Southern exposure

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

In Cinema Latino, the Wexner Center's annual program of films from Latin America, there's a great opportunity for discovery, both for local movie lovers and the series' programmers.

As Wexner film/video curator David Filipi explains in a programming note, he caught a 2007 festival screening of one of the films in the series, Encarnacion, by chance. There wasn't a big buzz around the Argentinean film about an aging actress' less-than-enthusiastic homecoming, and it's yet to find a distributor in the United States.

But from Filipi's standpoint, it possessed qualities that would easily translate across borders - as well as a leading part a lot of Hollywood actresses would kill for.

To help you take advantage of the opportunity, here's a first look at three of the seven films unspooling in Cinema Latino, plus a rundown of the rest of the program.

"The Pope's Toilet"

Friday, Jan. 9

Cesar Charlone's feature takes on the true-life story of a poor Uruguayan border town preparing for a visit from Pope John Paul II. That basically entails everyone trying to come up with a way to make some money off it, including a well-meaning, not-so-loveable smuggler who dreams up the idea of building a swanky pay toilet.

His misguided efforts to provide for his wife and daughter can sometimes be a little tiring, when there's too much of the character's hubris in the mix, but generally Charlone keeps his mixture of gravity and humor in balance.

The Pope's Toilet opens the Cinema Latino program; a pre-movie reception hosted by Fronteras begins at 6 p.m.

"Silent Light"

Thursday, Jan. 15

The most talked-about title in the program, the latest from international art house star Carlos Reygadas arrives in Columbus just a few days after its New York opening. The hottest film, ironically enough, is also the most challenging watch.

The filmmaker immersed himself in a rural Mexican Mennonite community and employed some of its members as actors for the story of a devout, hard-working farmer who loves both the wife with whom he has seven children and the woman with whom he's been having an affair.

Reygadas' films present an austere, unhurried approach that can be rapturous for some viewers and more like paint drying for others. It can add a lot of extra punch to the crucial moments, however, and it affords time to appreciate some of his breathtakingly gorgeous shot composition.

"Made in L.A."

Thursday, Jan. 15

If you bought a T-shirt or trendy ensemble at Forever 21 a few years back, chances are it was made in a Los Angeles sweatshop by illegal workers who were paid and treated unfairly, according to Almudena Carracedo's documentary.

The film follows a group of these workers as they organize a three-year boycott that finally gets the national retailer to the negotiating table. The format is by-the-book, and the sight of women making $3.25 in the factories yelling at girls making minimum wage in the stores doesn't stir the soul. But the three workers profiled make the piece distinctive - especially Lupe, a young, outspoken ball of fire who discovers her calling as an activist.

More to see

Everardo Gonzalez's documentary The Old Thieves: Legends from Artegio (Jan. 22) creates a portrait of the Mexican underworld in the 1960s through four former bandits.

A landmark of Mexican cinema, Roberto Gavaldon's 1960 film Macario (Jan. 22) goes whole-hog with magical realism for a harsh satire inspired by the Brothers Grimm and scripted by the writer of Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

On a double bill with Encarnacion on Jan. 29, Cochochi tells a folktale of an indigenous community faced with change, and two brothers separated on a journey who can't return home until they find each other.

What: Cinema Latino

When: Thursdays in January

Where: Wexner Center, Campus