Monday, December 28, 2009

Dictatorship- part 2- From Argentina "Lamb of God"

The dictatoship that ruled Argentina during 1976 and 1983 left 30,000 desaparecidos.

Lamb of God/ Cordero de Dios
Lucia Cedron, Argentina/France, 2008; 90 m

Guillermina(Leonora Balcarce) is a 30-year old who must negotiate the release of Arturo, her kidnapped grandfather (the well known Jorge Marrale.) They are in the middle of the worst economic crisis in Argentina, that shook the country in 2001-2002, leaving a very shaken middle class. Teresa (the great Mercedes Moran), Guillermina's mother is reluctant to help her father and Guillermina wants to know why. The movie moves between 1978 and 2002 and portraits the difficulties of the new generations to understand Argentina's terrible past.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dicatorship - part 1- From Uruguay "Kill Them All"


During the seventies and eighties many Latin American countries suffered Coup d' État that overthrew democracies and installed dictatorships that brought unbelievable horror and pain. I was a child at the time. I grew up in Argentina during “The Dirty War” as the last dictatorship was known (1976-1983). It was a time of despair when 30,000 people disappeared, los desaparecidos.

More than 30 years after the events, the pain is still alive and filmmakers are dealing with those stories.

From Uruguay/Chile/Argentina/Germany:
Kill Them All/Matar a todos
Esteban Schroeder, 2007, 97 m

Roxana Blanco plays a prosecutor and Human Rights lawyer in post-Junta Montevideo who must investigate the role her family played during those dark times. Based on real life events the movie portraits the covered-up kidnapping of a well-known Chilean biochemical engineer, and the fragility of the new Latin American democracies.
Roxana Blanco won Best Actress at the Havana Film Festival.

I interviewed Roxana when I wrote about this movie for an article in the NY Daily News about LATINBEAT 2008. Latinbeat is the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual Latin American Film Festival that takes place every year at the Walter Reade Theater.

You can see my article at: -

Wednesday, December 2, 2009



New York, December 2, 2009 – Cinema Tropical, the premier purveyor of Latin American cinema in the U.S., has compiled a list of the Top Ten Latin American Films of the Decade (2000-2009) based on a survey of distinguished critics, scholars and film professionals based in the New York City area.

The respected Argentine director Lucrecia Martel, accomplished an amazing feat by making the top ten with the three films she has directed to date. Her first film La Ciénaga got the first place spot and she also occupies the eighth and ninth spots with La mujer sin cabeza (The Headless Woman) and La niña santa (The Holy Girl) respectively.

Under the initiative and coordination of filmmaker and blogger Mario Díaz ( this first-ever survey of its kind was culled from 33 prominent local voices in film whose work has been devoted to the promotion and dissemination of Latin American cinema in New York and the United States. In all, 121 films representing 14 Latin American countries were nominated for the distinction of being Best of the Decade, demonstrating the great quality and diversity of films from the region.

“The project of creating this list had a two-fold intention, on one hand to serve as a promotional campaign to honor all the great film work that the region has produced in the past few years, and secondly to pay some kind of tribute to the professionals that have helped promote Latin American cinema in this city” says Carlos A. Gutiérrez, co-founding director of Cinema Tropical.

The so-called “Three Amigos,” Mexican directors Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros) all made the top ten. Their three breakout films earned a combined $56 million dollars at the U.S. box office alone, elevating each of them to A-list status. Indeed the “Three Amigos” went on to direct such high-profile international films as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Cuarón), Hellboy II (Del Toro), and Babel (González Iñárritu). In 2006, they joined forces to form a production company called Cha Cha Cha Films.

Argentina is the country with the most films on the overall list with 37 mentions, whilst Mexico has four films in the first ten places. However, Brazil has a significant presence throughout the survey with 30 films out of 122 films mentioned. This includes two in the top ten: Fernando Meirelles’ City of God at number four and the documentary feature Bus 174 by directors José Padilha and Felipe Lacerda at number five. Looking at the top twenty-five, Karim Ainouz’s Madame Satâ came in at number 14, while the feature documentaries Santiago by Joâo Salles and Jogo de cena by Eduardo Coutinho came in at 20 and 22 respectively.

