Cuba Is Teeming With Talent, But Its Film Business Needs Reforms

Cuba Is Teeming With Talent, But Its Film Business Needs Reforms

Posted by NALIP on February 19, 2015

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 @ Variety

Since President Obama eased tensions with Cuba late last year, the film community in the island nation has been optimistic, if cautiously so, about striking new relationships with its counterpart in Hollywood, and hopeful it can reform the Cuban film industry to compete on the world stage.

“Many (American) directors have expressed — more or less privately — their interest in filming in Cuba,” says Luis Barrera, senior advisor at the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry (ICAIC), the government-run film commission that, in essence, acts as the sole movie studio in Cuba. “On the other hand, Cuba has its own tradition in cinema, and is among the leading lights in the Caribbean region,” he adds. Helmers like Alejandro Brugues (“Juan of the Dead”) and Daniel Diaz Torres (“La Pelicula de Ana”) are some filmmakers who’ve gained international recognition.

Barrera notes that it’s also important for Cuba to build an efficient and competitive infrastructure, with professional crews experienced not only in local productions, but in co-productions with Europeans. “This is one aspect we can quickly work on, as well as looking toward investments and joint ventures, including tax rebates and other incentives to attract U.S. filmmakers,” Barrera says.

Local filmmakers, though, worry that ICAIC will prioritize the needs of foreign productions that want to film in Cuba over the needs to develop those of the nation’s own creative talent.

“The first step should be to see how Cuban cinema can flourish from this relationship on its home turf, and hopefully not get swallowed up by the great machinery of the U.S. film industry,” says Carlos Quintela, whose second film, “The Project of the Century,” about three generations of a Cuban family living near an abandoned Soviet nuclear power station, won a Tiger award at Rotterdam after being acquired for international sales by Berlin-based M-Appeal.

Filmmaker Yassel Iglesias, who made 2012 doc “The Chosen Island,” about Jewish emigres in Cuba, which ultimately brought him to the U.S., sees progress coming only after regulations ease. “I think that (reform) will definitely help the production of Cuban films,” says Iglesias, “but I can’t use the phrase ‘Cuban film industry’ yet, because so far there have been no reforms or laws that recognize new independent companies, and the only ‘industry’ is ICAIC, which many Cuban filmmakers refuse to work with.”

Many Cuban filmmakers have had to seek funding overseas. Quintela, a former student at the Intl. Film and Television School (EICTV) in Havana, started a production company in England and raised coin for “Project of the Century” from Argentina (with production shingle Rizoma Films), as well as tapping coin from the Rotterdam fest’s Hubert Bals Fund.

At its heart, Cuba is a warm, welcoming nation full of vast promise and rich potential, yearning for opportunity, both economically and artistically. Despite its communist roots, the country has an entrepreneurial spirit, built of raw necessity plus a desire to make its own way, without an intrusive government or an overbearing next-door neighbor.

For now, the greatest obstacle to rebuilding the local film industry may well be the lack of freedom of expression. The promise that a diplomatic thaw would change that took a blow when Boris Arenas Gonzalez, a professor at EICTV, was fired after being jailed for attempting to participate in a free-speech-themed performance-art event. Especially troubling is that the school, which has an international charter, has been a beacon of free speech in Cuba for students and filmmakers from around the world.

The hope is that this is a momentary blip on the radar, and that the thawing of relations with the U.S. will bring more free expression and less government intervention. “I think it’s a historical change that presents opportunities and challenges to both nations,” says Barrera.

Quintela agrees. “If we were to combine the shared histories of both countries, there would be enough material to create movies of great significance.”

For Iglesias, who just finished shooting his latest film, “Lois” in Havana, the future is already beginning to take shape. “There’s more hope, and Cubans need that. A year ago, nobody thought of change, and to find a smile on the streets was harder. Today people scream, ‘Ya somos amigos de los Yuma!’ — Now we are friends with the Americans! And there is laughter, and rum … of course.”

Check this out Variety.com

Cinema Tropical Awards: NALIPsters Dominate the U.S. Latino Film category

Cinema Tropical Awards: NALIPsters Dominate the U.S. Latino Film category

Posted by NALIP on December 18, 2014

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The 5th Annual Cinema Tropical Awards have announced the 2015 nominations that recognize international Latin American filmmakers and their work. NALIP is proud to announce that dominating the Best U.S. Latino Film category are 3 out of 5 NALIP members:

CESAR’S LAST FAST

(Richard Ray Perez, USA, 2014)

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LAS MARTHAS

(Cristina Ibarra, USA, 2014)

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PURGATORIO: JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF THE BORDER

(Rodrigo Reyes, USA/Mexico, 2013)

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You can get learn more about these nominated films and the filmmakers at nalip.org under our ‘Members Work’ section.

