There were several Latin American films that stood out at the 13th Annual Tribeca Film Festival in Lower Manhattan. One of them, the stylish black and white Felliniesque Gueros, won the award for Best Cinematography. It was reviewed in an earlier column. Another one produced by Spike Lee, addressed the international drug trade in Columbia. Manos Sucias, directed and written by Josef Wladyka, won him the Best New Narrative Director award at the Festival. The jury stated, “Not only did this director spend several years immersed in a marginalized community in order to tell the story in the most truthful way possible, he impacted and contributed to that community. We felt this film was an eye and mind opener, that transported us to a different place, stimulating our thinking, allowing us to meditate on the relationship between violence and circumstance.”
Rather than a road movie, this could be called a 'river movie,' as one unexpected event after another builds to an unexpected climax. It involves two young men trapped in the drug trade who find themselves towing a submerged torpedo behind their fishing boat down the Pacific coast of Colombia, trafficking millions of dollars worth of cocaine. It's either that – or try to survive a life of extreme hardship and deprivation. Five years in the making, Manos Sucias “refuses to glamorize the drug trade but rather seeks to offer a rare glimpse of its devastating effects.”
Three films at the Festival deal with famous sports events in Latin American history. They also reveal the politics behind the headlines. Maravilla tells the story of Argentinian boxer Sergio ‘Maravilla’ Martinez, who tries to reclaim the boxing title he feels was unfairly snatched from him because of the boxing industry's emphasis on entertainment value over the sport itself.
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Maradona '86 tells the story of Argentinian soccer legend Maradona in the famous World Cup Series of 1986 where his winning goal caused a near riot. Even the instant replays couldn't prove that he touched the ball with his hand. The controversial athlete, who rose from the slums to become one of the world's most amazing and beloved athletes, dealt with a life of drug abuse, but became a strong opponent of US imperialism and its pernicious attempts to take back control of Latin America. Maradona ‘86 is a short film so it might be available on YouTube soon. It's a thrilling portrait of the charismatic footballer, with all his complexities and talents. To learn more about his politics search out the stunning Serbian doc, Maradona by Kusturica.
Another short film shown in a double bill with Maradona '86 is a powerful reminder of the tragic 1973 Chilean military coup that resulted in the suicide of the nations beloved leader, Salvador Allende. The film follows the training of the Olympic soccer team during the time of the coup. As a matter of fact they were training in the same National stadium at the same time Leftists were being rounded up, tortured and killed. Most players were unaware of what was going on in stadium, but one of the players refused to shake hands with Gen. Pinochet as they headed off to the Soviet Union for playoffs. When they received a chilling welcome there, it became clear to most of them that a major tragedy had taken place in their country.
When the Soviet Union was schedule to play the next game in Chile in the SAME stadium where they claimed prisoners were still being held, they demanded the Olympic Committee investigate. The Committee was diverted from where the torturing was taking place and gave a glowing report, but the Soviets still refused to travel to Chile knowing that crimes were being committed in the country's main sports stadium. In the only instance of a one team Olympic soccer game, the Chilean team was told they had to play the game WITHOUT an opposing team in order for it to be official. The players traveled the ball down the empty field, scored the goal in front of a small audience, and won the game 1-0. And the Chilean people suffered through the dictatorship for almost 20 years.
But in a small Scottish town in 1974, engine workers expressed an amazing act of solidarity. They refused to repair the engines from the warplanes that were used in the violent Chilean military coup. The planes were sent all the way to Scotland to be repaired, and the workers left them to rust in a factory yard where they mysteriously disappeared – never to be returned. The protest was artfully portrayed in a beautiful 13-minute film called Nae Pasaran that was shown along with many other wonderful shorts at the Tribeca Film Festival.