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Five to Watch at This Year's Latinbeat Film Festival

Now in its 13th year, Lincoln Center's Latinbeat Film Festival continues its mission of showcasing the largely undiscovered talent emerging from the national cinemas of Latin America. Last year's highlight, The Milk of Sorrow, went on to garner an Oscar nomination and score a much-coveted New York theatrical run. Will one of these five contenders similarly capture the public's (and critics') imagination this year?

Extraordinary Stories
The festival's major work, in terms of running time (245 minutes), ambition, and achievement, Mariano Llinás's film unfolds as both a relentless—and relentlessly compelling—narrative and a complex consideration of the function of storytelling. Interweaving a trio of enigmatic, shifting plotlines (related both visually and via a nearly nonstop voiceover) about characters stumbling on conspiracies involving a hidden cache of gold, a jail-yard smuggling, and abandoned monoliths lining a river, the film explores our desire to give shape to a world marked by mystery, a goal achieved with stirring success by the young Argentinean filmmaker.

Optical Illusions
Chilean director Cristian Jimenez offers up a wry take on sexual relations between the classes, the corporate downsizing process, and the mania for seeking happiness through elective surgery. Rather than reaching for obvious satire, the filmmaker remains a curious, detached observer of the inevitable absurdities of life, charting the curious intermingling of a half-dozen men and women variously connected to a louche health care corporation.

Paradise
Most fictional exposés of contemporary poverty either present their setting as an aesthetic wonderland (Slumdog Millionaire) or as a voyeuristic peep show for the comfortable middle-class viewer (Precious). Héctor Gálvez's detail-rich look at the lives of five dead-end teens in a rural Peruvian shantytown does neither: Working from deep within the culture, the film takes its characters' aspirations as seriously as they do, even as it acknowledges the near-impossibility of their fulfillment.

My Life With Carlos
When he was just a year old, filmmaker German Berger's father was executed by Pinochet's military dictatorship. Now 30, Berger revisits the legacy of the man he never knew and the regime that devastated a country, interviewing his mother and his two uncles about the circumstances of his father's death and their own responses to the tragedy. It's cinema as memory project, but also catharsis—one man's attempt to exorcise his lingering anger at the past.

Cephalopod
Another work about the acceptance of death, Ruben Imaz's film looks for its consolation in the mythopoetic. Journeying to Mexico to follow in the path of his deceased lover, a Basque painter overcomes the spiritual and physical torpor by heading out to a beach rife with the titular squid that his girlfriend once studied. As the abstract planes of sand, sea, and sky give way to the tactility of rock and waves, the man finds final release through a symbolic gesture.

 
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