marcia is determined to end the cycle of poverty for her family and when she discovers that her daughter is dating an older professor, she will stop at nothing to end this unwelcome relationship." At Variety, Robert Koehler concedes the acting is "gifted" but, otherwise, finds Blood of My Blood to be "an overlong portrait of a family living in one of Lisbon's rougher districts" whose "actual material consists of little more than the customary tropes found in many urban melodramas." His final impression is that Blood of My Blood "is, fundamentally, a high-class telenovela." At The Flickering Wall, Jorge Mourinha counters: "Contemporary Portuguese cinema finds another potential breakout film in João Canijo's eighth theatrical feature—a remarkable dive into a struggling working-class family that extends the director's fascination with the structure of classical tragedy into what is possibly his masterpiece. Undoubtedly, some will look at the convoluted comings and goings of this family drama as high-end soap-opera miserablism with a side order of voyeurism; but that doesn't take into account both Mr. Canijo's poised handling of the scenes (mostly captured in long takes unfolding before a discreetly moving camera), and the astoundingly naturalistic performances of the ensemble cast, who had a hand in structuring and developing the shooting script through a series of workshopped improvisations à la Mike Leigh."
After watching the U.S. premiere of Blood of My Blood at the 2012 Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF), film companion Frako Loden turned to me and quipped, "What's a mother to do?" I responded by quoting Eleanor of Aquitane in The Lion In Winter: "Ah well, what family doesn't have its ups and downs?" As prurient as a telenovela, Canijo's sprawling overblown family narrative is redeemed by an effectively claustrophobic sound score and visual stylistics that overlap frames as near approximations of split screen, creating a tense soap opera dense with texture. With so much going on—drug crimes, sibling rivalries, incest, teenage pregnancy, you name it—the family unit becomes a site of exposure and suppression. There's no privacy to be had within this family.
Bonsái, dir. Cristián Jiménez (Chile / France / Argentina / Portugal, 2011)—Julio’s story might not be that common. Out of his fear of sharing with his partner Blanca the fact that he didn't get the job he was counting on as a typist for a famous author's new manuscript, he starts writing his own novel, in which he recounts the relationship he had with Emilia, a fellow literature student eight years before. His memories set off a soul-searching process, as Julio realizes that he might just still have to find that woman he hasn’t heard of in ages. Director Cristián Jiménez treats the original novel by Alejandro Zambra in a careful manner, visible in the detailed cinematography and thoughtful use of literary devices for pacing. Going from adult, present-time Julio who is probably facing disenchantment, while taking care of the title's delicate plant, to the intense feelings and the awkwardness of youthful romance, the story builds on the apparent need for petty white lies to be part of growing old. The solid performances from the three leads anchor a well-executed drama that will surely gain notoriety for Jiménez, after the film premiered in Cannes and won Best Ibero-American Feature at the Miami Film Festival, 2012. IMDb. Wikipedia.
At Variety, Robert Koehler characterizes Bonsái as "one of the finest accomplishments from the freewheeling new generation of Chilean filmmakers", adding that by turns it is "gentle, deadpan, droll and sarcastic." At The House Next Door / Slant, Oscar Moralde writes that Bonsái "throws out suspense as one of its tools with a flourish that makes it obvious it has far more at its disposal." Finessing the film's title, Moralde adds: "It may come as no surprise that the titular tree is used as a metaphor for Julio's writing; he's told that the goal of bonsai is to 'reproduce the effects of nature on the tree,' a process which aptly describes what the film accomplishes as well." At Eye For Film, Amber Wilkinson considers Jiménez "an imaginative—if occasionally unruly—talent to watch" and states "the film still has considerable humor and charm, particularly in its portrayal of the fumblings, posturings and overexuberance of student love."
Chico & Rita, dir. Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, Toño Errando (Spain / United Kingdom, 2010)—Oscar® winner Fernando Trueba, who put together the now classic music documentary Calle 54 in 2000, has a history with Latin Jazz and its diverse roots. It comes as no surprise that he went all the way with the bold idea of producing an animated feature set mainly in Cuba in the 1940s and '50s. Chico & Rita is one of Panama IFF's Red Carpet galas. It won Spain's Goya Award in 2011 for best animated feature film. Official site. IMDb. Facebook. Wikipedia.