Despite the fact that many of the films in the list never had a US theatrical release and that Latin American cinema is not yet widely seen in the U.S., the list demonstrates that there is a wealth of films being produced in the region year after year, and that cinephiles outside the country (or at least in New York) are taking notice. For example, Brazilian director Coutinho, who remains largely unknown to audiences in America, has four films on the overall list: Jogo de cena (Playing, #22), Edificio Master (Master, a Building in Copacabana, #27), Peões (Metalworkers, #44), and O fim e o principio (The End and the Beginning #75).

Other notable performers include Argentine filmmaker Pablo Trapero who has four films included in the list, fellow Argentine Carlos Sorín with three, and Mexican arthouse favorite Carlos Reygadas who has three films as well, including the top ten entry Silent Light (#3) and Japón (#14).

“Best Of” lists usually favor recent releases, but the participants of this survey stuck to quality and personal taste as the principal criteria for their selections. The result is a balanced list made up of picks from the entire decade. In fact, six of the films in the top ten were released in 2004 or before.

“The decade that is about to conclude marked a turning point in Latin American cinema. Never before did Latin American films enjoy such critical and box office success internationally and in the U.S.” says Mario Díaz and adds, “this list is not only a powerful reminder of the great quality and abundance of films that emerged from Latin America in the last 10 years but also a celebration of Latin American cinema’s coming-of-age, for it is now considered at par with the world’s best.”

Cinema Tropical is a New York-based 501(c)(3) non-profit media arts organization dedicated to the promotion, programming and distribution of Latin American cinema in the U.S. Funded in 2001 by Carlos A. Gutiérrez and Mónika Wagenberg, Cinema Tropical has become the leading purveyor of Latin American cinema in the U.S. by having established a screening circuit in twelve venues in North America, having built a film library of over 35 titles and having worked on numerous marketing and promotional campaigns for several film releases and series.

The Top 10 Latin American Films of the Decade are:

1) La Ciénaga Lucrecia Martel Argentina 2001

2) Amores Perros Alejandro González Mexico 2000

3) Luz silenciosa (Silent Light) Carlos Reygadas Mexico 2007

4) Cidade de Deus (City of God) Fernando Meirelles Brazil 2002

5) Ônibus 174 (Bus 174) José Padilha, Brazil 2002
Felipe Lacerda

6) Y Tu Mamá También Alfonso Cuarón Mexico 2001

7) Whisky Juan Pablo Rebella, Uruguay 2004
Pablo Stoll

8) La mujer sin cabeza Lucrecia Martel Argentina 2008
(The Headless Woman)

9) La niña santa (The Holy Girl) Lucrecia Martel Argentina 2004

10) El laberinto del fauno Guillermo del Toro Mexico 2006
(Pan’s Labyrinth)

