Nine top Latin films to play

Posted October 19, 2006

If "Nine Queens" provides a good measure of what Island moviegoers can watch during the Latin Beat festival from Sunday, Oct. 22, through Thursday, Oct. 26, they are in for a treat. Curated by the Lincoln Center Film Society, the festival spans a broad spectrum of Latin American cultures with films from Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela.

Directed by Argentinean Fabian Bielinsky, "Nine Queens" ("Nueve Reinas") follows the adventures and misadventures of two grifters, Juan and Marcos, who team up to pull off a scam guaranteed to let them retire for life. Juan is seemingly more sweet-natured than his aggressive cohort Marco, but both have minds like mousetraps when it comes to figuring out how to separate the naïve from their money.

The contrast between the two con men carries the viewer along through the intricacies of an ever more ingenious plan to bilk a millionaire. The scheme sucks in all kinds of other eccentric characters, as it grows to such gigantic proportions that it threatens to collapse under its own weight.

Director Bielinsky's capacity to devise a series of ingenious subterfuges more than matches America's scam-plot pro, David Mamet, in "House of Games (1987), Heist (2001), and "The Spanish Prisoner" (1997). "Nine Queens" plays on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 pm

"Through Your Eyes" ("A Traves De Tus Ojos"), also from Argentina, offers moviegoers another plot-rich, character-driven story on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 pm. In this domestic drama, a hen-pecked factory owner, Lito, and his narcissistic wife, Nilda, arrive in New York as tourists with a tenuous mastery of English. When Nilda ends up in the hospital, her hapless husband is cast adrift in a Manhattan that brings him - and the audience - a host of surprises.

Politics, music, miracles, and the Tropicalism movement drive the subject matter of the other seven films in the festival. "The Asphalt Virgin" (La Virgen del Asfalto), directed by Mexicans Fernando Frias and Paulina Lasa, describes an appearance of the celebrated Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It plays on Sunday, Oct. 22, at 3 pm in a double feature with "Revolution: Five Visions." A Cuban documentary, which features the photos of five Cuban photographers, whose work has followed the Castro revolution for 50 years.

Two films with musical themes will also show on Sunday, Oct. 22 at 4:15 pm. They are "Brazil: The Tropicalist Revolution," about a Latin music trend made famous by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil; and "Mi Mambo!" an American film that looks at Latin music from the Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts in East Harlem.

The Monday, Oct. 23, entry in the Latin Beat festival is "El Caracazo." and will start at 7:30 pm. It tells the story of a violent outbreak that took place in Venezuela on February 27, 1989, and still has repercussions in that nation.

The Chilean entry in the festival, "For Rent" ("Se Arrienda"), will play on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 pm. Directed by Alberto Fuguet, it portrays a jobless man whose life turns around when he lands a job selling real estate in Santiago.

Now in its eighth year, the Lincoln Center Film Society's Latin Beat festival has been made available to a wide audience by Emerging Cinema, which transmits the films through digital projection equipment to the Island Theatre in Oak Bluffs. A total of 14 U.S. cities will receive the movies simultaneously. Much of the pleasure of these films comes from the way they open windows on the world as it is experienced by our Latin American neighbors.

"LatinFest," Sunday, Oct. 22, through Thursday, Oct. 26. Island Theater, Oak Bluffs. Tickets $6, or $25 for all shows.