At Variety, Peter DeBruge is troubled by Chico & Rita's "real 'good tunes / bad toons' quandary" and claims its screenplay "would have made a perfectly charming live-action movie", especially without what he considers "lousy" animation. Roger Ebert likewise suggests that the reason for Chico & Rita's 2012 Oscar® nomination for Best Animated Feature "is the story and the music ... not the animation." At Popcorn Reel, by contrast, Omar Moore is uninhibited in his enthusiasm. He describes Chico & Rita as "incredibly rich in detail and teaming with passion and emotion" and "a beautiful, vibrant love story that pulses with energy and wonderful music." As for its animation? Moore describes it as "a gorgeous, eye-popping spectacle of color and sparkle that pays great tribute to Cuban music and artists, to 1940s and 50s Hollywood, Las Vegas and the glamour and electricity of New York City."
Un cuento chino / Chinese Take-Away, dir. Sebastián Borensztein (Argentina / Spain, 2011)—Roberto, the bad-tempered owner of a hardware store, whose life is cold and monotonous, meets Jun, a Chinese citizen who is thrown out of a taxi near the Buenos Aires airport. The man, who only speaks Mandarin, is picked up by the bitter Roberto, and together they live through unimaginable events which characterize the bizarre relationship between these two characters. The absolute lack of communication between the Chinese and the Argentinean in this comedy keeps the audience drawn in, leading it to discover details about the lives of these two characters. It is a universal story that narrates the encounter between two people of different cultures who come together with feelings of solidarity and justice. Sebastián Borenztein brings out the best of the recognized Argentinean actor Ricardo Darín in this film seen by more than 900,000 people in Argentina. It was the winner of the Goya Prize for Best Iberoamerican Picture and the Marco Aurelio Prize for Best Picture at the International Rome Film Festival. It is one of IFF Panama's red carpet galas. Official site [Spanish]. IMDb. Facebook. Wikipedia.
At Variety, Jonathan Holland praises Chinese Take-Away's "warm heart, affecting final act and a gold-plated perf by the reliable Ricardo Darín", despite other noted reservations. At Eye For Film, Jennie Kermode writes: "Beautfully shot and benefitting from sumptuously detailed set design, Chinese Take-Away is a tragicomic tale that mixes traditional narrative with magical realist vignettes. Darín is superb in the leading role, sympathetic even at his most misanthropic. [Darín]'s meanness is often delightful to watch as a dry humor undercuts the most poignant of scenes."
También la lluvia / Even the Rain, dir. Icíar Bollaín (Spain / Bolivia, 2010)—Even the Rain deals with the relationship between a skeptic film director and an idealist filmmaker as they work together on a project about the conquest of the American continent. While shooting in their main locations in Bolivia, they find themselves in the middle of the indigenous struggle known as the Water Wars. My interview with Icíar Bollaín from the 2011 PSIFF was previously published on The Evening Class. Official site. IMDb. Facebook. Wikipedia.
Habana Eva, dir. Fina Torres (Cuba / Venezuela / France, 2010)—Out of necessity, Eva works in an industrial sewing shop even though what she enjoys doing is putting together more creative models instead of assembly line confections. Her dream: to have money for getting married and design models which will make the people who wear them feel good about themselves. Habana Eva has been one of the great surprises of film festivals in the United States and Latin America. IMDb. Facebook. Wikipedia.
Heleno, dir. José Henrique Fonseca (Brazil, 2011)—José Henrique Fonseca crafts an ambitious and long overdue homage to a central icon in Brazil's 20th century history. Reminiscent of film noir classics, the biopic tells the story of soccer player Heleno de Freitas, following the dramatic arc of rise and fall in a fashion that has gamered the film comparisons to cult film Raging Bull. Just as in Jake LaMotta's story, Heleno suffers his own punishing temperament and erratic love life, which will ultimately get him out of the game forever (an untreated syphilis and the abuse of ether make him an old and sick man who ends his days alone). The sumptuous black and white cinematography presents the chic life of Rio de Janeiro, a jewel city in the 1940's that fell under the spell of sports-royalty. Heleno was no doubt one of the most popular players for his bravura in the field leading the Botafogo team to the top. But the player's story is also that of the world at the time, and WWII kept him from playing in the two world cups he should have won for his century. IMDb. Facebook.
