There are so far 16 Latin American feature films under consideration for the 2018 Academy Awards so far, 2 more than last year.
The first of the Latin films in contention is A Fantastic Woman, a Chilean film by Daniela Vega that tells the story of a woman who loses her lover and is faced with rejection from her lover's family and suspicion from investigators, all largely because of her identity as a trans woman. Many see this film as the strongest Oscar contender from Latin America this year, thanks in part to a great leading performance from trans actress Daniela Vega. If nominated, Vega would be the first trans actor/actress to receive a lead actress nomination. Sony Pictures Classics claimed North American, Australian, and New Zealand distribution rights over the film after it'd world premier at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival.
Of the 16 Latin films in contention, 6 are directed by women. One of these is Zama, directed by Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel. The film is an adaptation of Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 epic novel but with interwoven levels of fiction, and is Martel’s first period film and her first with a male protagonist, a 17th century Spanish officer called Don Diego de Zama who is desperate to be transferred to Buenos Aires from his stifling post in Asuncion, Paraguay. The film premiered at the 2017 Venice Film Festival.
Mexico’s submission, the documentary Tempest by Tatiana Huezo, is an evocative account of two women, one who was wrongly sent to a cartel-run prison and another whose daughter has vanished.
Arianne Marie Benedetti of Panama and Ecuador’s Ana Cristina Barragan enter the race with their family-themed feature debuts. Benedetti’s Beyond Brotherhood, a box office success in Panama, which touted a predominantly female above-the-line crew, centers on the bond between an orphaned brother and sister while Barragan’s Alba is the coming-of-age tale of a pre-teen who struggles to accept her eccentric father as she seeks acceptance among her peers.
Haitian Guetty Felin sets her magical neorealist tale Ayiti Mon Amour in the aftermath of the devastating 7.0 earthquake that hit the impoverished Caribbean nation seven years ago. This is Haiti’s first submission in the Academy Awards.
Paraguay’s Tana Schémbori co-helmed another adventure thriller with Juan Carlos Maneglia, Los Buscadores. For the filmmakers, it “represents much more than a second film: it’s the commitment to go on showing Paraguay to the world, one way to bear witness to a little piece of our world, our vision, our way of being,” they said in a statement. A U.S. studio pick-up is imminent.
Daniel Rezende reps Brazil with his directorial debut Bingo, the King of the Mornings, a wry dramedy based on the true story of an actor whose wildly successful ’80s clown show took its toll on his relationships. “I wanted to take a deep look at Brazilian society, but through its pop culture, not through the socio-political drama genre quite prevalent in Brazil,” says Rezende.
The bulk of this year’s entries are from first-time filmmakers exploring fresh ways to express their cinematic visions. Debuts include Peru’s Rosa Chumbe, Jonatan Relayze’s portrait of a policewoman who needs a miracle to change her life; Costa Rican editor Ariel Escalante whose introspective The Sound of Things follows a young, lonely nurse in her everyday rituals.
Hailed as an “accomplished portrait of loss and grief among the contradictions and transformations of the Bolivian mining industry,” Bolivian Kiro Russo’s feature debut Dark Skull has been reaping awards on the festival circuit.
Colombian Ivan Gaona’s feature debut Guilty Men (Pariente) is a love triangle set against a backdrop of the paramilitary scourge that once plagued the Colombian countryside.
Venezuela sent Ignacio Castillo Cottin’s boxing biopic about Edwin Valero, El Inca, which screened for barely three weeks before an injunction from the boxer’s family forced theaters to remove it. Castillo won an appeal to re-screen it, but it remains in legal limbo. This is Castillo’s second pic.
Despite being torn by drug and gang violence, Honduras submitted a film for the first time in its history, Hispano Duran’s sophomore pic, Morazan, is set in 1842 and centers on the events prior to the martyrdom of Honduran national hero Fernando Morazan.
Based on the novel “Alivio de Luto” and described as a metaphor for the impact of authoritarianism on a country, Guillermo Casanova’s second feature, Another Story of the World, reps Uruguay.
Dominican Republic sent José María Cabral’s acclaimed feature Woodpeckers, shot in an actual prison, which delves into the unique sign language developed by prisoners in Dominican jails. Woodpeckers was recently awarded the best Latin America Film Award at NALIP's Latino Media Fest this past September.
There are also 3 animated films with Latin/Hispanic stories in contention for the 2018 Oscars. The first is Coco, Pixar's newest film about a young aspiring musician who gets lost in the world of the dead. The next is 20th Century Fox's Ferdinand tells the story of a Spanish fighting bull who struggles between living a more peaceful life and fulfilling expectations to fight matadors in the arena. The final is the Spanish film Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, (Psiconautas), based on the comic by Alberto Vázquez.
Read more about feature film contenders at Variety.
Read more about animated film contenders at Variety.