Reaching new Vistas
Growing up in this melting pot of a country we call home, is it surprising that the exposure of most Anglos to the Hispanic culture came from reruns of Chico and the Man and a half-dozen Cheech and Chong movies? Sure, there was much to absorb from the adventures of Grandpa Joe and his Chicano. And there are life skills that you can pick up from Up in Smoke that may help you live stress-free today. However, we're pretty sure LULAC would consider these about as multicultural as someone screaming "Yo quiero Taco Bell" when they get an Encherito at the drive-thru.
At least today there's independent film -- is there anything it can't do? -- to bridge the cultural divide, and showcases like the Vistas Film Festival, running October 14-17 at the Medallion 5 Theater, that give us a chance to see the works of Hispanic filmmakers up on the big screen, where all movies belong. Sure, these days you can't swing a gato muerto without hitting a film festival, but the Vistas Film Festival isn't another group of self-important snots putting on airs and kissing third-string celebrity butt or even hipster-come-latelies trying to crash Robert Redford's party in Utah. The Vistas Film Festival is here for a good reason, to help expose, enrich, and educate audiences concerning the work of Hispanic filmmakers -- and there's some damn decent movies here to boot:
The Milagro Beanfield War: Speaking of Robert Redford, this small 1988 film is his second directorial effort. Based on the novel by John Nichols, this fun and lively fable dusted with a little sprinkle of magic-realism tells the story of a New Mexico farmer who goes up against the meanie corporate developers threatening his town. An Oscar winner for Best Score, it's got a carnival of characters as well, featuring the likes of Rubén Blades, Sonia Braga, Melanie Griffith, Daniel Stern, E. Emmet Walsh, and Christopher Walken. 10 a.m. October 14; 2 p.m. October 15.
American Me: Edward James Olmos directed and stars in this 1992 film about the perils of the prison system told through the life of a man who becomes the head of the "Mexican Mafia" in Folsom State Penitentiary. Ambitious, brutal, and at times touching, American Me falls well short of the The Godfather films it echoes, but there are prison-rape scenes here that can make your kidneys hurt. And while that's no way to feel, it shows the power this movie packs. Noon, October 14.
Like Water for Chocolate: The popular, long-running art-house flick of love, sex, and food returns to Dallas screens for one afternoon showing. As passionate as it is playful, there isn't a better afternoon delight around short of a nooner. Duck out of work early and go see it with the one you want. 2 p.m. October 14.
Buena Vista Social Club: If you missed director Wim Wenders' exhilarating documentary about Cuban musicians earlier this summer, here's another chance. This is a fascinating, detailed, and sometimes heartbreaking look at the lives of these should-be heralded legends. More important, the film is a transcendent take on folk music and the simple folks who make it. 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. October 16.
Other highlights include the festival's special opening-night Dallas premiere of Luminarias, a comedy about four ladies on the lookout for love. It's often described as a Latin Waiting to Exhale -- but assume they mean that in a good way. (7:30 p.m. October 14) La Ciudad: SXSW's winner for best narrative feature (10 a.m. October 16; 2 p.m. October 17) Vocessitas/Little Voices: local filmmakers Kim Flores and Michael Swenson's award-winning drama (4 p.m. October 16) And a series of workshops that cover everything from the pros and cons of film school to the business of independent filmmaking.
Scott Kelton Jones
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