The Cinema Tropical AWARDS, created in 2010 to honor excellence in Latin American filmmaking, is the only international award entirely dedicated to honoring the artistry of recent Latin American cinema. Visit CinemaTropical.com to check out the accompanying nominees.

Congratulations NALIPster Gina Rodriguez for Golden Globe Nomination!

Congratulations NALIPster Gina Rodriguez for Golden Globe Nomination!

Posted by NALIP on December 11, 2014

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The NALIP family is excited and proud to congratulate Gina Rodriguez for her Golden Globe nomination in the category of Best Actress in a TV Series, Comedy or Musical for her lead performance in CW's Jane the Virgin. A well deserved recognition for arduous and talented work, a true representation of the quality of our Latino artists and creators out there. 

Chris Rock: Mexicans are in “A slave state in L.A.”

Chris Rock: Mexicans are in “A slave state in L.A.”

Posted by NALIP on December 03, 2014

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Chris Rock is at it again! The Top Five comic star talks more about race in his cover essay for The Hollywood Reporter. He specifically focuses on race in Hollywood and the struggles still faced by minority actors. Rock even touches on the slave state of Mexicans in La La Land. 

“But forget whether Hollywood is black enough. A better question is: Is Hollywood Mexican enough? You're in L.A, you've got to try not to hire Mexicans. It's the most liberal town in the world, and there's a part of it that's kind of racist—not racist like ‘F— you, n----r’ racist, but just an acceptance that there's a slave state in L.A. There's this acceptance that Mexicans are going to take care of white people in L.A. that doesn't exist anywhere else. I remember I was renting a house in Beverly Park while doing some movie, and you just see all of the Mexican people at 8 o'clock in the morning in a line driving into Beverly Park like it's General Motors. It's this weird town.

You're telling me no Mexicans are qualified to do anything at a studio? Really? Nothing but mop up? What are the odds that that's true? The odds are, because people are people, that there's probably a Mexican David Geffen mopping up for somebody's company right now. The odds are that there's probably a Mexican who's that smart who's never going to be given a shot. And it's not about being given a shot to green light a movie because nobody is going to give you that—you've got to take that.

The shot is that a Mexican guy or a black guy is qualified to go and give his opinion about how loud the boings are in Dodgeball or whether it's the right shit sound you hear when Jeff Daniels is on the toilet in Dumb and Dumber. It's like, ‘We only let white people do that.’ This is a system where only white people can chime in on that. There would be a little naiveté to sitting around and going, ‘Oh, no black person has ever green lighted a movie,’ but those other jobs? You're kidding me, right? They don't even require education. When you're on the lower levels, they're just about taste, nothing else. And you don't have to go to Harvard to have taste.”

What do you think of Rock’s comments? Let us know below!

Check this out at Latina.com

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Does the Success of 'Birdman' Impact Other Mexican Filmmakers?

Does the Success of 'Birdman' Impact Other Mexican Filmmakers?

Posted by NALIP · October 31, 2014

By Boyd van Hoeij | Indiewire

Another year, another major Mexican director abandoning his home country for the U.S. But not every talented Mexican filmmaker is looking to leave.

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Last year, the Morelia International Film Festival (or FICM, as its Spanish acronym runs) opened with Alfonso Cuaron’s "Gravity." This year, that honor went to "Birdman," by Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Paired with "Pacific Rim" director Guillermo del Toro, these Mexican filmmakers known as "the three amigos" have done a lot to raise the profile of Mexican cinema around the world.

But now they all make films in English. What does this mean for the younger generation that’s making films in Mexico right now? 

Connecting the Dots of Mexican Talent

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Some answers could be found in this year's Morelia lineup. The competition of Mexican films at FICM consisted of 12 films, most of them first or second features. Only two of the films had premieres at high-profile international festivals before premiering at home: "Güeros," from director Alonso Ruizpalacios, which premiered in the Panorama section of the Berlinale, and "The Absent" from Nicolas Pereda, which premiered in Locarno in the new (and somewhat obscure) Signs of Life sidebar.

Though the films are almost polar opposites in their approach to cinema and narrative, they do both suggest that current cinema from Mexico thrives on strong individual voices.

