The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced their lineup for its fourth edition of ‘Art of the Real’ today. This year representing the Latin American region are Chile, Bolivia, Mexico and Brazil, including a special spotlight on Chilean documentarians Ignacio Agüero and José Luis Torres Leiva and a tribute to the late Brazilian filmmaker Andrea Tonacci, a key figure in Brazil’s udigrudi (“underground”) or marginal cinema movement, who passed away last December.
“In our fourth year we’ve put an emphasis on placing works by first-time and emerging filmmakers alongside established names, with the aim to highlight the experimentation happening across generations, and to trace a new trajectory of documentary art that points to its promising future,” said Film Society of Lincoln Center Programmer at Large Rachael Rakes, who organized the festival with Director of Programming Dennis Lim.
In the main program from Chile, receiving its New York premiere, is Camila José Donoso’s Casa Roshell. Roshell Terranova, 51, is the co-owner of Club Roshell, a transgender club on an unassuming street in Mexico City that holds “personality workshops” for its clientele, offering tutorials on makeup, costumes, heels, and other accessories. A “safe space” in the sincerest sense, the club allows men to eschew the limits of macho culture, push the boundaries of their own gender, and, as Roshell emphasizes in an address to the club’s patrons, to own their identities and desires, to feel pretty and less alone. As with her previous feature, Naomi Campbel (an Art of the Real 2015 selection), Camila José Donoso’s richly detailed film immerses itself in its world, mixing digital, 16mm film, and even closed-circuit TV footage to locate a glamorous utopia within the confines of the club.
Dark Skull / Viejo Calavera by Kiro Russo, also receiving its New York premiere, is a co-production from Bolivia and Qatar. A hybrid work set in the uniquely rough world of the Bolivian mines, Dark Skull is a character drama and an idiosyncratic portrait of workers’ daily lives. The narrative unfolds around the troubled and troublesome Elder, sent to live with his grandmother in Huanuni, a small country town in Bolivia. Once there, Elder proves a constant embarrassment to his godfather, Francisco, frequently skipping work to get drunk or high. But his off-the-clock activities eventually lead him to a dark secret about Francisco’s involvement in his father’s death. Shot largely inside the mines, and made in collaboration with the miners’ union, Kiro Russo’s elegant and formally daring film employs an ambitious structure and gorgeous cinematography to express the nuances and codes of the workers.
Charles Fairbanks and Saul Kak’s The Modern Jungle / La Selva Negra will also receive its New York premiere in the showcase. Centered on the relationship between indigenous and Western culture, The Modern Jungle documents the tensions that emerge when an elderly Zoque couple come into contact with global capitalism and the filmmaking process. Carmen and Juan are fighting to keep the small plot of land they’ve worked on their whole lives in southern Mexico. Juan, who is also a shaman, struggles with a hernia that traditional methods can’t treat, and soon gets sucked into a nutritional supplement pyramid scheme. Fairbanks and Kak (himself an advocate for indigenous rights) disclose upfront that Juan and Maria are being paid, dismissing long-held myths about “pure” relationships between ethnographer and subject.
The spotlight on Ignacio Agüero and José Luis Torres Leiva will feature one new premiere and one older film each, including Agüero’s This Is the Way I Like It II, in its U.S. premiere, which moves between past and present and follows the director as he interviews fellow filmmakers, and his personal The Other Day (2013), beautifully shot in his own home; and José Luis Torres Leiva’s The Sky, the Earth, and the Rain (2008), about four rural Chileans struggling to find meaningful connection, alongside the U.S. premiere of his The Wind Knows That I’m Coming Back Home, a hybrid work that features Agüero, following the elder filmmaker as he prepares to shoot his first fiction film.
The tribute to Andrea Tonacci will feature three rarely screened key films including Blah Blah Blah and Bang Bang, two short classics of the marginal cinema movement that opposed both Cinema Novo and Brazil’s military government, and Hills of Disorder, which tells the story of an indigenous man who survived the massacre of his tribe through a blend of re-enactments and archival news reports.
‘Art of the Real’ will take place April 20 - May 2 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City, NY.