MoMA Presents 'In Focus: Cinema Tropical'

May 4–16, 2011

The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed an unexpected and astonishing film renaissance throughout Latin America. Largely influenced and inspired by the so-called New Argentine Cinema, and propelled by creative hybrid models of production, a young and enthusiastic generation of filmmakers is drastically changing how the region sees and represents itself on the big screen. Founded in 2001 by Carlos A. Gutiérrez and Monika Wagenberg, Cinema Tropical has played a major role in introducing U.S. audiences to this burgeoning Latin American cinema. The New York–based nonprofit media arts organization began distributing, programming, and promoting Latin American film at the outset of the biggest boom in Latin American cinema in decades, and this series presents standout examples by some of the region's most accomplished and innovative contemporary filmmakers.

Organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, with special thanks to Mary Jane Marcasiano, Tatiana García, Amber Shields, and Mara Behrens.

Historias extraordinarias (Extraordinary Stories)

(Mariano Llinás, Argentina, 2008, 245 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) Three unconnected tales featuring main characters known only as X, Z, and H, respectively, branch out into a labyrinth of plots and subplots in a vast narrative that moves from a small town in Argentina to Africa and back. Llinás's four-hour film is the single most accomplished work in recent Argentine cinema, an audacious celebration of the art of storytelling in cinema. With Walter Jakob, Agustín Mendilaharzu, Llinás.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011, 2:00pm (Introduced by Llinás); Thursday, May 5, 2011, 6:00pm (Introduced by Llinás); Friday, May 6, 2011, 3:00 pm; Saturday, May 7, 2011, 1:00pm; Sunday, May 8, 2011, 4:00pm; Monday, May 9, 2011, 4:00pm


(Alicia Scherson, Chile, 2009, 105 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) After a heated argument on their way to vacation, Carla, a woman in her mid-30s, is ditched by her husband, so she decides to continue the trip by herself. She arrives at a lush National Park, where a series of incidents and encounters send on a personal adventure. Scherson's enticingly fresh take on the road movie is a resonant meditation on emotion. With Aline Kuppenheim, Marcelo Alonso, Diego Noguera.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011, 7:00pm (Introduced by Scherson); Saturday, May 14, 2011, 2:00pm (Introduced by Scherson)

Trópico de Cáncer (Tropic of Cancer)

(Eugenio Polgovsky, Mexico, 2004, 52 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) The powerful documentary Trópico de Cáncer is a meticulous account of the perilous conditions faced by a group of families living in the arid desert. In their quest for survival, they hunt animals to sell on the highway. Visually astonishing and with a surprising narrative drive, Polgovsky's documentary debut—along with his follow-up film The Inheritors—has established him as one of Mexico's most promising documentarians.

Thursday, May 5, 2011, 4:00pm; Saturday, May 14, 2011, 2:00pm


(Martín Rejtman, Argentina, 2007, 56 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) Taking the annual celebration of the Virgin of Copacabana in a Bolivian neighborhood in Buenos Aires as its point of departure, Rejtman's first incursion into nonfiction filmmaking is a sober, meticulous portrait of Argentina's Bolivian community. Featuring minutely detailed mise-en-scène and minimal dialogue, Rejtman's work is playfully structured in reverse, as the film begins with the festivities, follows with the rehearsals, and ends with the immigrants' original journey from Bolivia.

Entrenamiento elemental para actores (Elementary Training for Actors)

(Martín Rejtman, Federico León, Argentina, 2009, 52 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) Rejtman, a longtime Cinema Tropical favorite (the organization released his films Silvia Prieto and The Magic Gloves), is often referred to as the father of New Argentinean Cinema. In this sharp, witty featurette about a theater workshop for children lead by a fervent professor, Rejtman remains true to the deadpan minimalist humor that distinguishes his earlier work. With Fabián Arenillas, Ulises Bercovich, Luca Damperat.