"Güeros," a black-and-white doodle about two aimless siblings during the 1999 student protests in Mexico City, is clearly indebted to the French New Wave, a connection that’s easy to make since one of the key moments in the lives of the New-Wave generation were the strikes and protests of May 1968. In his first feature, Ruizpalacios shows he has a great eye for offbeat humor and camera angles, while alternating playful and more melancholic sequences in a way that’s strongly reminiscent of French New Wave films. But "Güeros" is also very consciously part of the Mexican film landscape, as the film’s divided into chapters named after the Mexico City neighborhoods where the characters find themselves as the story progresses: The brothers and their friends even end up at the swanky premiere party of a Mexican film that the slacker protagonists make fun of sight unseen.

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If "Güeros," which means blond or fair-skinned, can be described as ebullient and aimless, "The Absent" from veteran filmmaker Pereda is perhaps one of those arthouse movies that the kids in "Güeros" are making fun of: an extremely slow-moving and contemplative film in which meaningful dialog -- the main motor of Ruizpalacios’ film -- is almost entirely absent. Continuing in the vein of his other festival darlings, including Venice Horizons winner "Summer of Goliath," and with his regular actor Gabino Rodriguez in one of the main roles, "The Absent" again mixes the grammar and tools of documentary and fiction into a striking but opaque, almost enigmatic whole that’s made up of minutes-long sequence shots that invite viewers to scrutinize every corner of the image for meaning. What little story there is seems to involve an old man’s unwilling removal from his home, and the memories that come flooding back to him (Rodriguez’s character could be the old man in his younger days) as he’s forced out of his own house.

"Güeros" won both a shared best actor award for its male ensemble, and the best first or second feature prize in Morelia, as well as the audience award and the critics’ prize, suggesting its breath-of-fresh-air quality was well-appreciated across the board. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that Pereda’s film isn’t less commendable, just that it is not an easy crowdpleaser in the way Ruizpalacios’ first film is.

A potent mix of documentary and fictional elements is also a key aspect of Carlos Armella’s "En la estancia," which looks at a non-fiction filmmaker who documents the lives of a father and son who are the last two inhabitants of a godforsaken village in the mountains. It would be a spoiler to reveal how the two types of cinema create a revealing back-and-forth, though suffice to say that Armella tries to do something that’s both radically cinematic as well as telling about certain socio-political and demographic changes that are happening in the oft-forgotten countryside.

The always welcome Gabino Rodriguez can not only be seen in Pereda’s film but is also a supporting player in another enigmatic and entrancing film: "I Am Happiness on Earth," the fourth feature of Julian Hernandez ("Raging Sun, Raging Sky," "Broken Sky"). The gay filmmaker’s penchant for intricately choreographed camerawork and balletic choreography instead of dialogue to tell a story here finds its most literal expression, as the protagonists are actually a ballet dancer and a filmmaker specialized in dance films (and with a sideline in more erotic films). While from a technical standpoint, the film’s terrifically crafted, the screenplay is rather weak and confused.

Diversity is Key

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However, the presence of "Happiness" (which opened in very limited release in the U.S. back in August) in Morelia does suggest a willingness on behalf of the festival to be inclusive of many different voices and different kinds of artistic expression (also evidenced by the inclusion in competition of the mainstream, crowd-pleasing comedy "Eddie Reynolds y los Angeles de Acero," from Gustavo Moheno, about a group of old rockers who get together again after U2 becomes interested in buying the rights to one of their hits).

Hernandez's film is one of two titles with queer protagonists, the other being the eventual winner of the festival’s best film honors: "Carmin Tropical," from director Rigoberto Perezcano, who also made the 2009 festival darling "Northless" ("Norteado").

His film is a mystery of sorts about a "muxe," a physical male who dresses like a woman, who returns to her village of birth in the state of Oaxaca when one of her muxe friends has gone missing and later turns up dead. The film zooms in on the search of the protagonist, who’s a lonely nightclub singer, for the truth about her friend and is refreshingly devoid of a lot of the stereotypes one would associate with a story of this kind, essentially presenting the story as a kind of personal investigation that runs parallel to the one conducted by the police. Expect this to turn up at a major festival soon (perhaps in Berlin, which has the queer Teddy awards?).

Though Gael Garcia Bernal is one of the associate producers of "Güeros" and "Miss Bala" director Gerardo Narajo was one of the producers of "Plan sexenal," the first film of Santiago Cendejas that rather surprisingly went home empty-handed, the film in competition with the biggest internationally recognizable name was without a doubt "Sand Dollars," from the directorial duo of Israel Cardenas, a Mexican, and the Dominican-born Laura Amelia Guzman. Their film stars Geraldine Chaplin as an aging European woman who’s been in a relationship of sorts for three years with a young and poor Dominican woman for whom affection is less of a incentive than money.

