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Cine Latino: AFI’s Must-See Spanish-Language Films, Plus an Evening with Pedro Almodóvar

Cine Latino covers, well, all things relating to Latino culture and the movies, every Friday.

Since its launch in 1971 the AFI Film Festival has become the longest running international film festival in Los Angeles. This year will mark the 25th edition of the festival and its bringing international cinema from modern masters and emerging filmmakers. The fest runs from Nov. 3 to Nov. 10 in Hollywood. Among the vast selection of films being showcased this year there’s a handful of films featuring Hispanic talent that are stirring a lot of buzz, some with the potential of receiving Oscar nominations. In addition, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, named this year’s Guest Artist Director, will be screening five of his favorite films including his 1987 film Law of Desire starring Antonio Banderas as part of the Evening With Pedro Almodóvar Gala presentation on Monday, November 7. A film he believes changed his life and is a clear indicator of the director he would become. Scroll down to read Almodóvar’s letter to fans on Law of Desire


Chilean director Cristian Jimenez returns to the film fest circuit with his sophomore project Bonsai. The film follows Julio, a young writer who adamantly decides to win over Emilia by writing a romance novel. This nostalgic tale of love and literature is based on Alejandro Zambra’s novel. The film intercuts between past and present as Julio faces his less than rosy adult life.


This well-crafted low-budget film delivers a multi-layered emotional drama. Director Francisca Fuenzalida, a graduate of the AFI Conservatory, constructs the heart pounding story of a naïve teenage girl who decides to take black-market pills to induce an abortion. With her boyfriend at her side she waits for the effects to unfold until an intense life-or-death moment shatters their life.


Miss Bala continues to make international headlines and as expected it is Mexico’s official Foreign-Language Oscar submission. Bala chronicles three terrifying days in the life of Laura (Staphanie Sigman), who falls in the hands of a sinister kingpin whose gang is notorious for terrorizing northern Mexico. Gerardo Naranjo who wrote, edited and directed the film, uses Laura’s story as a metaphor to depict an entire country crippled by endless violence, poverty and corruption. Naranjo is also a graduate of the AFI Conservatory.


Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo returns to AFI with his second feature film Extraterrestrial. This sci-fi comedy focuses on four people who appear to be the only survivors of an alien invasion. As they struggle to understand what’s actually happening around them they’re forced to find a way to survive–mainly–each other. 


The Artist has been a favorite since Cannes this year with talks of a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Set in 1927 Hollywood, silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks a relationship with Peppy Miller (Bérénice Béjo) only to succumb to sorrow. The Artist is a silent film starring Jean Dujardin and Argentinian actress Bérénice Béjo.


An Evening with Pedro Almodóvar

As the Guest Artistic Director at AFI this year Pedro Almodóvar hand-picked five films to showcase, which include classic horror films and thrillers—Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju, 1960), Le Cercle Rouge ( Jean-Pierre Melville, 1970), Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, 1947) and The Killers (Robert Siodmak, 1946). Almodóvar created comprehensive notes for these curated films that will be shared with moviegoers as part of the festival’s official program guide. Almodóvar will attend the festival on Monday, November 7, joined by Antonio Banderas, who has a leading role in Law of Desire. A conversation about Almodóvar’s career will precede the screening of the film.

Letters to Fans:

I shot LAW OF DESIRE in 1985, the same year as MATADOR, and it opened the following season. I’ve chosen to screen it at AFI FEST for numerous reasons. It was our debut as producers, the first film by El Deseo Producciones, the company I founded with my brother, which has since then produced all my films. With a rashness and audacity of which I am now very proud, my brother and I went into debt up to our eyes and gambled our future in hopes for success.

If the film had failed, my career would have been very different and less free. I would have had to work at making commissioned films (something very respectable but that didn’t figure in my plans) in order to pay our debts. But the film was a success. LAW OF DESIRE is a fundamental title in my career. Even though we made it on a very modest budget, I don’t think I’d change a single shot, and not because it’s perfect but because I recognize myself in all of them. I saw it again on the big screen after 26 years, when it was re-released in a Madrid cinema, and it was a moving regression. It’s the first time I’ve seen it with distance. LAW OF DESIRE includes all the themes and the style that I would develop in the following decades. My eclecticism and the way I mix genres, something that I still have to explain with regard to THE SKIN I LIVE IN, are already present in LAW OF DESIRE, I would even say to the same degree. It’s true that my palette has darkened and, in the case of the latest film, the humor has almost disappeared.

Fortunately I’ve changed sufficiently so that no one can accuse me of repeating myself, but I’m still the same. LAW OF DESIRE shows that. This film represents my youth in Madrid, the terraces, the summer. The sweat, Jean Cocteau, Michelangelo’s Pieta, the back rooms of the bars where we spent half our nights, the nights, cinema as a job and a great life adventure, the Technicolor of my childhood, creation and typewriters, the altars devoted to the Virgin that my mother used to make, brotherhood, desire as the sole driving force whether or not it’s the right one, the amazement of being desired, opening nights, misunderstandings, supreme passion as the sole driving force, victims of passion, Carmen Maura, Antonio Banderas… I think that LAW OF DESIRE contains the best performances to date by Carmen Maura and Antonio Banderas. No one has transmitted the magnitude of desire, its overwhelming vitality, the slavery, euphoria and darkness in which its victims live, as Carmen and Antonio have done. I hope you enjoy it.

– Pedro Almodóvar

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