No, it’s not an April’s Fools Joke. I am back, after personal and health reasons beyond my control kept me from writing this monthly column and my weekly reviews for MANO these past few months. Life is, after all, unpredictable—and not always in a good way. I missed out on covering several festivals and even some major releases, which means that, once again, I will have to play major catch-up come summertime, or at least after closing night of the 38th Chicago Latino Film Festival, for which I am again the media relations coordinator.
I rarely break my own rule of plugging the events I work for in my columns, but it would be remiss of me to at least not mention the Chicago Latino Film Festival’s strong program this year. Taking place from April 21st to May 1st, the festival makes a triumphant return to theaters—the Landmark Century Center in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, specifically—with additional in-person screenings at Instituto Cervantes and ChiTown Movies, located in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, and virtually to the residents of Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.
I invite you to check out this year’s program. That’s as far as this plug will go.
Outside of the festival, April sees the release of a good number of documentaries about and by women, and one intriguing feature film from Colombia which I’ve been wanting to see ever since it premiered at the Berlinale last year.
LA MAMI (opens Thursday, April 7, at Maysles Cinema in New York City, followed by other U.S. cities): Spanish filmmaker Laura Herrero Garvin’s compassionate portrait of cabaret life in Mexico is finally receiving a belated theatrical release in the United States. Doña Olga is known by the dancers and hostesses of Mexico City’s Cabaret Barba Azul as “La Mami.” She’s done it all: she was a party girl, a waitress, and a seller of songs. No longer in the prime of her life, Doña Olga works in the cabaret’s dressing room, watching over the girls, especially newcomer Priscilla. She offers these women advice, comfort, and a shoulder to cry on. In their world, La Mami warns, “men are only good for two things: for nothing, and for money.”
LA MADRINA: THE SAVAGE LIFE OF LORINE PADILLA (premieres Friday, April 15, at 8 p.m. ET on Showtime): She became the first lady of the notorious 1970s Bronx gang, the Savage Skulls, after marrying one of its founders, Felipe “Blackie” Mercado. She later became a community activist and surrogate mother for many and even a santera. Now, Lorine Padilla faces the gentrifying forces that threaten to rip apart the community she fought for and helped to build. Raquel Cepeda’s documentary takes viewers on a five-decade journey through the streets of El Bronx as Lorina recalls her experiences as a single mother, gang leader, and organizer.
ON THE DIVIDE (Monday, April 18, at 10 p.m. ET on PBS—check local listings—and streaming online at pov.org): On the heels of Texas Governor Greg Abbott signing into law the Texas Heartbeat Act last year, which prohibits abortion when there is a detectable heartbeat—as early as six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy—the broadcast and streaming of this documentary directed by Maya Cueva and Leah Galant couldn’t be more timely. Filmed over seven years, On the Divide centers on the Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen, the last abortion clinic in the entire Rio Grande Valley, and the people connected to it: Mercedes, a member of the pro-life Church movement; Denisse, a young mother of four who volunteers at the clinic; and Rey, a security guard in his late sixties who is both deeply religious and empathetic to the plight of the women who arrive at the clinic.
CYPRESS HILL: INSANE IN THE BRAIN (premieres Wednesday, April 20, at 8 p.m. ET on Showtime): They were pioneers in a genre mostly dominated by African Americans. They paved the way for Latino rappers to use Spanish in their rhymes and were one of the first groups to champion cannabis before it became popular. Their influence is forever burned into the musical landscape of hip hop as they continue to stay relevant after 30 years. Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain features a treasure trove of never-before-seen archival footage captured by director Estevan Oriol himself, as well as images of band members B Real, DJ Muggs, Sen Dog, and Eric “Bobo” Correa.
LOS CONDUCTOS (opens Friday, April 29, at Film at Lincoln Center in New York City, before continuing on to other North American cities): Winner of the Best First Feature Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, the Best Latin American Film Award at the Mar del Plata Film Festival, and completely shot on 16mm film, Camilo Restrepo’s hallucinatory feature debut, set in Medellín, Colombia, tells the story of Pinky, an ex-cult member who is on the run. Having just freed himself from the grip of a religious sect by assassinating its leader, Pinky finds a place to squat and a job in a counterfeit t-shirt factory, where he begins to question everything.
Featured image: Legendary hip hop group Cypress Hill, from South Gate, California (DJ Mag)