Though it is a story and a dynamic we’ve seen before, in films such as Laurent Cantet’s "Heading South" and more recently in Ulrich Seidl’s "Paradise: Love," the narrative here feels more even-handed and finely etched than those earlier efforts, perhaps because Guzman as a Dominican manages to bring an insider perspective to the proceedings (something she also did in the couple’s previous film, "Jean Gentil"). 

Money and, more often, the tension and unhealthy power relationships that develop between members of the poor and working classes on the one hand and the well-off bourgeoisie on the other is a recurring theme that informs not only "Sand Dollars," but also many of the remaining films in competition. These include "The Beginning of Time," in which a couple of grandparents is forced to sell food on the street when their pension is cut off — until it seems they might be rescued by their well-off if estranged adult son.

Read More at Indiewire.com.

Underwater Dreams at #DreaMIT Triumphs

Underwater Dreams at #DreaMIT Triumphs

Posted by NALIP · October 31, 2014

I have become highly skeptical of immigration movies. I don’t know why, but maybe it’s because our collective has received so many emails this year, that it suddenly feels like overkill.

Immigration rights is a “hot topic,” and while more and more projects have become real movies and even Oscar winners, very little has happened when it comes to real immigration reform.

The documentary genre has answered the call to focus more on immigrant rights. But is Main Street, USA responding with real action? Perhaps that real action will soon become reality now that Underwater Dreams is in this world.

This past Friday night, I was invited to a free screening of Mary Mazzio’s exquisite film hosted by #DreaMIT, a new immigrant rights group founded by MIT students, and held at the university’s iconic Building 10 (you know, the one with the big dome).

Having not seen the film (and knowing that it has gotten a lot of love, including from Colbert), I decided to attend. Then, when I was informed that the key members of #DreaMIT would be publicly announcing that they are MIT students who happen to be undocumented, I knew the night would be historic. The #Undocu community would now be part of one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

Before the screening, I talked with #DreaMIT’s José Gómez, an MIT sophomore from Texas who revealed that night that he was undocumented.

 

Read more at Latino Rebels.

HBO Goes Digital: To Launch Internet Standalone Stream Service

HBO Goes Digital: To Launch Internet Standalone Stream Service

Posted by NALIP · October 15, 2014

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HBO announced Wednesday that it would start a stand-alone Internet streaming service in the United States in 2015 that would not require a subscription to a traditional television service.

The premium cable network, which is home to original programming and movies, is attempting to lure a new generation of viewers who might never pay for traditional television packages or have canceled their cable or satellite service.

Richard Plepler, chief executive of HBO, pointed to 10 million homes in the United States that pay for broadband connections but not a traditional TV service. 

Read More via NY Times

Your Guide to Everything Latino at the Urbanworld Film Festival

Your Guide to Everything Latino at the Urbanworld Film Festival

Posted by NALIP · September 18, 2014

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BY Mary Angelica Molina

Like a Gotham or a Krypton or an El Dorado, Urbanworld Film Festival surges through New York City’s asphalt this weekend and sets-up an afro-futuristic kingdom where film and mediamakers of color take center stage. And for this year’s festival they have curated a strong selection of Latino films for you to get space-age on. Though there are heartfelt and poignant confessionals like HBO’s Habla Men and action packed tales of border-crossings such as Los Ángeles, Urbanworld is taking you out of the present and into the supernatural, the weird, the ciencia ficción, and summoning the latent Oscar Wao inside all of us. (Cue riveting Hans Zimmer track here.) Urbanworld runs from September 17-21. Check out these “films”… or are they instructional videos that will help you survive the industrial apocalypse?

Avenues
Director: Aaref Rodriguez 

Saturday Sept. 20, 7:45pm

 

A recently released convict returns to Highland Park (also known as The Avenues) where he is confronted with old demons, new allies and tough obstacles as he hopes to reunite with his estranged daughter. Based on a true story.


 

HBO’s Habla Men
Director: Alberto Ferreras

Saturday Sept. 20, 6pm

Charismatic Latino personalities like Junot Diaz and Blue Demon open up about what it means to be Latino. The 11th installment of HBO’s acclaimed series.


Sleep Dealer
Director: Alex Rivera

Friday Sept. 19, 9:45pm

In a futuristic Mexico where borders are sealed off, Memo is unable to enter the United States in order to reunite with his parents. Thus he is forced to work at a digital factory and connect his body to a robot in America in order to find them.


ISA
Director: Jose Nestor Marquez

Friday Sept. 19, 11pm

Isa Reyes discovers a chip in her brain that is causing her dreams to merge with reality. When a company that wants to exploit her powerful dreams kidnaps her, she uncovers a conspiracy that spans from the forests of Mexico to Wall Street.


