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By Alex Garcia Topete
DIFF Writer

ON SCREEN
Latino Showcase Films
REZETA
Sunday, April 6 @ Angelika
Monday, April 7 @ Angelika

HELI
Sunday, April 6 @ Angelika
Friday, April 11 @ Angelika

THE MILITANT
Sunday, April 6 @ Angelika
Monday, April 7 @ Angelika

THE MAN BEHIND THE MASK
Sunday, April 6 @ Angelika
Monday, April 7 @ Angelika

GREENCARD WARRIORS
Sunday, April 6 @ Angelika
Monday, April 7 @ Angelika

Films, at times even more so than books, have the power to transport audiences to uncharted territory——from fantasy lands and foreign countries to unknown lifestyles. Such is the case of all the films in the Latino Showcase of this year’s Dallas International Film Festival, since each of the stories take both their characters and their audiences on journeys of discovery at several levels.

REZETA stands out as a prime example of this overall theme, considering that it started as an exploration for the filmmakers themselves at first. “I think the team was inspired by the idea of an adventure making a movie. All the crew members were first-timers by the time of filming: production, photography, costumes, makeup, actors, everyone… It was our first movie and that certainly inspires,” commented Fernando Frias, writer and director of REZETA. And the aforementioned spirit of adventure definitely shows in the film’s minimalistic and almost cinema-verite style, which happened to complement and enhance the story itself. Frias took advantage of the style to make audiences complicit in a voyeuristic experience as Rezeta, the protagonist, explores a new city (Mexico), seeks new possibilities in her modelling career, encounters a variety of (mostly male) characters, and experiments with romance. The audience learns as fast and as much of Mexico City and Rezeta’s circumstances as herself. “I like that people can identify with [the characters]and wonder about things like prejudice or the weight of circumstances”, concluded Frias.

REZETA

REZETA

Similarly, Manolo Nieto’s EL LUGAR DEL HIJO (THE MILITANT) throws Ariel’s life off its track and into his father’s shadow—despite his death. While Ariel has his own life in the capital, his forcible return to deal with his father’s estate reveals to him a different father figure, one that despite the blood connection remained truly alien to the protagonist. Precisely as the title in Spanish suggests (“The Place of the Son”), Ariel struggles to find his footing in the small countryside town that used to be his home, especially with each revelation about his father’s life. Audiences ought to feel as lost and conflicted as Ariel himself thanks to Nieto’s pace and style that deftly translate the protagonist’s state of mind. Even when he knows a little of the land, the imposed new lifestyle forces Ariel to adapt—and audiences can either root for him or simply pity his situation.

Following that note, GREENCARD WARRIORS thrusts Angel and his family into a journey full of hardships that, no matter how typical it may be among the community of undocumented Latinos in Los Angeles and other parts of the country, threatens to shatter his family and condemn him to a life crime. What audiences may find compelling, astounding, and heartbreaking in Miriam Kruishoop’s story consists of all the legalities, prejudices, and socio-economic and cultural complexities that most people will discover thanks to the film—a land of injustice amidst “the land of the free” in which the American Dream may be just that, a dream, for some unfortunate people.

GREENCARD WARRIORS

GREENCARD WARRIORS

However, undocumented Latinos in the US are alone in that type of duress. Amat Escalante also depicts a world of broken dreams, little hope, and life-threatening risks in HELI. Set in current Mexico and its costly and bloody “war on drugs,” HELI allows audiences to discover a special kind of hell—one in which violence isn’t only commonplace but also mind-numbingly routine despite its horrors, and seemingly now one can escape it unscathed. While all of the characters in the story live in and are used to that life, Escalante’s raw and unapologetic storytelling may shock audiences in order to magnify the truth as each of the atrocities of that violence-ridden lifestyle unravels in the narrative.

Whereas all the aforementioned films use fiction to help us explore new worlds, EL HOMBRE DETRAS DE LA MASCARA (THE MAN BEHIND THE MASK) delivers a real-life story, which also happens to be an intimate view into the secretive world of masked luchadores in Mexico. In Gabriela Obregon’s documentary, the lives and careers of iconic luchadores El Santo and El Hijo del Santo are exposed and explained to the audience in a level of detail and access to the subjects like never before. In a way, the documentary not only quite literally “unmasks” two folk heroes, but also shares the world of lucha libre (wrestling) with fans of the “sport.”

Ultimately, all this films and their stories have a thing in common: they will challenge its audiences to, as Fernando Frias assessed, “to discover the movie[s] on the go.”

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