Neighboring Sounds: Contemporary Latin American Cinema

Programmed by Mojo Lorwin and Hugo Fernandes

Co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies and Katz Center for Mexican Studies of the University of Chicago, and in collaboration with The Cervantes Institute

Essay by Mojo Lorwin and Hugo Fernandes

"Neighboring Sounds: Contemporary Latin American Cinema" highlights some of the best films to emerge from Latin America in the past decade with an emphasis on recent work from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile. Some of the directors featured in this series have already gone on to achieve major Hollywood success (Cuarón, Padilha), others have developed impressive internationally recognized bodies of work while remaining in Latin America (Martel, Reygadas, Alonso), while others are still in the opening chapters of promising careers (Filho, Piñeiro, Mascaro, Berger, Silva). The ten films in this series cover a diverse range of styles and topics. Neighboring Sounds is a portrait of a fast developing Brazilian city haunted by remnants of its violent past, while Viola manages to successfully mix Shakespeare and mumblecore in present day Buenos Aires. Post Tenebras Lux is a divisive work which plumbs the depths of domestic depravity against an extraordinary visual backdrop worthy of Tarkovsky and Malick, while La Nana is a low budget but deceptively subversive comedy centered around a tour de force performance by its lead actress. Class tension is a theme in almost all of our selections, between domestic workers and the upper middle-class families who employ and house them (Doméstica, La Nana), between the new urban elite and the old rural land barons (Neighboring Sounds, Post Tenebras Lux) and even between family and friends (Y Tu Mamá También, La Ciénaga). And the influence of the experimental "Slow Cinema" movement (currently quite popular in Latin America) can be seen to varying degrees in many of our selections. While Liverpool is the only film in our series which truly deserves the "Slow Cinema" moniker, many of the more traditional narrative films included in this series have been permeated and enriched by the movement's emphasis on naturalism, patience and poetic minutiae.


2014-01-12 @ 7:00 PM

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

(José Padilha, 2010) · Not a sequel so much as a reinvention, "The Enemy Within" unearths a world of morally bankrupt politics and dirty cops, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the poor living in Rio de Janeiro. The highest grossing film ever in South America, it ranks as one of the all-time great crime thrillers, grounded by strong, genuinely human characters in the grittiest of settings. A perfect amalgam of "City of God", "Goodfellas", and "The Wire".

runtime: 115 min format: 35mm


2014-01-19 @ 7:00 PM

Neighboring Sounds

(Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2012) · O Som ao Redor ("Neighboring Sounds") is the impressively mature feature debut from Brazilian film critic Kleber Mendonça Filho. A tense and episodic multi-character drama, the film chronicles one week on a quickly changing block in Recife, a city on the Northeastern coast of Brazil. Filho's distinctive style moves seamlessly between the mundane, the dreamy and the violent, and ultimately earned the film a spot on A.O. Scott's Best Films of 2012 list.

runtime: 131 min format: DCP


2014-01-26 @ 7:00 PM

Post Tenebras Lux

(Carlos Reygadas, 2012) · In this expressionistic semi-autobiographical film, the director Reygadas weaves together influences as diverse as Kubrick and Malick in a loose narrative about a cosmopolitan family who moves to the countryside and finds life there to be less copacetic than planned. While confounding at times, the film is visually stunning - the first thirty minutes alone contain some of the most unique and memorable images ever committed to celluloid.

runtime: 115 min format: 35mm


2014-02-02 @ 7:00 PM

La Ciénaga

(Lucrecia Martel, 2001) · La Ciénaga" (or "The Swamp") is an unforgettable portrait of an extended family's summer vacation in Northern Argentina characterized by alcoholism, neglect, and the thrills and terrors of unsupervised adolescence. Drawing upon her own memories, Martel creates a hazy and uncertain world in "La Ciénaga" where the normal boundaries between childhood and adulthood, employers and employees, family and sexuality, can get lost in the mist.

runtime: 103 min format: 35mm


2014-02-09 @ 7:00 PM


(Gabriel Mascaro, 2012) · Gabriel Mascaro continues his practice of using documentary as a tool for social critique. For "Housemaids" (or, "Doméstica"), Mascaro gives cameras to seven teenagers from around Brazil and asks them to film their maids for seven days. The result is a fascinating personalized portrait of the Brazilian class system via one of its most ubiquitous and insidious points of intersection. This screening will be the Chicago premiere for Domésticas.

runtime: 66 min format: DCP


2014-02-16 @ 7:00 PM

Y Tu Mamá También

(Alfonso Cuarón, 2001) · Having established himself as a Hollywood force with "A Little Princess" (1995) and "Great Expectations" (1998), Cuarón headed back home to Mexico for this uncharacteristically personal film. A funny, sexy and cynical story about a road trip ménage à trois, "Y Tu Mamá También" made Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna into household names and, together with Iñárritu's "Amores Perros" (2000), helped put contemporary Mexican cinema on the map.

runtime: 86 min format: 35mm


2014-02-23 @ 7:00 PM


(Lisandro Alonso, 2008) · Filmed entirely with non-actors, "Liverpool" is a contemplative movie by one of the pioneers of contemporary slow cinema. Alonso shows an incredible economy of storytelling in this quiet odyssey of a solitary merchant sailor who returns to his hometown 20 years after he left it. The emotional frigidity of Liverpool's characters echoes the stunning wintry landscape of its setting, the Tierra del Fuego in Argentina, the southernmost region of South America.

runtime: 84 min format: 35mm


2014-03-02 @ 7:00 PM


(Matías Piñeiro, 2012) · Up and coming Argentine director Matías Piñeiro's latest feature is an inventive reimagining of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" via mumblecore. Few of the many to be noted are "Viola"'s mostly female ensemble cast and Piñeiro's script that subtly integrates cinematic language and tempo. This screening, which will be the first Chicago premiere for "Viola", will be preceded by Eugene Mullin and Charles Kent's short silent version of "Twelfth Night".

runtime: 65 min format: DCP


2014-03-09 @ 7:00 PM

Silent Light

(Carlos Reygadas, 2007) · Reygadas's most celebrated film is a moving meditation on love, free will (or the absence of) and regret, and an explicit homage to Carl Dreyer's spiritual drama "Ordet" (1955). Set in the Mexican Mennonite community, Stellet Licht ("Silent Light") chronicles the unfolding of an anguished love triangle centered around a husband and the father of six, featuring a cast of Mennonite non-actors. A masterpiece from one of the best directors working today.

runtime: 127 min format: DVD


2014-03-16 @ 7:00 PM

The Maid

(Sebastian Silva, 2009) · Before his recent collaborations with Michael Cera, Juno Temple and Gaby Hoffmann brought him into the international spotlight, Chilean Sebastian Silva was turning heads with this subversive low-budget, black comedy. Catalina Saavedra's performance as the eponymous maid is a tour de force that manages to be sympathetic while boiling with repressed envy and rage. Silva's deadpan naturalism and handheld technique defy the genre of domestic drama.

runtime: 95 min format: 35mm


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