The Austin-based Cine Las Americas International Film Festival (CLAIFF) announced the film and events lineup for next month’s 25th Anniversary edition, featuring more in-theater screenings and programs than ever before, and filmmaker awards totaling $8K in cash prizes. Taking place June 7-11, CLAIFF opens with Eva Longoria’s film festival favorite, Flamin’ Hot, and will close with Claudia Sainte-Luce comedy Amor y matemáticas (Love and Mathematics).
Cine Las Americas is set to take place at AFS Cinema (6259 Middle Fiskville Rd.), Galaxy Theatre (6700 Middle Fiskville Rd.), and Austin PBS (Clayton Lane/Wilhelmina Delco Dr.), including two days of free-to-the-public screenings at Galaxy Theatre on Saturday, 6/10 and Sunday, 6/11.
Special events include an Opening Night Celebration at AFS Cinema, a Filmmaker Happy Hour The Brewtorium and Videos Musicales at Nepantia, USA, where the audience will get to move and groove and choose the best video of the night on Friday, June 9, a grand “Happy Birthday, Cine” celebration at PBS Austin on Saturday, June 10, and then a special Closing Night Gathering to toast 25 years of Cine Las Americas at Knomad Bar.
As it has for a quarter century, Cine Las Americas will serve as one of the primary showcases in the United States for films and videos from Latin America (North, Central, South America, and the Caribbean) and the Iberian Peninsula. The film festival celebrates films and videos made by or about Latinx in the U.S. or the rest of the world, with films and videos by or about indigenous groups of the Americas also featured. CLAIFF also features inclusiveness in the programming among the films representing over 15 countries throughout Ibero-America.
The film festival was recently awarded a substantial Thrive Grant, which supports and develops arts organizations and cultural institutions that are deeply rooted in and reflective of those key constituencies within the city of Austin.
This year’s CLAIFF competition slate features new voices in Latin cinema while the Showcase films feature works from established filmmakers representing over 24 nations, the largest number of countries ever represented in the film festival. For the first time in Cine Las Americas’ history, all films in the narrative competition are directed by women and 2 out of the 3 documentary competition films are directed by women. Another first taking place during this year’s edition is the fact that both the Opening and Closing night selections are directed by women.
Cine Las Americas Board of Directors President John Estrada, said, “In a city like Austin which is home to multiple nationally recognized film festivals, the fact that we are one of those pillars of film festival exhibition standing side-by-side with them as we celebrate 25 years of being a major platforming the states for films from Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula is truly something to celebrate.”
CLAIFF Lead Programmer Ernie Quiroz, added, “We are thrilled that this year’s 25th anniversary edition is all the more special due to it being such a thoroughly female filmmaker-dominated lineup. This year’s group of films also is incredibly exciting with a strong current of thrillers and illuminating documentaries running throughout it. Our audiences are in for several great nights at the movie theater!”
Opening Night will feature Eva Longoria’s Flamin’ Hot. The film, which returns to Austin after its successful debut earlier in the year at SXSW, is based on the inspiring true story of the Frito-Lay custodian who utilized his knowledge of his Mexican American heritage and community to thwart corporate saboteurs and turn Flamin’ Hot Cheetos into the iconic global pop culture phenomenon we all know and love. On Closing Night, Claudia Sainte-Luce comedy Amor y matemáticas (Love and Mathematics). A movie that looks at the attempt to regain something lost during your life while reinventing yourself, the Mexican comedy follows a former teenage star-turned suburbanite who, once was a member of a beloved boy band, but is now a less than satisfied middle-aged married man and father of an infant son. He’s all but laughed at by those to whom he pitches his ideas and music now, until a chance meeting with a neighbor who is a superfan of his old band might spark a chance for his dried-up career to flourish again.
