School of Media Studies

What to Watch This Week With Cinema Tropical

Start the month off with a varied selection from the region: this week, we’re pleased to recommend films from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Guatemala, Peru, and from Latinx filmmakers in the United States.

Streaming in virtual cinemas this week and a stateside digital release on Tuesday, September 8, is The Garden Left Behind, the debut feature Brazilian-born director Flavio Alves. The Latinx indie drama, starring Carlie Guevara in a breakthrough performance, tells the story of a Mexican trans woman struggling to make a life for herself as an undocumented immigrant in New York City.

“A clear-eyed, poignant yet unsentimental drama” (The Hollywood Reporter), The Garden Left Behind is the winner of numerous awards, including the Audience Award at SXSW and the New Directors Grand Jury Prize Award at the Nashville Film Festival.

Premiering Online This Week: 

VOD Release:

(Gustavo Sánchez, Spain, 2018, 75 min. In English and Spanish with English subtitles)

New York, 2007-2017. Over a decade, director Gustavo Sánchez delves into the private world of Amanda Lepore, Chloe Dzubilo, Cuban-born Sophia Lamar and T De Long; four artists and transgender activists from the city’s underground scene. Little by little, their testimonies reveal fragments of a past –sometimes dramatic, always fascinating and simply extraordinary– that formed their identities and transformed their lives. Their words, fears and hopes take the audience from an outsider’s point of view to being emotionally invested in their destiny.
Premieres Tuesday, September 1


World Premiere:

(Cássio Pereira dos Santos, Brazil, 2020, 95 min. In Portuguese with English subtitles)

Seventeen-year-old Valentina moves to the countryside of Brazil with her mother, Márcia (played by renowned actress Guta Stresser), for a fresh start. To avoid being bullied in her new school, Valentina attempts to enroll with her chosen name, hoping to keep her personal gender history private. However, the girl and her mother quickly face dilemmas when the local high school needs the signature of the father (played by Rômulo Braga) for enrollment. Presenting trans actress Thiessa Woinbackk in her film debut, Valentina is a reflection of the real life hardships faced by a young woman doing all she can to embrace her true self.

Streaming through Wednesday, September 2 at OUTshine


Daily Recommendation:

(Sedução da carne, Júlio Bressane, Brazil, 2018, 67 min. In Portuguese with English subtitles)

A tenacious writer, Siloé gave up on leaving her home after her husband’s death. While engaging in frequent conversations with a parrot, she’s always observed by a large portion of raw meat: her erotic relationship with it illustrates metaphorically the arduous realities of agriculture in Brazil. Júlio Bressane is a major figure of Brazil’s underground Cinema Marginal, a radical movement that developed in opposition to Cinema Novo. His recent work is an eloquent, eccentric riddle: a woman’s one-way conversation with a parrot that acts as a reflection between memory and prophecy.
Watch Now


Daily Recommendation:

(La cumbre, Santiago Mitre, Argentina/France/Spain, 2017, 114 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)

Santiago Mitre (The Student) continues his ongoing cinematic investigation into politics with his third feature, set at a summit of Latin American presidents in Chile. Here, the Argentine president—played by acclaimed actor Ricardo Darín—endures a political and familial drama that will force him to face his own demons. This high-profile thriller, an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard section, boasts an impressive international cast including Dolores Fonzi, Erica Rivas (Wild Tales), Elena Anaya (The Skin I Live In), Paulina García (Gloria), Daniel Giménez Cacho (Zama), Alfredo Castro (The Club), and Christian Slater.
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Daily Recommendation:

(Arábia, João Dumans and Affonso Uchoa, Brazil, 2017, 97 min. In Portuguese with English subtitles)

Araby begins by observing the day-to-day of Andre, a teenager who lives in an industrial area in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. After a local factory worker, Cristiano, has an accident on the job, he leaves behind a handwritten journal, which the boy proceeds to read with relish. The film shifts into road-movie mode to recount the story of Cristiano, an ex-con and eternal optimist who journeys across Brazil in search of work, enduring no shortage of economic hardship but gaining an equal amount of self-knowledge. Invigorating and ever surprising, Araby is a humanist work of remarkable poise and maturity.