Juan de los muertos / Juan of the Dead, dir. Alejandro Brugues (Cuba / Spain, 2011)—On the day of the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution a mysterious plague unleashes on the streets of Havana, with zombies starting to be seen and multiplying exponentially by the minute. The authorities blame imperialistic maneuvers from the North on the vicious takeover, and are soon overwhelmed by the mounting chaos. The apocalypse seems irreversible. But before all hope is lost an unlikely team is formed that can possibly defeat the odds: Juan, a middle-aged man of unspecific occupation and his pal Lázaro are luckily on a fishing excursion at the beginning of the outbreak. The two men quickly realize there is a business opportunity if they stay alive, and start offering their zombie extermination and removal service to the living that can afford it. "Juan of the Dead, we kill your loved ones" is their slogan. Official site. IMDb.
At Twitch, Josh Hurtado writes: "The film is filled with clever dialogue, plenty of solid gore, the blackest of black humor, and geek humor for miles. There are very inventive zombie kills, including one in particular that involves a truck, a wire, and about three hundred of the undead that it really the piece de resistance of Juan of the Dead." Quiet Earth declares "how much fun it is to see the zombie apocalypse in yet another new locale, and the Havana alleyways, rooftops, tenement buildings, and beachfronts are consistently lush and brim with detail and character."
Lope, dir. Andrucha Waddington (Spain / Brazil, 2010)—Lope is a Spanish production that reenacts the life and works of one of the most important authors of the XVI Century, Félix Lope de Vega Carpio. In the film, Lope de Vega (Alberto Ammann, who also starred in the successful Celda 211) arrives in Madrid, looking to set free his art, the written word. This biopic is narrated with the dynamism of a film super production. With a budget of over thirteen million Euros, it is one of the best of the Spanish film industry. Described as a historical adventure, passionate and exciting—as are the texts of Lope de Vega's feverish imagination—the movie presents his constant struggle to satisfy his desires while love crosses his path. And so this writer's life is presented. The film makes the audience a witness of how Lope learns about love, how he is sought out by officials, jailed, threatened by hit men, and how he triumphs, leaving as legacy the most prolific works of the Golden Century in Spanish Literature. Official website [Spanish]. IMDb. Wikipedia.
At Variety, Jonathan Holland writes, "Wisely playing to its limitations, pic is compact and efficient rather than grand and sweeping, with little adventure but many striking setpieces and a clutch of fine perfs." At The Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young characterizes Lope as "a classy production that rises above the swashbuckling television costumer it could have been."
Nostalgia de la Luz / Nostalgia For the Light, dir. Patricio Guzmán (Chile / Germany / France, 2010)—This documentary by Patricio Guzmán takes place in Chile's Atacama Desert. It makes a parallel comparison between the exploration of the ends of the galaxy by a group of astronomers through the translucent desert sky and the relentless search by a group of women for the remains of their relatives who disappeared during the dictatorship. My 2010 TIFF interview with Patricio Guzmán has been previously published on MUBI. IMDb. Facebook. Wikipedia.
El gato desaparece / The Cat Vanishes, dir. Carlos Sorin (Argentina, 2011)—Luis, a renowned academic, comes back home after spending time in a psychiatric ward due to a psychotic crisis. His wife Beatriz is happy to have him back, but after their cat Donatello fails to recognize the man and goes missing, the question of whether Luis is completely cured will take life-threatening dimensions. IMDb. Facebook. Wikipedia.
At Variety, Rob Nelson writes: "Playing with '40s-era Hitchcock as a cat would toy with a mouse, Argentine writer-director Carlos Sorin's The Cat Vanishes cleverly updates the likes of Spellbound and Suspicion with its slow-burning tale of a Buenos Aires woman (Beatriz Spelzini) whose fear of her psychologically recovering hubby (Luis Luque) gradually drives her as crazy as he was—and maybe still is. Subtly and acerbically funny, Sorin's pic also works as a dead-serious study of marital mistrust and potentially murderous impulses. This Cat might not have nine lives at the international B.O., but fests far and wide will undoubtedly want to pounce." At The House Next Door / Slant, Joseph Jon Lanthier dubbed The Cat Vanishes as the "first great movie" he'd seen at TIFF 2011. "The film's ambiguity eventually and icily topples over into a definitive reference point of danger," Lanthier writes, "but the action is ruthlessly internalized within Beatriz's shadow of a doubt throughout the most nail-biting sequences."