CLAIFF Showcase films includes Ariel Escalante Meza’s Domingo y la niebla (Domingo and the Mist). The Costa Rica entry for the Academy Awards follows a widower who owns a piece of land which is coveted to build a new highway. After all his neighbors leave due to intimidation by thugs, he stays, knowing the land hides a special and mystical secret. Matías Bize’s thriller El Castigo (The Punishment) focuses on a couple’s crisis playing out in real time as they search for their missing 7-year-old son, who they had left by the side of the road near a forest as punishment. Teodora Ana Mihai’s thriller La Civil won the Un Certain Regard Prize of Courage at the Cannes Film Festival. The film traces the transformation of a housewife and mom into a vengeful militant as she deals with kidnappers in Northern Mexico who have taken her daughter. Marcelo Gomes’ Paloma centers on a farm worker and transgender woman who fights back against a local priest’s prejudice to fulfill her most cherished dream: a traditional wedding in a church with her boyfriend.
Among the narrative feature films in competition are Marie Clements’ drama Bones of Crows about a Cree code talker’s efforts to survive her traumatic past in Canada’s school system to continue her family’s fight against systemic starvation, racism, and sexual abuse; Clara Cullen’s Manuela, about a Latina nanny with a dubious history, finds an unlikely connection with the defiant two-year-old she’s hired to look after. When the child’s mother goes missing, Manuela is faced with an impossible decision. Lorena Padilla’s dramedy Martínez follows the title character, a man forced to retire after 40 years, who must train his goofball replacement under the eye of his office frenemy. Meanwhile, the death of a neighbor he barely knew throws his life into more upheaval and pushes him out of his long-held apathy.
Documentary feature-length films in competition are; Bernardo Ruiz’ El Equipo (The Team), about the unlikely meeting of legendary forensic scientist Clyde Snow and a group of Argentinean students during Argentina’s dictatorship that grew into a groundbreaking force in the global movement for truth and justice; Gisela Delgadillo’s Kenya delivers a raw and deeply affecting portrait of a trans woman and an insider’s view of the impact that violence has on the community, and how complex life is for them. The film begins shortly after Kenya witnesses her friend Paola being murdered by a client and follows her journey as she approaches her friend’s loved ones and then embarks on a lengthy battle for justice, backed up by her “sisters.” Miwene: Reclaiming the Amazon, directed by Keith Heyward, Jennifer Berglund, Gange Anita Yeti Enomenga, and Obe Beatriz Nenquimo Nihua, filmed over the course of 11 years, as a young Waorani woman living deep within the Amazon rainforest makes the transition from a quiet teenager into a confident young mother at a critical turning point for her culture and the rainforest itself.
Once again, CLAIFF will present the Femme Frontera Filmmaker Showcase, which shares stories of beautiful, haunting, and hopeful tales from the U.S.- Mexico border, Mexico, Taiwan, India, and the United States. Once again, the popular Emergencia celebration of young filmmakers on the rise and their variety of works will shine a light on films made by filmmakers 19 and under. This series of short films compliments the film festival’s ongoing mission of promoting cross-cultural understanding by expanding the regions of the country that are represented in this year’s programs, and foregrounding youth and educator voices in support of inclusive and culturally responsive educational opportunities for all. Cine Las Americas’ signature programming track, “Hecho en Tejas,” supported by HEB (one of the premiere sponsors for the film festival), which showcases local filmmaking talent with varied backgrounds via films and videos shot and/or produced in Texas, also returns with a series of inspired shorts. The presentation will take place at the Austin PBS studios with a reception and Red Carpet entrances on Saturday, June 10.
Cine Las Americas is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, and the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Department.
Early Bird Badges are available through May 17 for $90 (following that date, $125). For more information about Cine Las Americas, visit https://cinelasamericas.org/.
2023 Cine Las Americas Official Selections
OPENING NIGHT SELECTION
Director: Eva Longoria
Country: United States; Running Time: 99 min
Flamin’ Hot is the inspiring true story of Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia) who as a Frito-Lay janitor disrupted the food industry by channeling his Mexican American heritage to turn Flamin’ Hot Cheetos from a snack into an iconic global pop culture phenomenon.
CLOSING NIGHT SELECTION
Amor y matemáticas (Love and Mathematics)
Director: Claudia Sainte-Luce
Country: Mexico; Running Time: 85 min
Having known fame as a former boy band member, Billy now lives a monotonous existence as a married man in a suburban Mexican city. Yet, an encounter with an ex-fan will make him confront his life decisions.
