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José Martí: El Ojo del Canario (2010)
Genre: Drama, Biography, Historic
Directed by: Fernando Perez

FYI: NOT official artwork.

Jose Marti: El Ojo del Canario tells the story of Jose Julian Marti Perez, the Cuban national hero and Latin American literature figure, between the dates when he was 9 years and 16 years old.

The film is more a representation of different things that could have had an effect in the way Jose Marti saw his motherland Cuba. Born from his Spanish father from Valencia and his mother from the Canary Islands, Jose Marti grew up a pretty privilege life getting to study at private school, learning mathematics, and reading.

He is bright and studious, and his mother and teacher want him to continue his studies, despite his father’s desire for him to start working right away. At a tender age, he goes off to work with him, and earns him praises for his King-styled handwriting. In school, he is very influenced by his best friend Fermin Valdez Dominguez, as well as his teacher Rafael Maria de Mendive. All of this, plus his exposure to slavery, which was still practiced in Spanish-ruled Cuba, made him want to yearn for a free Cuba.

The two leads who play Marti in the film — one as a child, and the other as 16-year-old Marti — are more than capable to carry the film. In fact, Damian Antonio Rodriguez who played kid-Marti reminded me of a young combination between James Franco (Milk) and Ben Whishaw (Perfume: The Story of a Murdered). Despite me not believing that Daniel Romero, playing 16-year-old Marti, looks anything like Rodriguez, there’s no denying the talent put into his characterization.

The film doesn’t feel all that connected, sometimes jumping scene from scene without any flow, however that doesn’t take away much from the acting and the story director Perez wanted to tell. Cuba is showcasing a very well put together biographic piece.

3/5

COMPETENCIA OFICIAL – FICCION

Screenings:
Monday 9 – 10.30pm – Cineplanet Alcázar – Sala 5
Tuesday 10 – 10.15pm – Centro Cultural Católica – Sala Roja
Wednesday 11 – 9.45pm – Cineplanet Alcázar – Sala 1
Saturday 14 – 3pm –  Cineplanet Alcázar – Sala 5

Hotel Atlântico (2009)
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Directed by: Suzana Amaral

Hotel Atlantico tells the story of an actor (Julio Andrade) – referred to as The Artist – who finds himself without a job, so he decides to embark himself into an aimless adventure, where he meets people and gets himself in unexpected… and even absurd situations.

Funniest thing is, all the supporting characters are probably more memorable than the protagonist himself. From the sacristan (Gero Camilo from Carandiru) and his aid, to Diana (Mariana Ximenes), the daughter of the doctor who wanted to be major. Though, Andrade had moments where he could have looked like the protagonist on Jesus Christ Superstar.

Perhaps, the most absurd of situations is how The Artist ends up in the hospital, and his meeting with Diana who happened to recognized him when he needed aid. But the most moving encounter is when he meets Sebastian or Sebastião (João Miguel).

2.75/5

COMPETENCIA OFICIAL – FICCION

Screenings:
Friday 6 – 10.15pm – Cineplanet Alcázar – Sala 8
Monday 9 – 7.30pm – Centro Cultural Católica – Sala Azul
Friday 13 – 10pm – Centro Cultural Católica – Sala Azul

El Vuelvo del Cangrejo (2009) – aka. Crab Trap
Genre: Light Drama
Directed by: Oscar Ruiz Navia

Crab Trap tells the story of Daniel (Rodrigo Velez) and the relationship he makes with La Barra, a little black community in Colombia’s Pacific coast. In it, he meets with Cerebro (Brain), the leader of the afro-descendant natives who are having territorial issues with a white man called El Paisa, who wants to build a hotel on the beach.

The film is a little over 1.30hr, even though it feels it could hit the 2hr. mark. It’s slowly-paced with descent performances from the main cast — even if some of the scenes and situations felt forced. The most interesting part of the film is, perhaps, Daniel’s relationship with Lucia (Yisela Alvarez) a little girl he befriends in the community. Other than that, I did not care about him as a character, so I didn’t care for what he was looking for, or whether he would get it.

Cerebro’s struggle with progress distanced me even further from the story, when you had other characters that didn’t have issues with it. Cerebro’s antics just end up as a childish, not comfortable with things changing. However, I will give in into something — El Paisa playing his damn Reggaeton music every night was annoying.

