Documentaries often get treated like el hijo de la sirvienta (something Arnold Schwarzenegger knows a thing or two about). They get less attention than other films, make less money than other films, have less opportunities for distribution than other films and often have to fight for a theatrical release. So unless you are Michael Moore, film festivals offer the best chance for a documentary filmmaker to share their film with a wide audience. As a fan of doc films I try to do my part to help create a space for Latino filmmakers to share Latino stories.
As the Documentary Programmer at the New York International Latino Film Festival (a.k.a. the Resident Nerd), I have literally watched hundreds of docs. I know what you are thinking, “sounds boring.” I can assure you, it’s really not. Not all docs have to be serious. The documentaries we programmed this year are funny, cute, informative, and inspiring.
I put together a list of some of my favorite documentary films that will be playing at this year’s festival. Most of these films have never played in New York before and this may be your only chance to see them. So, put on your nerd glasses and invite your fellow cine-nerds to watch some of these amazing films. At the very least you can pick up some pointers on how to impress that smartie you’ve been Facebook stalking.
NEW YORK PREMIERE/87 MIN
Directors: Sandra Jordan and Gabriel Range
In Mexico, children as young as eight are trained to kill bulls ten times their weight. Michelito is ten and already a star, having killed over two hundred bulls. “Picasso was born to paint, Mozart to make music – and Michelito to be a matador,” boasts his father. Little Matador is an intense portrayal of children’s courage that is at once harrowing, beautiful and utterly compelling. Just don’t push the nerd envelope and show up in a toreador outfit.
Maria y Yo
NEW YORK PREMIERE/80 MIN
Director: Félix Fernández de Castro
María is a 14-year-old autistic girl, who lives with her mother May and is the daughter of celebrated comic book author Miguel Gallardo. The film chronicles the delightful and moving bond between father and daughter as they go on a week’s vacation. In awe of his daughter’s ability to happily live in another dimension, Gallardo says, “I don’t want people to treat her like a normal person. I want them to treat her like a queen.”
NEW YORK PREMIERE/75 MIN
Director: Ari Palos
Fewer than six in ten Latino adults in the United States have a high school diploma. Precious Knowledge is the unbelievable and inspiring story of high school seniors in the Mexican American Studies Program at Tucson High School. 82% of the students in the program will graduate and go on to college. Even still, state lawmakers attempt to eliminate the program.Their journey will astound you. Leave it to Arizona to continually support Latino students. [Sarcasm font.]
El Edificio de los Chilenos
NEW YORK PREMIERE/96 MIN
Directors: Macarena Aguiló Marchi and Susana Foxley
At the end of the 1970’s, the militants of MIR, exiled in Europe, decided to return to Chile in order to support the fight against the Pinochet dictatorship. Many had children they were forced to leave behind. It was then that the idea of a community center to shelter these children was born. Project Home gathered 60 kids who were left in the care of people who assumed the responsibility of their upbringing for years to come. This is their remarkable story. This is the year of the minors not miners.
The Coca-Cola Case
Directors: Carmen Garcia and Germán Gutiérrez
A searing indictment of the Coca-Cola empire and its alleged involvement in the kidnapping, torture and murder of union leaders trying to improve working conditions in Colombia, Guatemala and Turkey. The filmmakers follow labor rights lawyers Daniel Kovalik and Terry Collingsworth, and Ray Rogers, director of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, as they attempt to hold the giant U.S. multinational beverage company accountable. More than a talking-head documentary, The Coca-Cola Case is a gripping legal and human rights thriller. It might even make you switch to Coco Rico.
Director: Pamela Yates
A riveting tale of genocide and justice that spans four decades, two films, and in many ways, director Yates’ own career. Embedded in Granito is Yates’ seminal 1982 film, When the Mountains Tremble, which introduced the world to the tragedy of the Mayan genocide carried out by the Guatemalan government. Twenty-five years later that film becomes evidence in an international war-crimes trial and Yates reunites with Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchú and others who continue to contribute their granito (tinygrain of sand) in a quest for the truth. Official Selection at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
The New York International Latino Film Festival runs from August 15 – 21 at the Clearview Chelsea Cinemas and AMC Empire 25 (Times Square). Online ticket sales start Wednesday August 3. Follow NYILFF on Facebook for a chance to win prizes!