SHOWCASE: NARRATIVE FEATURES
Director: Manuela Martelli
Countries: Chile/Argentina/Qatar; Running Time: 95 min
Chile, 1976. Carmen heads off to her beach house. When the family priest asks her to take care of a young man he is sheltering in secret, Carmen steps onto unexplored territories, away from the quiet life she is used to.
Domingo y la niebla (Domingo and the Mist)
Director: Ariel Escalante Meza
Countries: Costa Rica/Qatar; Running Time: 92 min
In the tropical mountains of Costa Rica, widower Domingo owns a piece of land which is coveted to build a new highway. When the contractors send in thugs to intimidate the community, the neighbors leave one by one, but Domingo refuses to give in, especially as the land hides a special and mystical secret.
El Castigo (The Punishment)
Director: Matías Bize
Countries: Chile/Argentina; Running Time: 85 min
Ana is driving, her face serious and angry. Mateo, her husband, asks her to turn around, returning to the place in the forest where they have left their 7-year-old son. It’s only been two minutes, but he’s gone.
Director: Nano Garay Santaló
Country: Argentina; Running Time: 85 min
Agos and Santi are stressed due to the pandemic and decide to rent a country house for a weekend. Upon arrival, the hosts inform them they will remain in the house and will treat them like a five-star hotel would do, but they’re hiding other intentions.
Girasoles silvestres (Wild Flowers)
Director: Jaime Rosales
Country: Spain; Running Time: 107 min
Julia, age 22 and mother of two children, falls in love with Óscar. They start an intense and tortuous relationship full of ups and downs. Soon, Julia begins to doubt Óscar’s suitability as a male role model for her children. A violent incident will lead Julia to leave Óscar and look for a better future.
Director: Teodora Ana Mihai
Countries: Mexico/Belgium/Romania; Running Time: 145 min
Cielo’s teenage daughter, Laura, is kidnapped in Northern Mexico. Despite paying several ransoms, Laura is not returned. When the authorities offer no support in the search, Cielo takes matters into her own hands and transforms from housewife into vengeful militant.
La hija de todas las rabias (Daughter of Rage)
Director: Laura Baumeister
Countries: Nicaragua/Mexico/Netherlands/Germany/France/Norway; Running Time: 87 min
Nicaragua, today. 11-year-old Maria lives with her mother Lilibeth at the edge of a garbage dump. Their future depends on selling a litter of purebred puppies to a local thug. When the deal falls through, Lilibeth must go to the city and drops Maria off at a recycling center where she must stay and work. But days pass and she doesn’t return. Maria feels lost, bewildered, and angry. One night, Maria meets Tadeo, an imaginative new friend who is determined to help her to reunite with her mother.
Director: Andrés Ramírez Pulido
Countries: Colombia/France; Running Time: 86 min
Eliú, a country boy, is incarcerated in an experimental young offenders institution, deep in the heart of the Colombian tropical forest, for a crime he committed with his friend El Mono. Every day, the teenagers perform hard manual labour and endure intense group therapy, under the menacing gaze of the camp guard Godoy. One day, El Mono is transferred to the same center and with him comes the past that Eliú is trying to escape.
Land of Gold
Director: Nardeep Khurmi
Country: United States; Running Time: 105 min
When Kiran Singh (Nardeep Khurmi), a 1st Gen Punjabi-American truck driver and expectant father, hears pounding coming from inside his truck’s trailer, he finds Elena (Caroline Valencia), a young Mexican American girl stowed away onboard. Kiran’s already tumultuous life takes a drastic turn as he seeks to reunite her with her family. As the pair ride across the changing American landscape, Kiran faces what it means to be a father while Elena learns how to trust again. They connect through family, dreams of the future, and a healthy debate over God’s existence, all while the ghosts of the past, racially charged encounters, and the threat of I.C.E. linger over their journey.
No quiero ser polvo (I Don’t Want to be Dust)
Director: Iván Löwenberg
Countries: Mexico/Argentina; Running Time: 85 min
Bego decided to decline her life plans to attend to household duties. She lives bored and afraid of being inconsequential, but this may change when the meditation group she attends announces a great cataclysm: 3 days of darkness.