2.75/5

COMPETENCIA OFICIAL – FICCION

Screenings:
Saturday 7 – 8.30pm – Cineplanet Risso
Sunday 8 – 10pm –Centro Cultural Católica – Sala Azul
Wednesday 11 – 10.30pm – Cineplanet Alcázar – Sala 5
Thursday 12 – 8pm – Cineplanet Primavera – Sala 1
Friday 13 – 3pm – Cineplanet Alcázar – Sala 5

Rompecabezas (2009) – aka. Puzzle
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Directed by: Natalia Smirnoff

Puzzle tells the story of Maria del Carmen (Maria Onetto), a housewife who has just turned 40-ish, and has spent the last 20 years of her life worrying about her husband and two sons — who are now about to leave the nest. On her birthday, she receives a puzzle as a gift, and finds out she’s got a natural ability for them. Maria del Carmen decides to answer an ad of a man who’s looking for a “puzzle partner” to compete on the puzzle championship in Germany, despite her family’s discontent of her new hobby.

The film starts like this, Maria del Carmen is busy making snacks, and a cake for what’s obviously a birthday party. Later that day, her house is filled with relatives we will never see again, everyone is talking and eating while Maria del Carmen is still busy with party chores, like slicing the salami and serving it up. Finally, the lights are out and Maria makes her entrance carrying the cake with the candles, while the people sing Happy Birthday. Maria sets the cake on the table, and blows the candles herself. It was her birthday, and it makes the viewers see how much her family under-appreciates her.

Puzzle is a light dramedy about a woman who decides to put herself first, after years of putting her family’s needs ahead. It just so happens to be a slight obsession on puzzles, which is somewhat hilarious. World puzzle championships? Right, we couldn’t believe it either.

She begins training for a world-known puzzle championship with Roberto (Arturo Goetz), who like Maria, has a knack for puzzles. While she meets with him at his luscious place in the city, telling her family she’s visiting an aunt, her Taichi-practicing husband finds it somewhat annoying that she keeps forgetting the cheese, and her youngest kid begins dating a vegan who’s obsessed with how much pain a fish feels when getting caught.

Puzzle is full of charm, and Maria will surely remind everyone of their mothers — especially if they don’t have a grasp on technology. E-mail, anyone?

3.25/5

COMPETENCIA OFICIAL – FICCION

Screenings:
Friday 6 – 10pm – Cineplanet Risso
Sunday 8 – 10.15pm –Centro Cultural Católica – Sala Roja
Tuesday 10 – 2.15pm – Centro Cultural Católica – Sala Roja
Thursday 12 – 3pm – Cineplanet Alcázar – Sala 5
Friday 13 – 10.30pm – Cineplanet Alcázar – Sala 5

Carancho (2010)
Genre: Thriller, Drama
Directed by: Pablo Trapero

Carancho tells the story of Sosa (Ricardo Darin), a lawyer specialized in traffic accidents in Buenos Aires. Thanks to the corrupt system and insurance companies, he takes advantage of countless families victims of the roads who end up with nothing of the money these lawyers end up keeping. One night, while searching for a new client, Sosa ends up meeting Lujan (Martina Gusman), a young ER doctor who keeps herself awake with drugs.

Pablo Trapero’s thriller is filled with loads of good elements starting up, from your sassy young medical student, and a somewhat rough-on-the-edges Sosa and his victim-lawyers-insurance dealings. There’s fraud, and brutal beat-ups… however, it all falls apart in the last act. We don’t exactly understand why Lujan would end up willing to give it all up for Sosa, who promises to leave his way of earning a living behind, but we know from the start that it won’t be possible.

In the end, Trapero decides to wrap it all up nicely, but ends up feeling a bit desperate with an over-the-top rescue mission.

3/5

COMPETENCIA OFICIAL – FICCION

Screenings:
Saturday 7 – 10.15pm – Centro Cultural Católica – Sala Roja
Sunday 8 – 8pm – Cineplanet Alcázar – Sala 5
Monday 9 – 2.15pm – Centro Cultural Católica – Sala Roja
Tuesday 10 – 8pm – Cineplanet Primavera – Sala 1
Thursday 12 – 7.15pm – Centro Cultural Católica – Sala Roja
Friday 13 – 9.45pm –  Cineplanet Alcázar – Sala 1

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