Copacabana and Entrenamiento are shown together. Friday, May 6, 2011, 8:00pm (Introduced by Rejtman, New York premiere); Sunday, May 15, 2011, 5:30pm (New York premiere)

Toro negro

(Pedro González-Rubio, Carlos Armella, Mexico, 2005, 87 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) Toro Negro delves deep into the life of Fernando Pacheco, a hapless young bullfighter who fights not in big arenas but at parties in small Mayan communities in the Yucatán Peninsula. Fernando is heartwarming and honest, but he's also an alcoholic, prone to violent outbursts and impulsive behavior. González-Rubio (director of the acclaimed Alamar) and Armella show Fernando's raw human passion and conflicts from a disturbingly intimate distance.

Saturday, May 7, 2011, 8:00pm; Friday, May 13, 2011, 7:00pm

25 Watts

(Pablo Stoll, Juan Pablo Rebella, Uruguay, 2001, 94 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of 25 Watts, Stoll and the late Rebella's debut, which consolidated Uruguay's influential role in the recent revitalization of Latin American cinema. A wry, fresh, and funny slacker comedy shot in black and white in Montevideo, 25 Watts launched Control Z Films, the production company created by Stoll, Rebella, and Fernando Epstein that initiated a prolific and exciting period for young Uruguayan filmmakers. With Daniel Hendler, Jorge Temponi, Alfonso Tort.

Sunday, May 8, 2011, 1:30 pm; Monday, May 16, 2011, 8:00 pm


(João Moreira Salles, Brazil, 2006, 80 min. In English, Portuguese with English subtitles) The filmmaker interviews his family's remarkable Brazilian butler, a complex, cultured man adept in diplomatic missions and scholarly research. Presented in collaboration with Cinema Tropical and Tribeca Film Festival.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011, 6:00pm; Sunday, May 15, 2011, 3:30pm

Una semana solos (A Week Alone)

(Celina Murga, Argentina, 2008, 110 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) Murga's follow-up to her acclaimed Ana and the Others follows a group of kids in a gated community in suburban Buenos Aires who are left alone while their parents are on holiday. Murga's film is a subtle exploration of class and childhood. With Natalia Gómez Alarcón, Manuel Aparicio, Mateo Braun.

Thursday, May 12, 2011, 4:30 pm (Introduced by Murga); Saturday, May 14, 2011, 8:00 pm (Introduced by Murga)

El vuelco del cangrejo (Crab Trap)

(Oscar Ruiz Navia, Colombia, 2009, 95 min. In Spanish with English subtitles) Daniel, a mysterious man from the city, arrives in an isolated village on Colombia's Pacific coast and gets a temporary job to raise enough money to move on. During his stay, he encounters the local Afro-Colombian traditions and sees how they're challenged by recently arrived neighbors. Featuring stunningly beautiful cinematography, Navia's debut feature exemplifies the best of the up-and-coming Colombian cinema movement. With Rodrigo Vélez, Arnobio Salazar Rivas, Jaime Andrés Castaño.

Thursday, May 12, 2011, 8:00 pm; Monday, May 16, 2011, 4:00 pm

O ceu de Suely (Love for Sale/Suely in the Sky)

(Karim Aïnouz, Brazil, 2006, 88 min. In Portuguese with English subtitles) Aïnouz, one of the filmmakers at the forefront of contemporary Brazilian cinema, follows his internationally successful debut Madame Satã with a very different portrait of an indomitable survivor. Returning to her hometown in poverty-stricken northeastern Brazil, Hermila (Guedes) awaits the arrival of her boyfriend, but her spunk and zest for life take on an increasingly desperate edge when it becomes clear that he will not be coming. The director's major achievement is making the soulful decency of the townspeople and the rich colors of the empty landscape an integral part of the characterization of Hermila, who remains likeable despite even her most desperately miscalculated actions. With Hermila Guedes, Maria Menezes, Georgina Castro.

Friday, May 13, 2011, 4:30 pm; Sunday, May 15, 2011, 1:00 pm