SURVEY PARTICIPANTS (in alphabetical order):
Inés Aslán, film programmer; Graciela Berger Wegsman, playwright/journalist, New York Daily News, Hora Hispana; Rodrigo Brandão, Director of Publicity, Kino International; Fabiano Canosa, film programmer; Jerry W. Carlson, film professor, The City College & Graduate Center CUNY; Rebeca Conget, VP Acquisitions and Distribution, Film Movement; Gerard Dapena, scholar of Hispanic cinemas and visual culture; Christian Del Moral, film blogger, CineLatinoNY; Mario Díaz, filmmaker/film blogger; Howard Feinstein, film critic, Screen / programmer, Panorama and Sarajevo Film Festival; Cristina Garza, International Sales and Distribution, FiGa Films; Marcela Goglio, programmer, Latinbeat (Film Society of Lincoln Center); Pablo Goldbarg, filmmaker / Writer, Remezcla, Cinema Tropical; Javier Guerrero, director, 100% Venezuela (NYU Venezuelan Film Festival); Carlos A. Gutiérrez, co-founding director, Cinema Tropical; Jytte Jensen, curator, MoMA Department of Film; Peter Lucas, professor, Department of Photography and Imaging and Open Arts at the Tisch School of Arts at New York University; Yehudit Mam, filmmaker / blogger, The Grande Enchilada; Mary Jane Marcasiano, Cinema Tropical; Alberto Medina, Author / Associate professor, Columbia University; Micki Mihich, film critic and columnist, On & Off, Sci-Fi News, Starlog, Wizard; Lucila Moctezuma, coordinator, Tribeca Latin America Media Arts Fund (Tribeca Film Institute); Nuria Net, editor-in-chief, Co-Founder,; Louis Perego Moreno, executive producer, Skyline Features; Carmen Oquendo, researcher and film curator, NYU; Jack Rico, editor-in-chief,; Jerónimo Rodríguez, film critic/host, Toma 1 (NY1 Noticias); Paul Julian Smith, film scholar, author of The Cinema of Pedro Almodóvar and Amores Perros; Roselly Torres, Distribution & Marketing Director, Third World Newsreel; Diana Vargas, programmer, Havana Film Festival (NY) and Corto Circuito; Mónika Wagenberg, co-founding director, Cinema Tropical; Naief Yehya, film critic, La Jornada, Milenio / author of The Transformed Body and War and Propaganda.

To view the complete list of films as well as the individual selections please visit:

For more information please contact Andrew Vargas Stehney at (212) 254-5474 or



I am a big fan of Latino culture and I want to let you know that Ballet Hispanico opened their season at the Joyce Theater !

Don't miss one of the best dance companies in USA!

December 1-13, 2009

Here is a link to my article in the NY Daily News:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009



When I was 19 years old I went to live for a few weeks with the Mapuches in Patagonia, in the South of Argentina.

The word Mapuche comes from: Mapu: tierra and Che: gente: "La gente de la tierra" or "The People of the earth."

They live in small houses made of mud, barro, looking at the impressive Andes.

Two teachers decided to give up their urban life and moved to the "reserva" to create a small school.

I taught the children what the word periodista (journalist) meant. They taught me many things... Among them that I was a "huinka", translation for Americans...."A gringa."

Do you see? Cultures share many things in common...there is always a word for the outsider...

Mapuches are extremely generous. Once I went to visit and a family offered me their only egg...

How did I arrive there?
It's a long story...but let's say I had a great teacher in College: Guilllermo Magrassi, who taught a course in Social Anthropology.
With a friend who wanted to become a rural teacher we decided to go stay with the Mapuches...and we did it!
Believe me it was not easy for a Jewish girl from Buenos Aires to go visit there. It's not a common thing to do...and...Don't ask me about the reaction in my family, please!

I love languages and I find that every language has a distinctive sound and flavor.

I wanted you to introduce you to movies made by Latin Americans about Indians and their rich cultures, in their native tongues.

From Peru:
The Milk of Sorrow/ La Teta Asustada
Claudia Llosa, Peru/Spain , 2009

Fausta's mother had a very hard life that influenced Fausta's vision of the world. She has a gift for singing and she needs to decide if to use it to pay for her mother's burial. The first scene of Fausta's mother singing in Quechua is not to be missed!

Winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 2009 Berlin Film Festival.

From Mexico:

Laura Guzmán, Israel Cárdenas, Mexico, 2007.

Two young Raramuri brothers just graduated from school in their village, near Sierra Tarahumara in Northwest Mexico. Only one of them will be able to attend Middle school...

Their grandfather sends them to deliver medicine to a remote house in the mountains... and the movie follows them in their adventurous journey.

Winner of the Discovery Award at 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.

I hope you enjoy them!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From Argentina: Daniel Burman


I want to answer some questions I got from friends:

1) The movies are in Spanish with English subtitles.

2)Latin Films stand for Latin American Films.

