LALIFF 2024: 8 films to see at this year's festival


With new leadership and more ambitious industry initiatives, the Los Angeles International Latino Film Festival has undergone full expansion. This year's event, which begins Wednesday and runs through Sunday, nearly doubled the number of feature films on its lineup. The 21 titles represent artists from across Latin America and the United States that reflect the scope of the complicated and vague concept of Latinidad, in languages ​​including Spanish (in its many dialects), English, Portuguese and even Mixtec.

To help you navigate the lineup, we've highlighted eight films playing at LALIFF this weekend that we think offer exceptionally compelling experiences.

Around 30

For anyone who has ever felt adrift or behind in life, this deeply observed and inventively structured Argentine tragicomedy draws dry humor from the absurdity of social norms and the despondent behavior of its protagonist. Martin Shanly writes, directs and stars in the lead role, playing Arturo, a lanky, soft-spoken man in his 30s whose inability (or unwillingness) to take charge of his own life is so frustrating (for the supporting characters) as endearing identifiable. Told by interspersing a March 2020 wedding with vignettes from the years leading up to Arturo's streak of self-inflicted misfortune, Shanly's auspicious debut feature brilliantly taps into the anxious feeling of knowing you didn't live up to others' expectations of you. and you got lost trying to get there.

Bachata by Bionico

'Bionico's Bachata'

Bionico (Manuel Raposo), a charismatic outcast, funds his drug addiction by working odd jobs in his impoverished neighborhood in this harrowing, explicit and deliriously unpredictable Dominican mockumentary. Bionico's girlfriend, La Flaca (Ana Minier), is about to leave a rehabilitation center and the protagonist has promised to get sober and stabilize financially to support her. Easier said than done. In the company of his best friend Calvita (El Napa) and a plethora of other equally wild characters, Bionico will try to change his ways. From its fantastic opening shot, this boldly hilarious debut feature from director Yoel Morales announces itself as an imaginative, unbiased portrait of marginalized characters.

Memories of a body on fire

'Memories of a body on fire'

An actress embodies the stories of three old women in this docufiction artistically executed by Costa Rican director Antonella Sudasassi Furniss. Speaking candidly about their sexual awakening, their unfulfilled longings, the abuse they suffered, and the recognition that even now they crave physical contact, subjects recall specific chapters throughout their lives that made them aware of the restrictions placed on women in a patriarchal society. Their wants and needs were often secondary to those of the men around them. Enhanced through the artifice of cinema, these memories exist once again in written vignettes that function as a time machine for the subject to review with the retrospective that only the passage of time can provide.

Rain

'Rain'

Under a relentless downpour, several stories intertwine over the course of one night in this moving choral piece about ordinary people in Mexico City. A taxi driver (Bruno Bichir) picks up a man who is heading to a known address, a teacher (Arcelia Ramírez) reunites with a former student and a couple (Cecilia Suárez, Mauricio Isaac) reunites while helping a man in need. In his feature debut, director Rodrigo García Sáiz captures the collective melancholy of the chaotic, sodden metropolis, which differs from the pristinely gentrified digital nomad paradise some Americans have imagined. The characters, played by some of Mexico's most renowned actors, do not live near emblematic places worthy of postcards. They use public transportation and lead modest but dramatically rich lives.

The strike

'The strike'

Not long ago, the windowless cells at Pelican Bay State Prison in Northern California housed men held in solitary confinement for years, some of them decades. It was “a prison within a prison,” as one of those former inmates describes it in this powerful documentary by Mexican-American filmmaker JoeBill Muñoz and co-director Lucas Guilkey. The use of inhumane isolation at the facility only came to an end when inmates organized and communicated through ingenious methods. Through firsthand testimony from those who survived the ordeal, the film illuminates the inherent flaws of the prison system and how the human spirit finds its way to freedom even in the most restrictive conditions.

The unexpected

"The unexpected"

“Gentefied” actors Chelsea Rendón and Francisco Ramos play two members of a group of friends who are victims of a cryptocurrency scam. Their “leader,” Gary (comedian Matt Walsh) not only lost money, but also the respect of his wife and his son. His circumstances appear desperate after he voluntarily turns over his funds to Metal Mike (John Kaler), who acts as the pompous face of the fraudulent operation. That is until Felipe (a suave Alejandro De Hoyos), the mysterious father of Ramos' character, sets in motion a plan to get back what's his, and maybe a little more. From the prolific writer-director Alejandro Montoya Marín, born in Mexico and based in the United States, this fun, broad comedy with a timely thesis turns its average protagonists into amateur vigilantes who risk everything to regain hope for a better future.

Toll

'Toll'

Last year, Brazilian writer-director Carolina Markowicz surprised the LALIFF audience with her slow-burn thriller “Charvoail.” She is back with another fascinating story about morally dubious characters. Amid a smoky landscape of industrial factories, Suellen (Maeve Jinkings), an underpaid and overworked single mother and toll attendant, constantly feels the pressure of the religious hypocrisy around her. Instead of accepting the sexual orientation of her teenage son, she decides to engage in dangerous illegal activities to pay a foreign priest to “cure” her son of what she considers an affliction. Although she rationalizes her actions as if she did the wrong thing for the right reason, the consequences of her will catch up with her. Markowicz's fiery writings about modern Brazil resonate like few narrators today because of their complex incisiveness and difficulty in giving easy answers.

Valentina of Serenity

'Valentine of Serenity'

Mixtec filmmaker Ángeles Cruz returns, after her acclaimed drama “Nudo Mixteco,” with a radiant portrait of childhood sprinkled with delicate touches of magical realism. Despite her young age, Valentina (Danae Ahuja Aparicio), an elementary school girl from a rural community in Oaxaca, has a determined personality that often causes confrontations with her mother. The lively girl refuses to accept that her father has died and she claims that she can hear her voice in the nearby river. Her only problem is that from now on her father only speaks to her in Mixtec, the native language of her community, which she never learned. The marvelous narrative hinges on Ahuja Aparicio's remarkable performance, composed of equal parts defiance and innocence, as Valentina deals with her loss on her own terms.

The Los Angeles Times is a major sponsor of the Los Angeles International Latino Film Festival.

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