Last year, the Milwaukee Film Festival sent its Passport program's sights on Germany, delivering an impressively cinematic and cultural lineup of movies including "Hannah Arendt," "Lore" and the Wim Wenders classic "Wings of Desire."
This year, however, the festival is backing back to the right side – and by that, I mean the left side – of the Atlantic and getting its Passport program stamped in Mexico, its spotlight country for 2014.
And fairly so, seeing as Mexican directors have made quite the stamp on Hollywood over the past several years. Alfonso Cuaron just won Best Director last year for his out-of-this-world (groan, sorry) work in "Gravity," while Guillermo del Toro – the fanboy favorite behind the worlds of "Pan's Labyrinth," "Pacific Rim" and the upcoming "Crimson Peak" – is one of the most engaging and imaginative minds in the business.
Fellow Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("Babel," "Biutiful") also has people buzzing this year with his upcoming "Birdman," a dark comedy about a washed-up former superhero actor starring Batman himself Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis and Edward Norton in his underwear. The movie, shot and edited to look like a single take, will premiere at several film festivals – Venice and New York – before coming out in October.
All of that's not even taking into account the great films coming out of Mexico itself, several of which will be highlighted at the Milwaukee Film Festival.
"The growth of the Mexican filmmaking industry has been phenomenal in recent years," said Jonathan Jackson, artistic and executive director of Milwaukee Film, in a press release this morning.
"It’s a very strong time for Mexican cinema, and we are proud to offer such a diverse line up of films telling stories that go beyond the incessant sensational news headlines. We hope our Passport program portrays a deeper, more well-rounded view of our neighbors to the south, highlighting their culture, politics and people."
The program features eight films, all set in Mexico and with seven of the selections directed by Mexican directors, as well as a keynote address from author, Ohio State professor and contemporary Mexican cinema scholar Frederick Aldama.
The films (with trailers attached) include:
"The Amazing Catfish": A female-led dramedy about two women at low points bonding and coming together after meeting by chance in a hospital. The film (her feature-length debut) earned writer-director Claudia Sainte-Luce an International Critics Award at last year's Toronto International Film Festival.
"Club Sandwich": A coming-of-age story about Paloma and Hector, a mother and son whose lazy vacation and extremely tight relationship are interrupted when teenaged Hector falls for a new arrival named Jazmin.
"Heli": The Best Director winner and Palme d'Or nominee at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, "Heli" tells the story of a young family inadvertently brought into the Mexican drug world, a seemingly inescapable hell of brutal violence and corruption.
"Last Call": A backstage comedy starring about a production of Camus' "Caligula" seemingly headed for disaster thanks to the cast and crew of colorful, if unstable, characters. Drama and comedy ensues – on and off stage.
"Purgatorio: A Journey Into the Heart of the Border": A documentary that takes an in-depth look into both sides of the current Mexico-U.S. border issue.
"Que Caramba es la Vida": German documentarian Doris Dorrie's documentary follows several bold women who have fought and defied cultural and gender expectations to break into male-dominated, often chauvinistic world of mariachi music.
"We Are the Nobles": The highest grossing movie in Mexican cinema history, "We Are the Nobles" is a political/social farce about a rich millionaire hoping to teach his over-priveledged children a lesson by staging his company's bankruptcy, moving them into a drab home in a working-class neighborhood and forcing them to do the unthinkable: work.
"Workers": As the title hints, "Workers" tells the story of two Mexican workers, one who becomes the caretaker for a dog millionaire and another who discovers one his last day of work that he won't be receiving his pension – 30 years coming – because of his immigration status.
As usual, the lineup is quite the mix of genres and styles, all very intriguing. It's a promising start to the Milwaukee Film Festival's selection roll out – and there's so many more to come. These little announcements will provide much comfort in the next two months while theaters will be packed with sequels you never wanted ("Sin City 2," "Expendables 3," "Dolphin Tale 2" ... wait, what?) and movies you'll never remember (looking at you, "The November Man").
This year's festival runs from Sept. 25 through Oct. 9.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published Dec. 21, 2014
The bad news for "Wild": Director Jean-Marc Vallée, at least three films into his career this side of the Canadian border, specializes in making Oscar bait. No, wait; don't run away quite yet, because the flip side is that Vallée has mastered the art of making Oscar bait that doesn't feel like it. And now he's pulling off the same trick with "Wild."
Published Dec. 20, 2014
With its brand of rock music uncoils, cracks and unleashes in sharp, aggressive, raw fashion with a swift dash of sex appeal, Whips is an remarkably appropriate name for the Milwaukee-based rock foursome. And now the quartet has a new LP, "Turn It On," arriving Saturday night at a record release show at the Cactus Club.
Published Dec. 19, 2014
"The Interview" was canceled this past week amongst hack attacks and terrorist threats. It doesn't matter that this happened to THIS particular movie. What matters is what this means for ALL movies. And what this moment represents is a terrible precedent for the future of film and art altogether.
Published Dec. 17, 2014
When I arrived to interview Harlem Globetrotter Sweet J Ekworomadu - the 12th female player in the team's 89-year history - in advance of their traditional New Year's Eve game at the BC, I was asked if I wanted to play a game of horse with Sweet J. Considering I hadn't shot a basketball since probably middle school, I couldn't turn down the opportunity fast enough. I was, however, able to ask some one-on-one questions with Ekworomadu.
Published Dec. 16, 2014
The story behind "It's a Wonderful Life" is now almost as well-known as the story of George Bailey himself. The movie performed below expectations back in 1946, but several decades later, as the movie made its way into the public domain, "It's a Wonderful Life" grew into a holiday classic. Now there's many renditions of the story, including a staged radio show version - complete with old school sound effects - coming to the Marcus Center.
Published Dec. 15, 2014
Fans have been routinely left waiting for a Chris Rock movie that truly plays up to the standard of Chris Rock. Luckily, the wait is over with the arrival of "Top Five," a loose-limbed comedy about celebrity that feels like a movie worthy of its star - in both its voice and its significant supply of laughs.
Published Dec. 12, 2014
2014 is coming to a close, which means it's time to put my first full calendar year as an official working, adult member of society in the books (well, jury's still out on the adult part). Here are some of the most memorable moments - both good and bad - from a most memorable year.
Published Dec. 10, 2014
Luckily, what's currently housed and featured at the Racine Art Museum is just as interesting and compelling as the building itself: an expansive two-part exhibition called "in(Organic)," a compilation of art works that combine the natural and unnatural - in terms of thematic meaning and artistic medium - in ways both beautiful and often unnerving.
Published Dec. 9, 2014
What doesn't kill you supposedly makes you stronger. In the case of the sneakily incisive new Swedish dark comedy "Force Majeure," however, what doesn't kill you reveals your deepest faults to all of your loved ones. And they are not impressed.
Published Dec. 8, 2014
2014 was the year of the selfie. In the beginning of the year, there was the great Oscars selfie, a photo that literally broke Twitter for a few seconds. The word existed before, but after that, suddenly news stations and outlets were attempting to cram it into every headline (similar to "twerk" in 2013) and everybody was getting on board with the word. A part of that selfie insanity was the irony-drenched EDM hit "#Selfie" from The Chainsmokers.