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Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 21.Feb.21

The Latin Boys: Volume 2  
Reviews by Rich Cline
latin boys vol 2
release UK 22.Feb.21
21/UK NQV 1h38

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These six films from Latin America are all thoughtful, dark dramas in which young men explore some very intense realities about their lives. These are guys who have come to accept their gay sexuality, but perhaps aren't so sure how to express it or work it out how to incorporate this into who they are everyday. The earthy honesty in each film takes the viewer aback, holding the interest, involving the emotions and also providing some sharply challenging kicks along the way.

maldonado and romero dir Jonathan Anzo
scr Francisco Granados, Jonathan Anzo
with Antonio Gonzalez, Alfredo Romero, Leonardo Maldonado, Alejandra Mada, Karen Danieda, Edgar Landa, Yesmin Curiel
18/Mexico 25m

Seat Belt  
Cinturón de Seguridad   4/5

Seat Belt This Mexican drama bursts with a lively energy that combines with a much more tender sensitivity, drawing the viewer into the story's emotional undercurrents. The premise is simple, but it plays out in a way that's hugely involving and also gently thought provoking. And the writing, directing and acting are all beautifully understated.

It centres on cheeky 5-year-old Andres (Maldonado), who has been adopted by Julio and Damian (Gonzalez and Romero). They're both doting fathers, but Julio isn't sure how to handle this new role, opting to dive into his work to provide for the family. By contrast, Damian loves playing games and having fun with Andres. But this family dynamic is about to be forever changed by a tragedy.

The film's earthy production values keep it quietly grounded in real life. Then when a central plot point jarringly shifts the tone, it's navigated with skill by director Anzo and the terrific cast, who play their roles delicately. Even in moments of raucous joy and silent pain, the feelings are strikingly authentic, making it easy to identify with the characters. Each of the three central actors brings a remarkable sense of yearning to his role, offering a range of engaging angles to the narrative, exploring the nature of parenthood through clear eyes.

siqueira and oliveira dir-scr Leandro Goddinho
with Fernando Siqueira, Marcos Oliveira, Ivana Santos, Igor Pushinov, Cintia Rosini, Antonio Vanfill
19/Brazil 15m

Before It’s Too Late  
Antes Que Seja Tarde   5/5

Before It's Too Late Impressionistic and sharply well put together by writer-director Goddinho, this short drama gets under the skin of two young men reacting to the intensity of outspoken public bigotry. Scenes unfold with an internalised, almost kaleidoscopic perspective, exploring internalised thoughts and feelings that emerge in unpredictable ways. It's a beautifully assembled little drama that carries a stronger punch than many feature films.

The setting is early 2019, as Brazil's President Bolsonaro proudly declares his racist and homophobic views. Thinking about this, teen celebrity Caue (Siqueira) has a panic attack before an awards ceremony. His friend Julian (Oliveira) calms him down in their hotel room, and Julian helps them relax together, their youthful silliness turns to much more serious thoughts about identity and the future.

Strikingly shot to capture a range of feelings, this little drama becomes a remarkably gripping romance that travels an impressive distance in just 15 minutes. Both Siqueira and Oliveira are terrific in the roles, facing a staggering array of nastiness in the media in contrast to their sweetly personal interaction. So the film is both warmly adorable and eerily scary at the same time. Where it goes is provocative and bold, which makes it both urgent and essential.

musetti and manfru dir-scr Camila Souto
with Gabriel Manfru, Santiago Musetti, Vanessa Canepa
18/Uruguay 11m

Entreabierto   4/5

Ajar This drama from Uruguay has a relatively straightforward premise, but is directed and shot with unusual honesty, capturing underlying thoughts and feelings in a way that's sensitive and very sexy. And without over-egging the idea, the film is also a superb exploration of the nature of sexuality.

After Bruno (Musetti) moves in to share a flat with Felipe (Manfru), the two begin to become friends, living the loose life of typical 20-something guys. But Bruno is taken aback by the fact that he's having lusty thoughts about Felipe. Not only is this a surprise to him, but now he cant help but wonder if Felipe reciprocates these feelings. And as he ponders these ideas, it's tricky not to let his desires get away from him.

