After the marquee finally changed last Tuesday, an alcohol-induced paper trail has had CHS wondering out loud whether SIFF has already secured its bid for a 10-year lease on The Egyptian. The deal would have the city’s most prominent film curator sticking around Capitol Hill long after the festival proper lights up the theater’s lonely screen once again for three weeks starting May 15. While we may have to bear with the great unknown for a bit, in the meantime a bit farther up the road, 12th Ave’s Northwest Film Forum continues to defend the neighborhood against total cinematic meltdown with programming that consistently qualifies the Hill as an all-seasons site for the independent film circuit. Friday, the first, and possibly the first-annual, Pulsos Latinos series kicks off tonight exemplifies the Forum’s contribution.
Scheduled amidst a number of thematic film series’ the Forum has added to its calendar in recent years, the eight-day Pulsos Latinos will showcase work said to represent a “nueva ola” — or new wave — of Latino cinema swelling up as it were from a milieu the guest curator and programmer for the series, veteran film critic and Cinema Scope writer Jay Kuehner, says has moved from the “margins” to being “almost a forefront” of global cinema in recent years.
“Latino cinema is setting a precedent for the industry in terms of creativity, in terms of production and also in terms of getting films off the ground in difficult financial times,” Kuehner said. “We want to acknowledge this moment of ascendance,” he said, explaining the drive of Pulsos Latinos. “That’s the impetus behind this.”
The showcase will feature eight films produced in countries including Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, with one United States/Mexico production, and one US/Peru production by “a filmmaker working in Brazil though she herself is not Latina,” Kuehner said. “I think the nature of the series is bringing up the question of the very notion of national cinemas,” he said. Most of the films were released on a limited basis in 2013, though a few first came out in 2012. However, none of the titles at Pulsos Latinos have seen a wide release yet. “We’re showing films that are successful in Latino markets abroad but remain to be seen if they will be successful here, so we’re taking certain risks — that was one of the curatorial goals: to say, ‘Wow, this film has elements of everything, what will Seattle audiences think of it?’”
The films featured at Pulsos Latinos have “a bit more edginess” than those you might see at the Seattle International Film Festival, which will release its schedule April 30, or those featured at the Seattle Latino Film Festival, an arm of SIFF which will have its 6th-annual run over the course of eight days this October, Kuhner said.
A common thread seen in many films in the festival is an unconventional blending of themes, and sometimes genres and narratives, Kuehner said. Pulsos’ opening night film, Juavier Andrade’s Mejor No Hablar de Ciertas Cosas, exemplifies this kind of taciturn complexity. The film is described as “a corrosive and funny drama — by turns blackly sardonic and deeply tender — about two brothers trying to grow up amid the torpor of drugs and the insulating comforts of class privilege in Portoviejo, Ecuador.” Or, as Kuehner puts it: “It’s a slacker film, it’s a drama, it’s a thriller, and it’s also got a lot of down time because the protagonists are drug users, and I think it reflects some of their torpor.” An opening night party will follow the 7pm screening, and the film will show again next Saturday at 9pm.
You can find more about the films and showtimes at Pulsos Latinos, here.
Other titles include Somos Mari Pepa by Samuel Kishi Leopo. It is on the surface a typical male-centric teenage buddy movie about an aspiring garage band but may contain some unexpected elements — “It’s a youth film, and we’ve seen a lot of youth films — it’s skateboards, trying to meet girls and punk songs, and no one’s particularly good at any of those,” Kuehner said, “But it’s a very heart-warming story about their lead guitar player essentially coming of age because he’s living at home with his grandmother, and his ailing grandmother starts to take precedence over the concerns of adolescence.”
El verano de los peces voladores by Marcela Said explores Pinochet, class and indigenous legacies in Chile,”in the form of a story of a coming of age story for the daughter of a patriarch who isn’t really aware of the role his bourgeois life plays in the suppression of indigenous culture” and Por las plumas by Neto Villalobos is a rare production out of Costa Rica about a lonely security guard who lives above a fried chicken restaurant and makes best friends with a rooster — “essentially its a dead-pan comedy that wouldn’t be out of place to fans of Jim Jarmusch for example and it’s bitter sweet but light-hearted,” Kuehner said.
One of the two films partially produced in the United States, Purgatorio: A Journey Into the Heart of the Border by Rodrigo Reyes documents a journey by car along the US-Mexico border from Tijuana to Juarez. “It’s very equivocal, in that it’s giving rise to a lot of different voices of la frontera, of what it means to be trying to cross over, or trying to resist those who cross over, and so it’s a fascinating and frustrating and very beautiful movie,” Kuehner said. “At times it’s very poetic and tender and there’s some cruelty to it as well and I think at times that cruelty reflects a reality that we often times would rather not look at.”
The curator is already thinking about plans for next year. “There was so much to chose from that you could have a year-round cinematech just devoted to Latino cinema,” Kuehner said of this year’s selection process. “When Courtney [Courtney Sheehan, program directory at NWFF] and I sat down to confirm that this was what we were doing I think we both lit up because I think we realize that this was an annual event in the making.”
For such a major milieu, Kuehner admits that Latino cinema is a loosely defined concept at best. “If you look at different showcases of Latino cinema there is a consensus that we have no consensus,” Kuehner, who does not identify as Latino himself, but who says he has strong ties with the community, said. “And maybe that’s the beauty of this genre exploding,” he said. “But for all intents and purposes we are promoting it as Pulsos Latinos; it’s not only the pulse — but it’s the pulses.”