Nuestros días más felices (Our Happiest Days)
Director: Sol Berruezo Pichon-Rivière
Country: Argentina; Running Time: 100 min
Agatha (74) and Leonidas (36) maintain an absorbing mother-son relationship: Agatha never fell in love again and Leonidas does not dare to build a life outside the doors of the family home. One day, Agatha suddenly wakes up in the body of a little girl: as herself, but at the age of seven. The only possible solution after having cut off all ties with the outside world for fear of giving explanations, will be to call Elisa (38), Agatha’s eldest daughter, who despite having become independent a long time ago, will return to the family home to repair wounds that remain open.
Director: Marcelo Gomes
Countries: Brazil/Portugal; Running Time: 104 min
On a hot summer day, Paloma decides to fulfill her most cherished dream: a traditional wedding in a church with her boyfriend Zé. She is a devoted mother, a hard-working farmhand in a papaya plantation and has been saving to afford the celebration. The priest’s refusal to marry her and Zé will force Paloma to confront the rural society. She suffers violence, betrayal, prejudice, and injustice but nothing shakes the faith and determination of this transgender woman.
SHOWCASE – DOCUMENTARY FEATURES
The Illusion of Abundance
Directors: Erika Gonzalez Ramirez, Matthieu Lietaert
Countries: Colombia/Honduras/Peru/Belgium/Brazil/Germany/Indigenous; Running Time: 60 min
Three Latin American women share a common goal: Carolina, Bertha and Maxima are leading today’s environmental fight against modern conquistadors. Whereas governments and corporations, trapped in a global race towards unlimited growth, need to get the cheapest raw materials, these three women tell us a story of tireless courage: how to keep fighting to protect nature when your life is at risk? When police repression, corporate harassment, injuries or even death threats are part of your daily routine?
NARRATIVE FEATURES – COMPETITION
Bones of Crows
Director: Marie Clements
Country: Canada; Running Time: 129 min
Removed from their family home and forced into Canada’s residential school system, Cree musical prodigy Aline and her siblings are plunged into a struggle for survival. Bones of Crows is Aline’s journey from child to matriarch, a moving multi-generational epic of resilience, survival, and the pursuit of justice.
Director: Clara Cullen
Countries: Argentina/United States; Running Time: 90 min
Manuela, a Latin American immigrant, walks through the empty streets of Los Angeles, scouring the area for work. Manuela arrives at a job interview at a large house in an affluent neighborhood. She’s greeted by a cold businesswoman looking for a nanny for her daughter, Alma. After getting the job, Manuela meets Alma, who is initially resistant to her. Alma’s mother, Ellen, is never around. She occasionally talks to them through the security camera. While Ellen is gone on a business trip, Manuela, and Alma swim in the pool, clean the house, and form a maternal bond. The days go by, and they still haven’t heard from Ellen. Manuela takes on more and more of a motherly role, even wearing Ellen’s clothes. One day, she learns that her entire world as she knows it has just changed and she must make a huge decision.
Director: Lorena Padilla
Country: Mexico; Running Time: 93 min
Martinez, a lonely accountant who really prizes his daily monotony, is pushed by his hierarchy to retire. While his life stability is threatened, his neighbor, a woman of his age, is found dead in her home after several days. Although he has never met her, her death will make him realize that his life is still ahead of him.
DOCUMENTARY FEATURES – COMPETITION
El Equipo (The Team)
Director: Bernardo Ruiz
Countries: Argentina/Mexico/United States; Running Time: 81 min
In 1984, an unlikely meeting between Dr. Clyde Snow, a legendary American forensic scientist, and a group of Argentine students would ultimately change the course of forensic science and human rights forever.
Director: Gisela Delgadillo
Country: Mexico; Running Time: 90 min
After witnessing the murder of her friend, Kenya, a trans woman and sex worker, embarks on a path of struggle and search for justice that leads her to face the fear and pain of seeing herself reflected in that tragic ending.
Miwene: Reclaiming the Amazon
Directors: Keith Heyward, Jennifer Berglund, Gange Anita Yeti Enomenga, Obe Beatriz Nenquimo Nihua
Country: Ecuador; Running Time: 106 min
Steeped in the long oral tradition of Waorani storytelling, Gange Yeti shares her own coming-of-age story as a young Waorani woman living deep within the Amazon rainforest. Following Gange and her community for over 11 years, the film captures her transition from a quiet teenager into a confident young mother at a critical turning point for her culture and rainforest. As the granddaughter of one of the last Waorani elders who lived in complete isolation before outside contact, Gange is determined to capture her grandmother’s unique experience while she still can – balancing school, motherhood, and tradition along the way.
