By Jim Gilles
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 7/17/22 – One feature of the Outfest LGBTQ+ Film Festival is its collection of Latinx shorts. Full of heartache, longing, dancing, manicures, and a little weed, these stories celebrate the importance of our sacred connections, both in the USA and elsewhere in the LatinX experience.
Whether honoring a grandparent, stressing over a quinceañera, saying an emotional goodbye, or finding one’s way back to some once loved, these films emphasize the importance of bonds formed in a special way. This fine gathering of short films will screen at Plaza de la Raza on Tuesday, July 19, at 9:30 PM. If you have never been there before, Plaza de la Raza is located on 3540 N Mission Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90031 – in the Lincoln Park district of L.A. not far from USC-L.A. County Medical Center. If you can’t make it to the screenings in the theatre at Plaza de la Raza, the LatinXcellence shorts will be available July 20, 8:00 AM for streaming online through Outfest Virtual: https://www.outfestla.org/films-and-events.
Recuerdo de Una Tarde en la Azotea (Memory of an Afternoon on the Rooftop, Mexico, 9 min., 2022) is a dreamlike film about memory by Tavo Ruiz. Featuring Leonardo Castell and Paulino Razo, this film reveals how an intimate encounter haunts one’s memory, be it the touch of a hand or a kiss. Two young men who are best friends meet on the rooftop of a building in Mexico City one afternoon and wander through concrete pillars and metal cages in a dreamlike setting. But that was in the past and in the present a young man wanders across a pedestrian bridge and then into an old building – the place where his memory of shared moments of intimacy continue to haunt him. In our dreams, we sometimes revisit places where we seek to touch or connect to a person we desire, hoping to “find” that person but strangely distanced, as if love is ultimately beyond our grasp.
Tavo Ruiz is an accomplished director with 10 short films to his credit, including Josú y Pia (2009), Earth (2014), Juan Gabriel Is Dead (2018) and Retratos de la Madre (2020) – the last film being a documentary about Tavo’s own mother. Juan Gabriel Is Dead which was one of eight shorts incorporated into the anthology film New Queer Visions: Seeing Is Believing (2020) that included the short Little Potato by Wes Hurley (whose film Potato Dreams of America was featured at Outfest 2021). Recuerdo de una Tarde en la Azotea has been seen at a number of international film festivals, including the New Renaissance Film in Amsterdam 2022, Mexico LGBTQ+ International Film Festival 2022 and OutFest Perú 2022.
Adam, Eve, and the Forbidden Fruit (Brazil, 20 min., 2022) is a tough love tale by R. B. Lima about a trans woman in Brazil who finally has the opportunity to get close to her teenage son. Margarida Santos provides a fiery performance as this trans woman who was the boy’s father but now hopes to be the mother he never really had. The son (Danny Barbosa) is not sure about the real intentions of the trans woman who seems a bit intimidating at first. The cast includes Lay Gonçalves, Manoa Vitorino and William Cabral. R.B. Lima is a Brazilian director whose work includes a short ghost story De Vez Em Quanod, Quando Eu Morro, Eu Choro (2017) and Argentina (2017), about two gay men in love.
¡Nails! (USA, English, 5 minutes, 2021) is a delightful work of animation by Eliana Pipes. A cheeky exploration of the irony in queer Afro-Latina culture that long nails on women and lesbianism are often in contention. Obviously, the tone of the sort film is quite humorous but it embraces a broader issue of where female ideas about idealized beauty do not match the desires of lesbian women. Jennie Greenberry and Natalie Roman are the voices of the women in the short. Director Eliana Pipes is an actress, playwright, and filmmaker studying at Columbia University in New York City. She graduated from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts where she was in the theater department. She’s a three-time YoungArts winner for dramatic writing (2013-2015); and a winner in the spoken theater category (2014). From 2007 to 2010 she performed in summer shows with The Actor’s Gang Theater in Culver City as an ensemble member. She’s also the writer, director, and lead actress of Meet Me @ The Clinic, a new web show.
Las Plantas de Mis Abuelos (USA, 1 min, 2022), directed by Nicholas Jara & Lilith King-Smith, is a sweet example of how a very short film can be so touching. A grandson in Guatemala explores a vision where queerness and tradition live in harmony through the care of plants and celebration of love.
Mercury Retrograde (Mexico, 6 min, 2022), directed by Gustavo Gamero, is part of large filmmaking project featuring Caro Hernandez and Natalia Santos. One hot summer day, Nats and Caro go to the pool to cool off, but the day doesn’t turn out the way they expected. Gustavo Caro has previously made Let People Exit Before Boarding (Antes de entrar, permita salir, 2018), a short about two teenage boys, Jesus and Pablo, who are looking for a place to have sex for the first time.
El Marijuano (English, USA, 18 min, 2021) is a more local story about two young men in South L.A. directed by Andrew Lara Cervantes. A queer Chicano pothead named Juan (played by Daniel Marquez) decides to leave his gentrifying neighborhood in South Los Angeles but not before seeing his best friend Billy (played by Alejandro Valtierra) for one night one more time. On his last night, the two reminisce, open old wounds, and try to heal. El Marijuano is a film about queer Latine by queer Latine. It explores mental health, queerness, and sentimentality among two men, all of which defy the machismo culture inherent in the Latine community and bring queerness to the forefront when such characters are usually relegated to the background.
I Should Feed My Cat (French/Spanish, Belgium, 17 min, 2021), directed by Abram Cerda, takes us to Brussels, where a Chilean man looks for connection. His fear of intimacy leads him in a chance encounter than is a bit surprising. In this urban tale of love are actors Emannuel Amar, Rubén Cabrera and Andres Cifuentes. The film was well received at the Guanajuato International Film Festival 2022.
Blessed and Highly Favored (USA, English/Spanish, 8 min, 2021): The writer/directors Marianne Amelinckx and Julieta Messmer present an interesting episode about a Venezuelan filmmaker (Lorena Russi) and a former big shot Mexican writer (Emma Ramos) who take jobs at a cannabis farm when their visas are put on hold. This short began as a podcast episode and a TV series is now in development. Emma Ramos is a bi-lingual Mexican actress, comedian, and sketch comedy artist. She won the CenturyFox/ Disney Women of Color TV Pilot Incubator. NYC native, Lorena Russi, is a Queer-Latinx pro soccer player turned comedy multi-hyphenate. Lorena’s decade in entertainment ranges from HBO Writer to PBS Writer-Director to playing Frida Kahlo in The Late Show.
Spaceship (USA/English, 19 minutes, 2021), directed by Jorge G. Camarena, tells the story of a trans woman in East L.A. who is on the verge of losing her daughter to child services. Maria (played by Carlie Guevara) begins to unravel as she is forced to confront her buried traumas and fears. Interwoven into the story is the dream of escaping planet earth and going somewhere better in a spaceship. The cast includes Chloe Jo Rountree, Rogelio T. Ramos, Pamela Shaddock, Eduardo Roman, Kazandra Santana. Jorge G. Camarena has made a number of music videos previously as well as short films, including Siddharta: Ser Parte (2017) and Nothing Ever Happens (2020).