As we all try to navigate the quickly-changing film landscape in the time of coronavirus, we’re committed to continuing our mission of connecting art with audiences, and bringing you world-class cinema to watch on a daily basis. With 37 wonderful editions of Miami Film Festival behind us, we’ve assembled a list of some of our favorite Miami Film Festival/GEMS titles that are currently streaming online, in our new blog series we’re calling “What to Stream While Quarantined”.
The old adage “you can’t chose your family” may have become ruefully topical again during these days of quarantine, especially as claustrophobia mounts after six weeks (and counting!) of enforced daily interaction with your blood relations. How best to blow off steam? Watch Leticia Jorge’s droll comedy of disfunction from Uruguay, Alelí, now streaming on Netflix.
Alelí was one of the 21 feature films programmed at the 2020 Miami Film Festival that unfortunately did not screen publicly due to the Festival’s unexpected early closure due to public health safety concerns. Now that this hilariously cringe-inducing comedy is available to stream for Netflix subscribers, it’s highly worth bumping up to the top of your “My List”.
The title of the film refers to the name of a family beach house owned by the recently widowed matriarch Alba and her three children – Lilián, Ernesto and Silvana, all of whom are now in their 50s. When the film opens, they’ve decided to sell the land to a developer, who plans to demolish the house and replace it with a condo development. But the siblings are far from united in their plan, and as an extended family gathering (which includes spouses and children) unfolds over the course of a day, we see that Lilián, Ernesto and Silvana have never moved past the petty rivalries of their childhood, which have only grown to dysfunctional extremes now that they are middle-aged.
Leticia Jorge’s writing and direction are sharp and poignant, with crack timing that allows the laughs to come not from jokes but rather from the wincing recognition of relatable human foibles. Jorge’s previous feature was Tanta agua, which was co-directed by Ana Guevara and won two of Miami Film Festival’s top prizes in 2013, the Knight Grand Jury Prize Award and the Jordan Ressler First Feature Award. If you haven’t seen that earlier feature, it’s also highly worth checking out, streaming on the subscription service Film Movement Plus.
Alelí has the assured control and confidence of strong artistic character. Working in the distinctive dry wit of modern Uruguayan cinema, which has propelled the strongest works of one of Latin America’s smaller national film industries to international acclaim, Leticia Jorge and her brilliant cast and crew of collaborators invite us to laugh at the morass of those complex subconscious emotions that constantly overwhelm what we may know to be more rational decisions. Laughter holds back the inevitable tears!
Another selection of the 2020 Miami Film Festival that you may have missed (although it did screen as part of the truncated edition of the Festival), and just in time to get ready for upcoming Mother’s Day, is Cesar Diaz’s Our Mothers, from Guatemala.
Our Mothers tells the story of a 2018 truth and reconciliation movement in Guatemala, as a confrontation with the atrocities of that country’s civil war of the 1980s, from the point of view of a young man working for the government’s forensics division, to identify the remains of victims who were never recovered by their families. Ernesto’s own father went missing during the civil war, and when he encounters upon the testimony of an elderly woman whom he believes holds clues to the mystery of what happened to his father, he begins an obsessive quest to find his own family truth.
It’s the mothers of the disappeared that have held Guatemala’s history and soul glued together during the fraught trauma of recent time. In the mothers, both the pain and the resilience never recede, and there’s an unforgettable, unmissable sequence in Our Mothers when Cesar Diaz allows the real women survivors of history to express themselves wordlessly by simply gazing into his camera. The honesty of those gazes extends through the lens of the camera and directly gripped my emotions.
Our Mothers won the Camera D’Or prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, a prize that honors a first-time filmmaker. It’s a major accomplishment – this is the same award that has been won in previous years by filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch, Mira Nair, John Turturro, Corneliu Porumboiu, Steve McQueen, Warwick Thornton and Benh Zeitlin (for Beasts of the Southern Wild).
Our Mothers will be available on Tower Theater Miami’s Virtual Cinema channel starting May 1st. To support Miami Film Festival and Tower Theater Miami, create a free personal account at www.row8.com and then visit the Miami-specific page at https://row8.com/movie-details/87151493_tow to rent the film for $12, beginning on Friday, May 1st.