NARRATIVE SHORTS – COMPETITION
Director: Carlos Novella
Country: Venezuela; Running Time: 19 min
A confectioner prepares the cake for a party to which she hopes to be invited.
Llueven las flores, los piratas y el tesoro de la bruja
Director: Faustino Alanís
Country: Mexico; Running Time: 17 min
Cat, Pin and Matchstick, three children who live in a tenement, spend their days imagining a fantastic world to escape the violence and monsters that haunt them.
Naquele Dia Escuro
Director: Daniel Guarda
Country: Brazil; Running Time: 30 min
Fabio is a young trans man mourning the end of a love affair. Louise is ill and away from her family. Amid a polarized and bigoted society, he is her caregiver while she becomes his rock. Now they have each other to learn to say goodbye.
Una Eva Más
Director: Daniela Hernández
Countries: Chile/Venezuela; Running Time: 21 min
Eva migrates to Santiago chasing the dream of being an actress, and among all the prospects of the city, she will need more than luck to make it.
Director: Santiago Requejo
Country: Spain; Running Time: 13 min
What begins as an ordinary board in a traditional apartment building to vote on the renewal of the elevator, turns into an unexpected debate about the limits of pacific coexistence.
DOCUMENTARY SHORTS – COMPETITION
El Ojo Comienza En La Mano (The Eye Begins in the Hand)
Director: Yehuda Sharim
Country: United States; Running Time: 16 min
El Ojo Comienza En La Mano is a tribute to campesino histories in rural CA through the artwork of an artist largely absent from critical conversations on Chicanx art, Ruben A. Sanchez, as well as an unsentimental reckoning with the fate of many cultural workers that struggle between paying rent and/or creative endeavors.
Imelda Is Not Alone
Director: Paula Heredia
Countries: El Salvador/United States; Running Time: 30 min
Imelda, an abused teenager, faces decades in prison after being accused of having an abortion. Her only hope for freedom is a citizen’s movement that dares to defend women who are persecuted under El Salvador’s total ban on abortion.
Director: Brandon Pestano
Countries: UK/Brazil; Running Time: 15 min
Driven from his ancestral home, Juvencio Gómez fights to keep his culture, language, and stories alive.
Tres Almas en Busca de un Abrazo (Three Souls in Search of an Embrace)
Directors: Tom Donohue, Greg Shaya
Country: USA; Running Time: 15 min
Three handicapped dancers train to compete in one of the most exclusive venues, the World Tango Championship in Buenos Aires.
Who She Is
Directors: Jordan Dresser, Sophie Barksdale
Country: USA; Running Time: 38 min
Say my name and I will live forever…. Sheila. Lela. These are the women hidden within the statistics of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic. Meet them. See them. Say their names. They are “Who She Is”.
HECHO EN TEJAS SHORTS
A Life in Technicolor
Director: Alex Ramirez
Country: United States; Running Time: 19 min
El Gato Feo
Director: Daniel Fabelo
Country: United States; Running Time: 15 min
Director: Samuel Díaz Fernández
Country: United States; Running Time: 13 min
Director: Sharon Arteaga
Country: United States; Running Time: 21 min
**-NOT IN COMPETITION
Raúl R Salinas and the poetry of liberation: un trip
Director: Anne Lewis, Laura Varela
Country: United States; Running Time: 25 min
Sin lágrimas para llorar
Director: Luis Fernando Puente
Country: United States; Running Time: 13 min
7TH ANNUAL FEMME FRONTERA SHOWCASE LINE-UP
Directors: Ziba Karamali, Emad Arad
A short about a family whose fundamental relationships have been replaced with a chain of anomalous ones. A film that, despite most of the well-known Iranian shorts and features, not only talks about Iran but also about a subject that involves every society.
Director: Shireen Alihaji
In the wake of 9/11 and after losing her mother, Amina, a Muslim teenager, struggles with the gaze of Islamophobia from surveillance to the 24-hour news cycle until she discovers and begins sampling her mother’s record collection.
