Latino Film Festival
By Scott Marks
The San Diego Latino Film Festival wraps up its 10th annual Cinema en tu Idioma Film Series with a weeklong “mini-festival” of movies from Spain (“Fermat’s Room”), Mexico (“Voy A Explotar”) and Columbia (“Perro Come Perro”). Festival director Ethan Van Thillo has put together another slam-bang collection of films guaranteed to please even the most discerning film lover. There’s a sci-fi chiller (“Fermat”), a brash and original teen romance (“Explotar”), and while it isn’t to my liking, it’s certain that fans of violent action films won’t go hungry watching “Perro.”
Screenings will be held from November 6-12 at UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas at Hazard Center. General admission is $9.50; $7.50 for students, seniors and Media Arts Center San Diego members. Individual tickets can be purchased prior to each screening.
“Fermat’s Room” (2007)
Written and directed by Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopeña
Starring: Lluís Homar, Alejo Sauras, Elena Ballesteros, Santi Millán & Federico Luppi
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Who would have thought that watching four brilliant mathematicians trapped in a room together for 90 minutes could be this much fun?
Galois (Alejo Sauras), the youngest of the group, seems more interested in using his sagacity as a chick magnet. His upcoming demonstration of the heretofore insoluble Goldbach’s Theorem, the current rage of the scientific community, is shattered when he arrives home to find all of his work destroyed.
Galois and three other brain trusts are invited by a mysterious host to ostensibly join him in solving an age-old enigma. Among the honored guests are Pascal (Santi Millán), a hard-drinking grump reduced to making tchotkes, seasoned problem solver and outwardly affable Hilbert (Lluís Homar), and Oliva (Elena Ballesteros), the sexy girl in the picture. They are all assigned pseudonyms and instructed not to bring a cell phone.
When they arrive at their destination the group is sequestered in a comfy barn that unbeknown to them has four Poseidon hydraulic presses apportioned to each wall waiting to crush the life out of them.
Moving wall dramas are not exactly headline grabbers, and while “Fermat’s Room” is little more than an extended episode of “The Outer Limits,” writer/directors Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopeña do their best to keep you guessing and squirming. Art Director David Fernández’s shrinking set, ominously foretold in the film’s opening credit scene, becomes as much a character as the four principles.
The script is the cinematic equivalent of a calculus porn, filled with enough inside references (the rowboat that takes them to Fermat’s room is named ‘Pythagoras’ after the Greek philosopher and “father of numbers”) to tickle even the most clinical mind.
For those of you intrigued by the “Saw” franchise, but unable to deal with the gore, “Fermat’s Room” is just the puzzle for you.
“Fermat’s Room” screens Friday Nov. 6 at 3:30 p.m. and 10:45 p.m., Monday Nov. 9 and Thursday Nov. 12 at 3:30 p.m., Saturday Nov. 7 and Tuesday Nov. 10 at 1:00 p.m. and 8:30pm, Sunday Nov. 8 and Wednesday Nov. 11 at 10:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
“Perro Come Perro” (2008)
Directed by Carlos Moreno
Written by Carlos Moreno & Alonso Torres
Starring: Marlon Moreno, Óscar Borda, Blas Jaramillo, Paulina Rivas & Álvaro Rodríguez
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars
It’s bad guys vs. worse guys in this unabashed and calculably violent rip off of “Amores Perros.”
How is it possible that “Perro Come Perro” (“Dog Eat Dog”) is Columbia’s official 2009 Academy Awards entry and a Sundance darling? After all, it’s not as if we need another reason to hold those groups in disregard.
The premise itself defies the gravity of logic: Career gangster Victor Peñaranda (Marlon Moreno) is cagey enough to ascend the criminal ladder, yet foolish enough to suddenly get greedy and relieve his boss of a Hefty bag filled with loot.
After the pre-credit establishing sequence we spend a long 90 minutes traversing the bowels of Columbia in search of the stolen cash.
Adding water to the cliché soup is a cigar-smoking voodoo priestess hired to put a curse on Victor, amateurish black-and-white dream sequences, scads of lazy rack focus shot, and even more dogs, stuffed or otherwise, to justify the title.
As expected, the last reel amounts to nothing more than an endless fanfare of carnage. Instead of trying to play against convention, “Perro Come Perro” is happy to simply serve up a bloody bowl of puppy chow.
“Perro Come Perro” screens Friday Nov. 6, Monday Nov. 9, and Thursday Nov. 12 at 10:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Saturday Nov. 7 at 3:30 p.m. and 10:45 p.m., Tuesday Nov. 10 at 3:30 p.m., Sunday Nov. 8 and Wednesday Nov. 11 at 1:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
“Voy A Explotar” (2008)
Written & Directed by Gerardo Naranjo
Starring: Juan Pablo de Santiago, Maria Deschamps, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Pedro González & Rebecca Jones
4 out of 5 stars
Let’s save the best for last. “Romeo and Juliet” meets Godard without a cause in “Voy A Explotar” (“I’m Gonna Explode”), a fast paced, delightfully irrepressible teen melodrama.
Roman (Juan Pablo de Santiago) is the son of a wealthy right-wing congressman and Maru (Maria Deschamps) the daughter of a working class nurse. The two meet after Roman is expelled from a seminar for harboring a gun and a diary filled with impure thoughts. Even his father’s generous contributions aren’t enough to keep the boy from being expelled.
Moving to a public school, Roman borrows a page from “Harold and Maude” by performing a mock hanging at the talent show. In detention he meets the misfit of his dreams, who is being punished for applauding his peculiar brand of performance art.
The next day these two rebels without an escape plan make a break, but decide to take the buttoned-up route and camp out on the roof of Roman’s father’s villa. The first half of the film houses laughs aplenty, particularly the scenes between the semi-grieving parents. It isn’t until the young couple leaves the safekeeping of their rooftop abode that the film’s sense of imminent danger becomes palpable.
The two first-time actors give surprisingly fresh, uncolored performances that blow the doors off of just about any contemporary American teen angst picture. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie of this type with such a well-developed female lead.
Produced by Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna (Latin America’s answer to Affleck and Damon), “Voy A Explotar” is a throwback to the stylishly energetic dawn of the French New Wave. Constantly drawing attention to itself through its cunning use of cinematic language and technique, the movie delights in transforming familiar territory into anything but another mundane coming of age picture.
“Voy A Explotar” screens Friday Nov. 6, Monday Nov. 9, and Thursday Nov. 12 at 1:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Saturday Nov. 7 and Tuesday Nov. 10 at 10:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Sunday Nov. 8 and Wednesday Nov. 11 at 3:30 p.m.
Scott Marks was born and raised in some of the finest single screen movie theaters in Chicago. He moved to San Diego in 2000 and has never looked back. Scott authors the blog emulsioncompulsion.com and is co-host of KPBS-Radio’s Film Club of the Air. Please address any bouquets or brickbats to firstname.lastname@example.org.