OTHER THAN ITS strategic appeal to specific community associations, the grouping of a film festival based on region of origin makes for a puzzling viewing experience. This year's Portland Latin American Film Festival (PLAFF) follows suit with a wide variety of films. There's the paperback-style romantic drama of Mexico's Hidalgo, starring Weeds' Esteban (Demián Bichir); Spain's animation for adults, Chico & Rita; the Ecuadorian drug-crime romp of Pescador; and more.

As is reflective of Latin culture, music is a connective thread through some of the best submissions in the festival. Tijuana's Nortec Sounds is a modest, hour-long look at the development of Tijuana's Nortec scene, a vibrant fusion of electronic and traditional Mexican sounds that succinctly summarizes the cultural influences—like the rise of narco gangs, and the perpetuation of the city's "myth" as being the place to cross into the United States—that have influenced the city's musical evolution.

Highly recommended is Violeta Went to Heaven, a music biopic about Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra, who in addition to preserving and propagating traditional music was a passionate and prolific songwriter and visual artist whose life's arc (from dirt-poor beginnings to international fame to tragic end) is as compelling as her music is powerful.