Cry Now
Director: Alberto Barboza

Friday Sept. 19, 7:30pm

Vincent is a street artist rambling through LA’s Boyle Heights when he meets Luzy, a beautiful and fierce tattoo artist. Though their attraction for one another is bridled by their respective significant others, Vincent in intent on courting Luzy and his search for her will immerse us in East LA’s unique music scene. Lupe Ontiveros’ last performance.


Lake Los Angeles
Director: Mike Ott

Saturday Sept. 20, 3pm

A middle-aged Cuban man who works at a holding house forms a friendship with Cecilia, a 10 year-old Mexican girl who ends up there alone and who creates fantastical tales with which to battle her desolation.


Los Ángeles
Director: Damian John Harper

Friday Sept. 19, 3:30pm

In southern Mexico, Mateo is seventeen and preparing to migrate to Los Angeles in order to support his family. However, before he can depart, the leader of a local gang demands he become a member by committing murder.


Night Has Settled
Director: Steve Clark

Saturday Sept. 20, 9:30pm

Oliver is thirteen and poised to enter the sex and alcohol laced teenage world of “firsts.” However, he becomes traumatized when his housekeeper has a stroke, as she is the woman whom he considers to be his true mother. What was supposed to be an exhilarating rite of passage becomes complicated by intense emotions of loss, fear and guilt.


What It Was
Director: Daniel Armando

Friday Sept. 19, 6pm

Adina leaves Hollywood and returns to New York, where old passions are awakened. The past and the present intertwine as she tumbles through a series of intense relationships that force her to confront her true identity.


Lucky
Director: Laura Checkoway

Saturday Sept. 20, 5:30pm

New Yorker Lucky Torres grew up in foster care after her mother left her and her sister Fantasy. She hides a lifetime of abuse and abandonment behind an angry, tattooed exterior. While her sister has settled down, Lucky remains a homeless, unemployed single mother, jumping from girlfriend to girlfriend. Still, Lucky dreams of true love and success in this documentary.


 

Check this out on Remezcla.

‘The View’ Taps Lauren Sanchez to Guest-Host

‘The View’ Taps Lauren Sanchez to Guest-Host

Posted by NALIP · July 29, 2014

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by Tim Kenneally via The Wrap photo: Celebrity Fan Web

Former “So You Think You Can Dance” host will appear on the ABC talk show Wednesday

With “The View” working to revamp its panel, Lauren Sanchez has been tapped as a guest co-host on the ABC daytime talk show.

Sanchez, a former news personality at KCOP-TV in Los Angeles and the original host of “So You Think You Can Dance,” will guest co-host the show on Wednesday.

“So happy to be in #NYC .. excited to co-host The View @theviewtv this Wednesday,” Sanchez wrote on her Twitter account Monday.

The ABC talk show is currently in the throes of reinvention. Following Barbara Walters’ departure earlier this year, news broke that Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy would not be returning to the series, leaving Whoopi Goldberg as the only current panelist who'll return next season.

The series recently decided to bring back Rosie O'Donnell, who had a previous controversial run on the show.

Sanchez joins other recent guest hosts such as Alicia Menendez of Fusion's “AM Tonight,” Meghan McCain, WGN's Ana Beleval and Sara Haines of ABC News.

Tells us what you think. Should Latina's only guest host or stay permanently on the show?

Support Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal in their doc film festival: Ambulante

Support Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal in their doc film festival: Ambulante

Posted by NALIP · July 09, 2014

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Be a part of bringing Ambulante to the U.S for the first time! Recently awarded with NALIP's Media Advocacy award, Ambulante is the documentary non profit founded in 2005 by Mexican actors and filmmakers, Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal. The traveling documentary film festival has over nine years of experience organizing an epic three month tour across twelve different states in Mexico, bringing documentaries to areas with limited access to film. For the first time, Ambulante is expanding the successful model to the U.S. Working closely with local organizations the aim is to create unique exhibition spaces and present multi-cultural documentaries that illustrate the remarkable genre of non fiction storytelling. During its 2 week from Sept. 21 - Oct. 4 Ambulante will travel across different LA communities to reach diverse audiences through its mobile cinema platform. Help them reach their goal of securing supplemental funds to enrich each screening with music, art and creative performances. Rewards include signed postcards by Gael Garcia Bernal, a chance to party with Diego Luna at the pre-launch Opening Kickstarter Backers only party, screener access to unreleased films like Revolucion, Los Chidos and Reportero, and the chance to have your face featured in the film festival trailer. Save the date, Sept. 21 - Oct. 4

Contribute your support here!