MSP Film Society’s Cine Latino Film Festival returns this week. We encourage you to get out and see as many of the films as you can–we didn’t see them all and surely there are more great works to be found–but if you’re looking for help, The Stake recommends two films in particular that you should not miss. The opening night feature, Estiu 1993 (Summer 1993) and Batallas Intimas (Intimate Battles).
Our reviews of both are below.
Estiu 1993 (Summer 1993)
Frida is a child of six years old, and Summer 1993 is her movie. Frida’s quiet and wary, and when we meet her, she clutches dearly to a baby doll, pressed against her breast. She’s learning the Lord’s Prayer, only moments before she is packed up in a van in the night and sent away.
What we don’t know, yet, is that Frida’s parents have died of AIDS and she is being sent to live with relatives. The film reveals Frida’s internal chaos and trauma, masked by a serene, unspoken sadness and an unwillingness to coexist with her new sister. Frida, played by Laia Artigas with a piercing gaze and silent intensity, manages to combine her sadness with a child’s carefree longing.
Summer 1993 was written and directed by Carla Simón, and it’s her first feature length picture. You would never guess. Simóns achievement in Summer 1993 is truly remarkable. She presents a story not new or groundbreaking, but intimate in a rare and beautifully understated manner. The naturalism on display in her stylistic choices–the floating handheld cameras, the simple and direct storytelling, the lingering looks of Frida–make even the most emotionally complex sequences feel as much like a warm bath as a work of art. The cumulative effect of these scenes of strife and hardship and pleasure is unmistakably potent, and left in me a lasting impression of immersive and powerful family love.
Summer 1993 plays this Thursday at 7:15PM, with a fiesta at Jefe following the show. Director Carla Simón will be in attendance. It plays again on Friday, November 17, at 3:30PM.
–Christopher Zumski Finke
Trigger Warning: Readers should be aware that the following film review references language and images associated with domestic violence and abuse and may contain potential triggers.
These are words I have never been called and will, most likely, never be called. I am a white American man married to a white American woman and living in a mostly white Midwestern suburb. Filmmaker Lucia Gaja takes these vicious, life-taking words often reserved for women and turns them on their head with her breath-taking and vital film, Intimate Battles. Gaja’s film explores the lives of five women, each from a different nation (Mexico, Spain, India, Finland, and the USA) as they recount their stories of being abused and tortured, physically, psychologically, verbally, and sexually, by their former male partners.
Gaja does a couple of things with her film that I have never seen done before with such fullness. First, she hands the stories of abused women, across cultures and ethnicities, to the abused women themselves. The stories are their stories. The film belongs, completely, to them and for them. Gaja has, in the name of smashing the shit out of violent patriarchy, taken the stories away from the male abusers completely. By committing violence towards these women, they have lost their right to tell stories. Not only that, but Gaja’s film takes painful stories and places them against the backdrop of gorgeous cinematography.
What a timely film. What a life-giving film.
This is the most important documentary film I’ve ever seen. Why? It could be a matter of life and death for those who view it.
Intimate Battles plays on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 1:15PM, and on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 2:45PM. Director Lucía Gajá will be in attendance to introduce the film.