3) Almodovar is from Spain and yes, I care about Spanish movies too, but, I want to write about movies that generally don't get so much attention...By the way I'm a big fan of his movies.

Talking about movies...I want to introduce:

From Argentina:

Daniel Burman

Daniel Burman is an Argentinian filmaker who portraits the lives of regular people. His main characters are middle class Jews who live in Buenos Aires and have to deal with life in their city, assimilation, family, love, etc. He is interested in the relation between father and son. I really enjoy very much his movies. They are very moving and fun to watch. They show the many faces of Buenos Aires...

Waiting for the Messiah/Esperando al Mesias
2000, 93 minutes.
Argentina is in the middle of economic turmoil. Ariel is a young Jewish man (Daniel Hendler) who has just lost his mother. Santamaria, is a man who lost his job in a bank and spends time collecting stolen wallets from the garbage and returning them for a reward...

Lost Embrace/El abrazo partido
2004, 100 minutes.
Ariel, a young Argentine Jew (Daniel Hendler) is dealing with his mother and an absent father who left to fight for Israel when he was a baby. His mother (Adriana Aizenberg) has a lingerie store in a "galeria", a modest shopping mall in Buenos Aires. When his father returns to Argentina, Ariel discovers why his father left the family.

Family Law/Derecho de familia
2006, 102 minutes.
In the last movie of the trilogy, we encounter Perelman, a young Argentine Jew (the same Daniel Hendler) who chose to teach Law instead of joining his father's successful Law Firm. The film explores Perelman' s marriage, the birth of his son and the relationship between him and his charismatic father.

I hope you enjoy these movies.
Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Three movies to begin


I'm beginning today to give you some ideas of very different movies you can enjoy.

Let's say the obvious. This is my blog, so I write about movies that I especially like for a variety of reasons.
As you will see, many movies were done as coproductions.


From Uruguay:
The Pope's Toilet/El Bano del Papa
Cesar Charlone and Enrique Fernandez
Uruguay/Brazil/France, 2007; 90 minutes.

Melo is an Uruguayan town close to the border with Brazil. The inhabitants of this town are quite poor but they have the dignity to keep up with life and its struggles. In this comedy Beto is an optimist who makes a living smuggling goods among the two towns on his bicycle.
Pope John Paul II plans to visit the town in 1988 and the residents begin to plan how to take advantage of the historic event to sell their products. But Beto has by far...the most original idea. Do you want to know more? Watch the movie.

From Puerto Rico:
What happened to Santiago/Lo que le paso a Santiago
Jacobo Morales, Puerto Rico, 1989; 105 minutos

Santiago Rodriguez is a widower who feels depressed after he is forced to retire. He meets a younger woman who helps him get rid of his melancholy...but who doesn't want to talk about her own past.

It is a very important movie in Puerto Rican Cinema history because of its broad success at home and abroad. It was nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film.

From Argentina:
Anahi Berneri, Argentina, 2007; 2003

Many Argentinians will recognize actress Silvia Perez, a former model and Beauty Queen, as the protagonist of Encarnacion. In this movie Perez portrays (mirroring reality) the difficulties that a former star faces when her looks fade and her body changes. Any woman can relate to her vulnerability.

Winner of the Innovation Award at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.

Please give me feedback, suggestions, comments.


Monday, November 23, 2009


Dear friends,

I would like to share with you my passion for Latin American Cinema as a reflection of its many different cultures and the rich Spanish language.

For all of you who are interested in Latin American Cinema but don't know where to begin, I'm here to help you.

As a quiz...Can you name five Latin American movies you have seen in the last five years? Can you mention any actors? Any directors?

Don't worry you're not's not easy for a Latin American movie to get distribution in the United States. But if you read until here, I am sure you are thisty for more.

I would like to introduce you to some very interesting movies that you can get from Netflix, Amazon, the Public Library, etc. In some cases they are presented on Latin American Festivals.

I hope you enjoy the experience!

I would love to hear your comments,

Graciela Berger Wegsman