A WELCOME ADDITION to Portland's sometimes racially homogenized film scene, the Portland Latin American Film Festival (PDXLAFF) features films from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Cuba, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and more. For more info, see Movie Times and pdxlaff.org.
Becloud (dir. Alejandro Gerber Bicecci, screens Thurs Oct 14 [director in attendance], Sat Oct 16 [director in attendance])—Three Mexican teenagers awkwardly stumble towards adulthood: Andrés avoids his drunk father by participating in ancient Aztec rituals, José runs afoul of neighborhood thugs and tries to win back an unfaithful girlfriend, and Felipe spends his time cyberstalking and collecting online porn. All three are damaged by an old tragedy, told through an extended flashback, which curiously but effectively subverts the film's structure. It's a film of lasting sadness, reserved beauty, and powerful storytelling. NED LANNAMANN
Backyard (dir. Carlos Carrera, screens Fri Oct 15, Mon Oct 18)—There are no laffs to be had in this PDXLAFF entry—Backyard is a gritty, fictional account of the real-life murders, rapes, and disappearances of hundreds of women in Juárez, Mexico. Lady cop Blanca (Ana de la Reguera) is called in to solve the gruesome murders, while corrupt politicians, businessmen, and multinational corporations sweep the misogynist killings of young female factory workers under the rug. It's a harrowing film—sad, unjust, and uncomfortable—but decently plotted and eye opening. COURTNEY FERGUSON
Dancing with the Devil (dir. Jon Blair, screens Sun Oct 17, Wed Oct 20)—In this documentary, the favelas of Rio de Janeiro are just as colorful and as harsh as they were in City of God. South African filmmaker Jon Blair focuses on armed cops versus drug lords, all of whom lead lives filled with desperation and violence. They seem resigned to the struggle—an inevitability of life in the Rio ghetto—but the film also focuses on a pastor who tries to reconcile the opposing factions. It's a striking but not especially gripping film, and it feels burdened by its sense of importance. NED LANNAMANN
Hermaphrodite (dir. Albert Xavier, screens Fri Oct 17 [director in attendance], Mon Oct 18 [director in attendance])—Set in the vividly beautiful backdrop of the Dominican Republic, a powerful subject that seldom gets attention (spoiler: see the title) is overdramatically and artlessly handled in a dense, flashback-crammed story. BRAD BUCKNER
Just Walking (dir. Agustín Díaz Yanes, screens Fri Oct 15, Sun Oct 17)—Just Walking is a movie with one basic lesson: Don't hit women! Ana, a prostitute who loves money, marries mobster Félix in a ridiculously non-believable, Pretty Woman-esque scenario. When Félix beats her, motivated by revenge, Ana's three "blood sisters" decide to rob him. Here's where it gets good: These three badass women screw Félix and his gang both literally and figuratively, which, I think, most people would agree is fun to watch. MARISSA SULLIVAN
Portraits in a Sea of Lies (dir. Carlos Gaviria, Mon Oct 18)—One part imaginative fairytale and one part political chastisement, Portraits in a Sea of Lies tells the story of Marina and Jairo who, following their abusive grandfather's death, set out on a journey across Colombia to take their family's land back from a corrupt government. Casting its eye on millions of displaced Colombian citizens, Portraits is sprawling, disturbing, and frequently beautiful. NOAH DUNHAM
Havanayork (dir. Luciano Larobina, screens Sun Oct 17, Tues Oct 19—This documentary itself is "Havanayork"—an imaginary, borderless space where a dialogue connects two worlds. That dialogue (between underground hiphop visionaries in New York and Havana) explores the evolution of two parallel realities in a common movement. This cleverly edited film offers both concrete and abstract brilliance from some of the genre's most passionate architects, and is littered with moving, intimate performances. Oh, and of course, the soundtrack is dope as shit. KEVIN OTZENBERGER