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Female directors shine at Cine Las Americas

Matthew Odam
modam@statesman.com

The 15th annual Cine Las Americas festival continues this weekend at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center and Alamo Drafthouse South with more than 60 shorts and features.

"Some of what is most exciting about this program is diversity, which is at the core of Cine Las Americas' mission," festival executive director Eugenio del Bosque Gómez said. "There is always the obvious cultural diversity involved in a Latino fest, yet, taking a deeper look at the program, other trends appear. Some examples are women directors, which are present this year with 20 features and 13 shorts, which is almost 40 percent of the program."

One of those female directors is University of Texas graduate Nicole Elmer, whose "In the Shadow," a story of a tormented healer co-starring Danny Trejo, screens Sunday at the Alamo South.

In addition to Elmer's movie, a selection of a half-dozen films from local filmmakers includes director Christian Cisneros' "Hombre y Tierra," a thriller that follows a survivalist into the jungles of Belize, and the short "Sobre la Estepa" ("These Wild Plains") from Austinite Ty Roberts, who has honed his eye as cinematographer on a host of documentaries.

"There is also the not-so-apparent diversity represented by diaspora and immigration tales, like groups of Congolese ancestry living in Uruguay, or Venezuelans who came to that country from Japan, by way of Peru," del Bosque Gómez said.

Gabriel Szollosy's documentary "El Destello" ("The Flicker") tells the story of Horacio, the grandchild of an African slave who traces his ancestry as he joins Uruguay's peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Other weekend highlights include "El Lenguaje de los Machetes," the directorial debut of Kyzza Terrazas, a seasoned producer from the Mexican film scene. The depiction of a frustrated and desperate musician and activist stars real-life rocker Jessy Bulbo, formerly of Latin riot grrrl band Las Ultrasonicas, and screened at the Venice Film Festival's International Critics Week. "El Lenguaje de los Machetes" screens Sunday at 2:15 p.m. at Alamo South.

The Hollywood Reporter hailed Argentine director Santiago Mitre's "El Estudiante" as "one of the best Argentinean films to have its world premiere at this year's Buenos Aires International Film Festival," and IndieWire called the director a "South American Aaron Sorkin." Mire's dense film, ripe with political intrigue, explores Argentina's massive free university system. The young Argentine also co-wrote 2010 Fantastic Fest hit "Carancho," one of our favorite movies at the fest. "El Estudiante" screens at 7 p.m. today at Alamo South.

From a dusty desert village in northern Chihuahua comes a story that you just can't make up. Director Scott Petersen's powerful storytelling in "The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz" makes this cross-cultural documentary a hidden gem that goes beyond the subject of Mexican pottery. The heart of the film centers on the unexpected relationship between an American anthropologist and a self-taught Mexican artist.