Reviewer Ed Farolan

The 9th Annual VLAFF will open with El hombre de al lado (The Man Next Door). The Closing Gala Film is Chicogrande directed by Mexican filmmaker, Felipe Cazals. Films from Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and other Latin American countries will also be screened. For the first time in its 9-year history, there will be three competitions for short, documentary and feature-length films. Check VLAFF's website for updates.

Gatos Viejos

Chile 2010. Directors: Sebastian Silva and Pedro Peirano

Dates and Venue 3 Sep @ 1 pm & 7 Sep @ 7.15 pm Pacific Cinematheque

An excellently produced feature film which touches on Alzheimer's. Cinematography is beautiful, and I remember that famous Cerro Santa Lucia Park where the climax of the film is shot. Isadora and Enrique (into their eighties) live a comfortable life with their two old cats in a modest yet elegant apartment in Santiago’s old downtown district - complete with a lovely terrace and mountain views. They both maintain their independence and live happily until Isadora’s wild lesbian daughter Rosario visits with her female lover, Hugo, and try to force her to sign a power of attorney document. This is a great film and worth watching. The parallelism/symbolism between the old cats and the married couple makes this film an interesting topic for discussion in literature classes.

Las Marimbas del Infierno

Guatemala/France/Mexico 2010. Director: Julio Hernandez Colon

Dates and Venue 3 Sep @ 3 pm & 6 Sep @ 7.15 pm Pacific Cinematheque

The only thing that saves this film is introducing the marimbas, a traditional Guatemalan instrument that resembles a large xylophone. But the acting was bad, the dialogues silly, and the pace of the film was too slow. This is supposed to be a comedy, but no one laughed at the jokes. Perhaps the humour goes well with the Guatemalans, but I didn't find the intent at humour successful. Don Alfonso who plays the marimbas meets Blacko, a pioneer of the heavy metal Guatemalan underground scene and also a doctor in the public hospital, but nobody wants to be treated by him because of his long hair and rocker tattoos. They decide to combine their talents to form a band called “Marimbas from Hell” , but their music is bad and nobody wants to listen to them. Despite the fact that this film has won numerous awards, I got the feeling that these awards were given because there wasn't any other Guatemalan entry to the festival, and a token award had to be given.


Switzerland/France/Colombia 2010. Directors: Juan Jose Lozano and Hollman Morris

Dates and Venue 3 Sep @ 5 pm & 11 Sep @ 3.30 pm Pacific Cinematheque

An excellent documentary reflecting the corruption of the Colombian government. Well-researched, and the funny thng is the narration is in English, and the rest of the scenes with English subtitles. Superb cinematography, and graphic images of the massacres that took place in the late 1990s in the small villages by the paramilitary who were paid by big business and politicians of the country to get rid of protesting peasants. It carefully studies the investigations conducted by a commission of those responsible for the genocide of thousands of peasants who were deemed "communists", when in fact, this was nothing but a ploy of the big banana growers to rob the peasants of their lands using the military to rid small owners of lands using torture and other terror tactics to drive them away or kill them if they refused to surrender their lands. The ending is sickening with cover-up tactics giving impunity to those responsible. This is a gutsy documentary revealing the corruption in Colombian politics and big business.

El hombre al lado

El hombre al lado

Argentina 2010. Directors: Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat.

Dates and Venues 1 Sep @ 7 pm Granville 7 Cinemas & 5 Sep @ 9.15 pm Pacific Cinematheque

This is VLAFF's Opening Night Film which won the award for Best Argentine Feature Film at the 24th Mar del Plata Film Festival and Best Cinematography in the World Dramatic Competition at the Sundance. Although it garnered these prestigious awards, I found a few flaws in this film. The beginning was excellent, but then, the main plot started to digress into subplots that had no connection with the main conflict. There's the daughter of the main protagonist who doesn't pay attention to her father; then there are the super-rich parents with their Mercedes and talking about their trip to Italy, and so on and so forth, as though to fill in the gaps of a topic that can't go any further. Then there's the ending. There's no transition as though the directors decided that the film was getting too long and it was time to put an abrupt ending. That's the problem of having two directors. They probably got tired debating on scenes for the film that it ended up with "What's going on here?"



Mexico 2010. Director: Felipe Cazals

Date and Venue 10 Sep @ 8pm | Granville 7 Cinemas, Vancouver

Filmed in Durango, Mexico, an iconic film location for many Hollywood westerns such as the John Wayne classic True Grit (1969), Chicogrande was the opening film at the San Sebastián Film Festival in Spain in 2010, and received 10 nominations at the Mexican Film Awards, including Best Film and Best Director.  This is an excellent cowboy-type of a movie, and the only flaw I saw was the ending. Major Fenton didn't look like himself. His beard was shaved and his hair was in a mess. I couldn't recognize him. I also noticed in one scene, he was using a Sergeant's uniform. But the last scene was a bit confusing. He was sent back with his regiment back to the USA, and yet, he continued pursuing Pancho Villa. Chicogrande was being followed because Fenton was obsessed with capturing Villa, but it's not very clear at the end what happened. All we know from the text narration at the end of the film was that Pancho Villa continued on with his revolution. I think some editing for the last scenes of the film should have been done.

© 2011 Ed Farolan