Meet the Nominees of the 4th Annual Cinema Tropical Awards: Documentary



In the Cinema Tropical Awards non-fiction competition, seven films -from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Mexico, have been nominated as the most outstanding Latin American documentary films of the year. The winners will be announced at a special event on Wednesday, January 29 at The New York Times Company headquarters.


First Film Category Nominees


A film by
Emiliano Altuna, Carlos F. Rossini, and Diego Osorno (Mexico, 2012)
Nominated for Best Documentary

Winner of the Best Documentary prize at the Cartagena and the Baja Film Festivals, El alcalde is an engrossing portrait of Mexican millionaire  Mauricio Fernandez, a larger-than-life and frequently controversial politician who is the mayor of Latin America’s wealthiest municipality. He presents himself as an active ruler who is capable of cleaning his municipality of the drug cartels presence without questioning the methods he uses to achieve it. El alcalde describes the wild times of a country that is marked by violence and the complete discredit of the ruling class.


A film by José Luis García (Argentina, 2012)
Nominated for Best Documentary and Best Director (Documentary)

Chance took photographer and filmmaker José Luis García to North Korea in July 1989 to attend the International Youth and Student Festival in Pyongyang, soon after the Tian’anmen massacre. But what seemed to be just another meeting of socialist delegations from all over the world –through one of the most impenetrable borders of the old communist world– becomes García’s obsession when South Korean peace activist Im Su-kyong shows up and revolutionizes the event by announcing she will cross the border by foot to go back to her country. Twenty years after recording that fascinating period with his Super VHS camera, García decides to go back through the footsteps of that enigmatic woman. Zigzagging and explosive, La chica del sur is marked by a unique life in the middle of the hurricane of history, but also by the eye –and a voice reflecting on its own process– of a filmmaker who sees in one character the condensation of everything he believes to be worth filming.


A film by
Priscila Padilla (Colombia, 2012)
Nominated for Best Director (Documentary)

On the Guajira peninsula in northern Colombia the old traditions of the indigenous Wayuu still hold sway. As soon as they begin menstruating, young women have to go and spend a year in a simple hut where only a few women are allowed to visit them. Contact with men is taboo. The grandmother is chiefly responsible for preparing the girl for her role as a woman during this period of seclusion. Pili is 12 years old when, for her grandmother's sake, she decides to follow this custom. But does she really know what she is taking on? The men from her small village build the mud hut which she will not leave for the next twelve months. For the first few days she lies motionless in her hammock, only moving for ritual washing and to take special medicine. Children play and laugh in the village outside but laughter is forbidden for Pili. People come regularly to give her instruction. The twelve moons seem to be endless. Pili weaves and weaves and weaves to pass the time. When she finally emerges into the glaring light of the sun, she has visibly changed. A striking documentary about ancient customs in a modern world..



A film by
Martín Benchimol, Pablo Aparo (Argentina, 2012)
Nominated for Best Documentary and Best Director (Documentary)

Martín Benchimol and Pablo Aparo’s encounter with the good citizens of Ernestina, a small Argentinian town that’s seen better days, offers a droll, perplexed study of disassociation in action. There are few young people to be seen. The old people look at the picturesque dilapidation around them, remember better days, and deplore the state of affairs that has allowed their fine public and commercial buildings to become such ruins. There’s a lot of sitting around to be done – which means plenty of time for bending the ears of the young filmmakers. Soon – confidentially, mind you – they are letting the visitors in on their darkest preoccupation: the scourge of their dying days, the riff-raff who live on the banks of the river just outside town. No misfortune is too minor to be blamed on these mysteriously malevolent river people. Banding together to hire private security may well be Ernestina’s final expression of community spirit. This portrait of embattled old codgers comes tinged with the existential comedy of Latin American fabulism.



A film by Carlo Guillermo Proto (Chile/Canada, 2012)
Nominated for Best Documentary

Gustavo Proto moved his family from Chile to Toronto to provide them with a better life. His father committed suicide when Gustavo was just 16. Now 58, he ponders his life and the possibility of ending it himself before he becomes a burden to those he loves. Before he makes this final decision, he wants to live out his childhood dream of returning to Chile and becoming a huaso, a Chilean cowboy. Carlo Guillermo Proto moves brilliantly between the complex roles of director and son, dissolving unspoken barriers to reveal an emotional and heart-wrenching portrait of a family torn between respecting Gustavo’s choices and confronting him with the burden he places on those left behind. As the film travels between continents, tensions rise. Carlo allows himself to become a vulnerable character, imbuing the film with a rare and compelling honesty about familial responsibility and personal freedom.


A film by Mercedes Moncada (Mexico/Guatemala, 2012)
Nominated for Best Director (Documentary)

Filmmaker Mercedes Moncada Rodríguez returns to Nicaragua to explore her own memories and the country’s history. Her memories go back to 1979 when the Sandinistas came to power, ousting the Somoza family, which had been ruling the country since 1934 with the support of the United States. Managua Lake is used as the garbage dump for the capital city, and it’s where Somoza dumped the ashes of murdered general Sandino back in 1934. Ever since, the lake has been a metaphor for the corrupt, degenerate and polluted state. The lake is never cleaned up, so the amount of garbage is only increasing. The year the Sandinistas won was year zero – the victory of the people and the beginnings of hope. But that hope quickly evaporated. Today, poor adolescents talk about crack and street gangs. Young kids listen to their tough stories and join in the laughter. Back in the day, teenagers were part of the Sandinista army. By alternating present-day reminiscences with archive footage, the film becomes a contemporary frame story about the past.



A film by Ignacio Agüero (Chile, 2012)
Nominated for Best Documentary and Best Director (Documentary)

The home of acclaimed Chilean filmmaker Ignacio Agüero is filled with objects that speak to both his family's history and to the tumultuous history of his country. Seeking to make a quiet, personal film centered on his home and his memories, it is fitting that The Other Day begins when a ray of sunlight shines on a photograph of his parents. Agüero turns the tables on his uninvited guests, and asks them if he may knock on their doors too. His spontaneous excursions into their neighborhoods and homes broaden the film's scope, bringing different aspects of contemporary Chilean society into the picture. Interweaving these threads, collapsing past and present, interior and exterior, the film is an elegant reflection on layers of history, and ways they are reflected in families and communities. The film was awarded with the Best Documentary prize at the Guadalajara Film Festival and Best Chilean Film at FIDOCS.