Thursday, January 14, 2016

Latin American Films Receive Oscar Nominees

A pair of cinematic tales of discovery created by Latin American auteurs received nominations for the upcoming Academy Awards set to take place on February 28th.

Embrace of the Serpent” (“El Abrazo de la Serpiente”) became the first-ever Colombian movie selected as a finalist for Best Foreign Film. The lone Latin American entry in that category is loosely based on the diaries of scientists Theodor Koch-Grunberg and Richard Evans Schultes during their search in the early 20th-century for a sacred plant in the Amazon rainforest. The film follows the perspectives of these botanists along with indigenous and a shaman as they interact with each other and explore the jungle world surrounding them. “Embrace” also examines the clash of cultures and affects to the environment that develop between natives and visitors.

Two unique features of this movie directed by Ciro Guerra is that it jumps back and forth in time, and was filmed entirely in black and white. He justified these actions by claiming that he “wanted the film to feel like it’s a place that exists but is in another world, another time.” 

“Embrace” was a modest success in Colombia where the local film industry has grown over the past decade but has become critically acclaimed worldwide since its domestic release last May. The film won the Art Cinema Award as part of the Directors' Fortnight section at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and has garnered a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Embrace producer Cristina Gallo may have had her strong doubts over the film’s nomination but the odds are pretty good that it could become the third Latin American and first non-Argentine movie to win Best Foreign Film.

“Inside Out” is the clear favorite to capture Best Animated Feature yet history was made when a Brazilian production became the first Latin American film to be chosen in that category.

Boy & the World” (“O Menino e o Mundo”) looks at Cuca, a young lad from a mythical country who becomes separated from his father under unusual circumstances. A heartbroken Cuca leaves his village for the big city where he encounters tragedy and triumph amid a visually arresting environment.

“I am so honored and happy to have our film recognized by the Academy, I have no words,” declared Boy director Alê Abreu following news of the nomination.

“Thank you! It was a great year for animation around the globe, and the Academy’s continued recognition of our work will continue to inspire,” he added.

“Boy “ was made for around $500 million and was selected to the Best Animated Feature category ahead of more costly and well known “Minions”, “The Last Dinosaur”, and “The Peanuts Movie”.

Other Latin American films and individuals receiving nominations include (but are not limited to):
  • Documentary “Cartel Land”, which focused on self-defense forces in Mexico’s Michoacán state and anti-immigration vigilantes in the southern U.S.
  • Best Animated Short nominee “Bear Story” created by Gabriel Osorio of Chile
  • Mexican Alejandro González Iñárritu who enjoyed his selection in the Best Director category by “celebrating with champagne and mescal.”
The snubs were numerous though one of the most notable was the lack of nominated black and Latino actors and actresses such as Benicio del Toro for “Sicario.” Additionally, the number of Latino-themed films last year were woefully few but why is that the case?
The central problem behind the lack of Latino roles and Latino-themed films seems to be Hollywood's disconnect with a broad spectrum of Latino identities. Arturo Castro plays Jaime, a gay, Latino, newly documented immigrant, on Comedy Central's Broad City. He told Mic that U.S. culture is in a process of "demystifying" what it's like to be Latino. In fact, that exact word came up with several interviewees.

"Demystifying who we are is very important, and the only way we can accomplish that demystification is through the media," (Felix) Sanchez, of the National Hispanic Foundation of the Arts, said…
And the spectrum of experiences is far too broad for these same, tired roles. Castro said picking characters weighs heavy on him, as he tries not to pick the roles that hurt perceptions of Latinos in general. He clarified that he would play a drug dealer or criminal — if the story was rich and the character was more than one note.
YouTube Source – TIFF Trailers and GKIDS Films

Online Sources (English) – Variety, Rotten Tomatoes,, The Hollywood Reporter, Cartoon Brew, Mic

Online Sources (Spanish) – El Espectador, Diario de Juárez, El Universal, La Tercera

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