Writer-director Souto shoots the film in a superbly observant way, catching tiny details that reveal the story far more clearly than anything in the dialog, which remains cleverly minimalistic. Musetti and Manfru capture the characters sharply, watching each other through half-opened bedroom doors and a curtain-free shower. The unspoken tension between these young men is beautifully nuanced and shot with a knowing sense of perspective that's full of desire but never voyeuristic. It's a small slice of life that skilfully reveals the power and mystery of attraction.

cornejo and luduena dir Matias Magnano
scr Matias Magnano, Lucia Perona
with Mariano Luduena, Mariano Cornejo, Antonieta Rivarola, Yamila Zarate, Daniel Capuceti, Miguel Angel Gallardo
18/Argentina 20m


guacho Isolating both the settings and characters in a visceral way, filmmaker Magnano follows two teens on a little adventure that has deeper significance. They may look like an unlikely duo, but their long-term friendship has an authentic edge to it. And where the story goes is surprisingly unnerving, as well as warmly emotive. It's a bold, complex approach that refuses to take an expected narrative trajectory.

After a raucous game of street football on a warm summer day, teen Maikol (Luduena) joins his friend Dario (Cornejo) to escape from the buzz of the city. After smoking and drinking beer under a bridge, they travel into the mountains and buy a box of wine on the way. In the ruins of a house, they chat by a campfire, remembering their earlier antics until they're harshly interrupted.

The film has a gently meandering pace, catching the aimlessness of these young guys as they stroll into the woods, have a swim and tease each other. Magnano adeptly explores the connection between them, including their expressive physicality and their halting but relaxed conversations. Luduena and Cornejo are terrific in the roles, observant and hopeful. Their emotional connection is particularly vivid, and in the face of adversity it's depicted as something that's empowering in a harsh society.

ramirez dir-scr Daniel Mateo Vallejo
with Sebastian Ramirez Porras, Carmen Emilia Porras Uribe, Juan Jose Villegas Agudelo, Juan Camilo Restrepo, Ruben Dario Gomez Arias, Bibiana Mesa
18/Colombia 17m

The Grey Zones  
Las Zonas Grises   4/5

The Grey Zones Tightly focussed on a young man as he goes through a worrying few days, this Colombian short has dramatic intensity right from the first shot. Photographed in Academy ratio, the images have a claustrophobic, urgent vibe. It's a remarkably powerful little drama that gets deep under the skin of the central character, forcing us to see through his eyes as he faces a new layer of complexity in his life.

At age 21, the closeted Nicolas (Ramirez) is getting his first HIV test, intimidated by the clinician's harsh implication that he has been careless and promiscuous. Over the weekend as he waits for his results, he finds it tricky to face his family, especially his older brother Gabriel (Restrepo), who locks him out of their bedroom when he has a girl in there. Or his mother (Porras), who's scandalised because Gabriel might be the father of a neighbour girl's unborn child. Perhaps Nicolas needs to get out of the house to clear his head.

It's understandable that Nicolas is preoccupied with what this blood test might reveal, and it becomes even more compelling as his family members unknowingly reveal that can never understand him. Ramirez plays the role beautifully, a young man discovering that he's truly on his own. So it's understandable that he hooks up with a stranger just to get out of his house, even as that feeds into his fears. It's a thoughtful and very sharp depiction of a young person who is forced to grapple with his identity without any support from friends, family or his society.

alberti and castaneda dir Jaime Fidalgo
scr Juan Pablo Corcuera, Jaime Fidalgo
with Luis Alberti, Juan Pablo Castaneda, Tato Alexander, Pablo Mendez Zarazua, Elizabeth Guindi, David Liles, Diego Lomelin
17/Mexico 11m

Orizaba’s Peak  
Pico de Orizaba   4/5

Orizaba's Peak Colourful and snappy, this Mexican short has a strong point to make, but approaches it with humour and an offhanded sense of irony. The chattery script circles around, hilariously touching on a range of issues that reveal clever aspects about both socially insistent masculinity and the nature of male bonding. Even more pointed is the way it reveals underlying attitudes among people who consider themselves to be open-minded.

In a diner, a young man is annoyed that his best friend stood him up in order to read a book about a conversation between two men. When he insists that the book helped him gain perspective, his friend assumes that this is a roundabout way of coming out as gay. Their continuing conversation reveals that this is clearly a misunderstanding, and it's not helped as they keep ordering shots of mezcal and tempers begin to flare.

The fast-paced dialog is witty and packed with barbed comments, especially when these two young men begin insisting to each other that they're neither gay nor homophobic. But there are also things going on in the subtext, beautifully played with energy and subtle insight by Alberti and Castaneda, and directed by Fidalgo with a snappy visual sensibility. So where it goes is funny and heart-stopping at the same time. And it cuts through the abrasive machismo to find something more openly emotive without ever losing the amusing attitude.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 19.Feb.21

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