Las razones del corazón / The Reasons of the Heart, dir. Arturo Ripstein (Mexico / Spain, 2011)—Overwhelmed by monotony and the sense of meaninglessness, Emilia retreats steadily further away from her role as a mother and housewife. She regrets the life she has lived, which she finds as a contrived mise-en-scène of a well to do family that keeps them continuously in the red with creditors, and that has estranged their own disaffected daughter. The joy and hope brought to Emilia by her secret lover are fading as well. The scenery to all this couldn't be more telling: she suffocates in a cold, rundown apartment she never liked but is unable to leave (the almost theatrical setting and tension are masterfully rendered by cinematographer Alejandro Cantú in a stark black and white palette). The day comes when Emilia can't take it anymore: her lover leaves her and the bank takes action on the unpaid debts. It is time for a decision she has been considering for a while; one that can put an end to it all. Veteran Mexican author Arturo Ripstein tries his hand with the timeless question posed by French classic Madame Bovary: How much can we take or do for love? IMDb. Facebook.
La voz dormida / The Sleeping Voice, dir. Benito Zambrano (Spain, 2011)—Pepita (María León) is a young girl from Córdoba, Spain, who leaves her town and goes to Madrid in order to be near her pregnant sister Hortensia (Inma Cuesta), who is in jail during the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Hortensia is condemned to death, but her sentencing will take place after she gives birth. Therefore, Pepita moves heaven and earth to receive pardoning for her sister's crime, and to get custody of her baby, instead of having it sent to an orphanage or put up for adoption. Adapted from a novel by Dulce Chacón, this Spanish drama recreates the horrors of the Francoist era. Inma Cuesta, the popular actress from Andalucía, heads the cast of The Sleeping Voice, which was awarded three Goyas for Best Leading Actress, Best Upcoming Actress and Best Song. Official site [Spanish]. IMDb. Facebook.
At Variety, Jonathan Holland observes: "A harrowing drama that transforms the sorry plight of female prisoners in post-Civil War Spain into a bleak examination of man's inhumanity to women, The Sleeping Voice magnificently tells a tale that needs to be told and retold. Shrewdly remaining mainstream while plumbing the depths of grief and violence, this engrossing pic is often unbearably intense in its depiction of atrocities, and affecting in its portrayal of its protags' doomed fight against politics and patriarchy." At The Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young stages complaints about the film, but admits the "vivid performances by attractive leads María León, who won Best Actress kudos at the San Sebastian festival, and the fiery Inma Cuesta do add interest."
Violeta se fue a los cielos / Violeta Went to Heaven, dir. Andrés Wood (Chile, 2011)—This ambitious portrait of a complex and central figure in last century's Chilean and Latin American popular song and culture threads different timelines and aspects of the multifaceted artist's life, without a linear structure but like the lively quilts (arpilleras) she so loved and got to show to the world. Based on the biography written by her son Angel, the mesmerizing narrative covers Violeta Parra's modest upbringing and the trips she made to the heart of Chile's countryside to research and preserve autochthonous songs that were vanishing from the memory of elder peasants. It follows her on the tour as part of a small circus troupe that performed for miners, the time she spent in communist Poland, her residence in France, and her return home to build the tent where she devoted herself to showcasing and fostering the folkloric arts and national identity. Her contradictions and shortcomings, her romantic life, fears and dreams are all fundamental to complete a poignant and passionate life-story. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema at the Sundance Film Festival, 2012. Official site. IMDb. Facebook. Wikipedia.
At Variety, Jonathan Holland writes: "The intense, remarkable life of the Chilean singer-songwriter Violeta Parra is explored with sensitivity and exquisite lightness of touch in Andrés Wood's Violeta Went to Heaven. Featuring a searching central perf from Francisca Gavilan, this beautifully lensed portrait moves elegantly back and forth in time to limn the life of a woman who perpetually struggled to find her place."