Director: Valeria Contreras
Homesick is a modern-day tale of two star-crossed lovers, separated by a global pandemic and the U.S.-Mexico Border. This film focuses on the love and bond that unites people and communities across borders—and the heartbreak that exists when that unity is broken.
Directors: Mariana Gongora-Reyes, Analaura Cardenas
Drawing on images from a non-existent border between Santa Elena, Chihuahua, and Big Bend National Park in Texas. La Bi-vencia explores the reunion of a ghost town next to the Rio Grande that was abandoned after 9/11.
Director: Molly E. Smith
Barricaded in a motel room, a mother’s determination and primal instincts kick in to protect her child’s innocence.
Director: Aijian Chen
A young woman wakes up to find herself lying on a small glowing island, an amusement park called Mommyland, exploring various rides such as a roller coaster, carousel, and distorted mirrors, which all remind her of her fears and anxieties about pregnancy.
Directors: Morningstar Angeline, Ajuawak Kapashesit
Without parents to guide them, Loretta and Raven reflect on the love their parents modeled and the grief of their loss. While one finds catharsis in their mother’s old VHS camera the other struggles with a potential pregnancy.
Director: Ryan Rox
A non-binary day-dreamer pines for the life of the girl next door, but soon finds out the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Little Red Drone
Director: Michael Kirchoff
Country: USA; Running Time: 15 min
A lonely boy discovers that true friendship can be found in the most unexpected places
Alejandro Jimenez: The Ground I Stand On
Directors: Raúl Paz Pastrana, Alan Domínguez
Country: USA; Running Time: 12 min
The Ground I Stand On is a lyrical and meditative documentary short that explores the work and creative process of Alejandro Jiménez – Mexico’s 2021 Slam Poetry champion, whose life experience as a U.S. immigrant farmworker has shaped his unique vision of the power of poetry and its connection to a collective past.
Director: Blackhorse Lowe
Country: USA; Running Time: 14 min
Peyote Western set in 1860’s New Mexico territory. Metal Belt recounts a story about the native slave trade in the southwest and one Navajo woman’s fight for freedom and her spiritual journey home.
Director: Paula Scalona
Country: Mexico; Running Time: 14 min
Gloria and Erick tell us the story of their life, a life that despite being full of obstacles and limitations, has led them to the top, reaching their goals and fulfilling their dreams. Paralelos is the untold story of what it means to be a Paralympian.
Art as Means of Breath
Director: Celi Mitidieri
Country: United States; Running Time: 6 min
The community leader and artist Yoleidy Rosario-Hernandez explores the connections between art and ancestry in the journey to find themselves.
John Leguizamo Live at Rikers
Director: Elena Francesca Engel
Country: USA; Running Time: 26min
John Leguizamo visits Rikers Island Correctional Facility to perform his one-man Broadway show Ghetto Klown for an audience of over 400 inmates. Following his performance, Leguizamo holds group discussions with justice-involved young men awaiting trial or sentencing. By sharing his personal journey of adversity and self-awareness, he encourages them to reflect openly and honestly about their own lives. This short documentary interweaves excerpts from Leguizamo’s performance and those discussions, bringing attention to the serious challenges and human side of incarceration.
EMERGENCIA – ALL AGES
Alexei Sinyavin – Speedcuber
Director: Aaron Anidjar
Country: United States; Running Time: 5 min
Better Late Than Never
Director: Estevan Evaristo Garcia
Country: United States; Running Time: 2 min
Director: Mariana McKenzie
Country: United States; Running Time: 1 min
Entre Faros No Hay Competidores (No Competition Between Lighthouses)
Director: Cira Garza
Country: United States; Running Time: 3 min
Director: Cadence Grace Barreda
Country: United States; Running Time: 3 min
Prosperity of Tomorrow
Director: Diego Rodriguez
Country: United States; Running Time: 7 min
Director: Isabella Wren Tealey
Country: United States; Running Time: 18 min
EMERGENCIA – 14+
Director: Juan Castro
Country: Spain; Running Time: 5 min
Director: Bjorgvin Arnarson
Country: United States; Running Time: 9 min