Watch Now


Virtual Theatrical Release:

(CanciĂłn sin nombre, Melina LĂ©on, Peru/Spain/USA, 2019, 97 min. In Spanish and Quechua with English subtitles)

Based on harrowing true events, Song Without a Name tells the story of Georgina, an indigenous Andean woman whose newborn baby is whisked away moments after its birth in a downtown Lima clinic – and never returned. Stonewalled by a byzantine and indifferent legal system, Georgina approaches journalist Pedro Campas, who uncovers a web of fake clinics and abductions – suggesting a rotting corruption deep within Peruvian society. Set in 1988, in a Peru wracked by political violence and turmoil, Melina LeĂłn’s heart-wrenching first feature renders Georgina’s story in gorgeous, shadowy black-and-white cinematography, “styled like the most beautiful of bad dreams” (Variety). Song Without a Name is a “Kafkaesque thriller” (The Hollywood Reporter) that unflinchingly depicts real-life, stranger-than fiction tragedies with poetic beauty.
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Films Available to Stream Now:

Virtual Theatrical and VOD Release:

(Flavio Alves, USA/Brazil, 2019, 88 min. In Spanish and English with English subtitles)

The Garden Left Behind tells the story of Tina (Carlie Guevara in a breakthrough performance), a young Mexican trans woman who lives with her grandmother Eliana (Miriam Cruz) in New York City as she navigates her transition and the pair struggle to build a life for themselves as undocumented immigrants. As Tina begins the process of transitioning, Eliana struggles to understand Tina and fears that their life together in America is no longer what they bargained for. Tina finds camaraderie in a small but mighty transgender advocate group but soon ends up having to fight for the life that she’s meant to live—facing violent threats, seemingly insurmountable medical costs, questions about her legal immigration status, and increasing skepticism from the man she loves. As she begins to lose all hope, Tina has unknowingly become the only hope for a shy young man who has been watching her closely from afar.

Watch Now

Daily Recommendation:

(Al otro lado del muro, Pau Ortiz, Mexico/Spain, 2017, 68 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)

Winner of the Best International Documentary Award at the Hot Docs Film Festival and the Chicago Film Festival, The Other Side of the Wall tells the story of Honduran teenagers Rocío and Ale, who are left with no choice but to play the role of both mother and father to their two younger siblings after their mother is sentenced to 10 years in a Mexican prison on questionable charges. As apprehensions about the future intensify, Ale must make the difficult decision between keeping the family together in Mexico or breaking them apart to cross the US border for work.
Watch Now

Daily Recommendation:

(Los bañistas, Max Zunino, Mexico, 2014, 83 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)

Open Cage takes a subtle and ultimately hopeful look into one of society’s mayor issues: the abandonment to its youth and senior populations. Among those affected when the economy collapses are rebel teenager Flavia and her elderly and grumpy neighbor Martín. Outside the building there is a camp of protesters among whom human values still govern coexistence. However, its members have a serious problem: they need a shower. Flavia, Martín, and their neighbors down the street will learn to relate to each other, not only to survive the crisis, but to rediscover the meaning of their lives. Juan Carlos Colombo as Martín and Sofía Espinosa as Flavia, carry the film with incredible chemistry. With Open Cage, Max Zunino proposes an optimistic solution to a conflict that may appear hard to solve, but that may be lessened by calling on small individual changes that allow us to get along better with others.

Watch Now
Daily Recommendation:

(El premio, Paula Markovitch, Mexico/Argentina, 2011, 99 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)

Winner of the Silver Bear Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement at the Berlin Film Festival, the Best Film Award at the Morelia Film Festival, and four Ariel Awards including for Best Film and Best First Film, Paula Markovitch’s debut feature The Prize is set during the years of Argentine dictatorship and its notorious Dirty War (1975–83). The film tells the story of an anxious young mother and her precocious daughter who flee Buenos Aires for the temporary seclusion of a ramshackle cottage on a remote beach. What begins as a childhood idyll is soon contaminated by the larger political crisis. Markovitch draws on his own experiences to capture the lacunae of childhood’s social and psychological worlds in this exquisitely acted and atmospheric drama about innocence in tumultuous times.

Watch Now

Now Streaming:

(Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala, 2020, 97 min. In Spanish with English subtitles)

Accused of the genocide of Mayan people, retired general Enrique is trapped in his home by massive protests. Abandoned by his staff, the indignant old man and his family must face the devastating truth of his actions and the growing sense that a wrathful supernatural force is targeting them for his crimes. Acclaimed filmmaker Jayro Bustamante presents an urgent and frightening reimagining of the iconic Latin American fable.
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Now Streaming:

(Ya me voy, Lindsey Cordero and Armando Croda, USA/Mexico, 2019, 74 min. In Spanish and English with English subtitles)

After 16 years in Brooklyn, working three low-paying jobs and sending the bulk of his earnings to his wife and children in Mexico, Felipe has decided to return home to the family he hasn’t seen in almost two decades. But when he informs them of his plans, he discovers that they’ve squandered the money, are deeply in debt and don’t want him to return. They need him to stay in the U.S. and continue to earn. Shot over two years in the heart of Brooklyn’s immigrant community, I’m Leaving Now is a searing and intimate portrait of one undocumented worker on the margins. The film brings a warm humanity to one of the most pressing political issues of our time, without sentimentalizing or trivializing its subject. In allowing the rhythms, emotions and sounds of Felipe’s day-to-day life to drive the story, Cordero and Croda open an impressionistic, cinematic window onto a life that might otherwise remain unseen.
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