Cine Las Americas International Film Fest kicked off last night at the Marchesa Hall and Theatre with its opening night film, “Magallanes,” a film by Salvador del Solar.
We were treated to enjoy a few drinks and mingle at the opening night’s reception. Closer to showtime we were invited to sit and were greeted by one of Cine Las Americas’ staff and festival director Jean Anne Lauer. She had trouble introducing the film for fear of giving out any spoilers which was definitely a good sign.
The movie opened with protagonist Magallanes (pronounced Mah-gah-YAH-nes) driving around an older man who appears to have a combination of mental illness and physical impairment. Magallanes refers to him as “mi coronel,” which is either a sign of respect due to the man’s military ranking or the gentleman was actually Magallanes’ colonel during their military service.
Every day after taking the man back to his home, Magallanes pastes a taxi sticker on the windshield and tries to make money in the afternoons as a driver around Lima. We get to see some beautiful exposition shots of the city and of the coast during one of the colonel’s trips to the cliffs on the coast. Finally Magallanes gets flagged down to take a girl to an event downtown and when he sees the girl, he starts to panic. It is clear he doesn’t want his fare to see his face and after doubling back to see where she went, it turns out she is a part of some pyramid scheme with an eccentric speaker at the head. We get to see that this woman, Celina, is struggling to pay off some sort of crime boss, sell for this pyramid scheme, and run an ill-frequented hair salon for cash to live.
Magallanes goes to his sister to tell her that the “colonel’s girl” is alive and in Lima. He suggests that they blackmail the colonel’s family (his son is a wealthy man) by telling them she is the girl’s aunt, and they have a picture with Celina on the colonel’s lap in the barracks at Ayacucho when the girl was still a minor. They threaten to release the photo to the press if they don’t get the money to slander the family’s name.
Immediately after, the colonel’s son calls Magallanes to have him come to their home to discuss the blackmail situation with a detective and try to figure out if the call was legitimate. Magallanes, understandably nervous, reluctantly goes and realizes they don’t suspect him, but that the family doesn’t want to just hand over the money, they want to capture their would-be blackmailers. Now Magallanes needs to figure out how to not tip off the colonel’s family, but also still end up with the money without getting caught.
We learn a little more about Celina and Magallanes when he decides he should really be trying to help her with the money instead of keeping it for himself. I don’t want to spoiler the film, because I can honestly say this was an amazing film from the storytelling perspective. It works best when you let the film unravel before you. It is a very heavy movie that has themes on if the past should be remembered, forgotten, and all the combinations in between.
The fact that the movie takes place in current-day Peru, after the Shining Path communist revolution, makes for some strong political themes about the indigenous people and how they suffered as well. There is also an emotional monologue towards the end delivered in Quechan, the indigenous language of Peru, and the only scene without subtitles. It’s moving and it almost plays into the viewer not knowing the language because they have to rely on body language and pure emotion.
If you get a chance to see this film, I highly recommend it. It is actor-turned-director Salvador del Solar’s directorial debut, and it is a remarkable film considering the story and themes he is trying to portray.
After the movie, Cine Las Americas held an after-party with delicious Peruvian food provided by Lima Criolla and music by Rent Party. I can’t wait to catch more of the festival.
You can catch the Cine Las Americas films and other events all week in Austin with the film list, venue maps, and ticket info at their website and on Shuffle Online.
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