Cuchillo de palo / "108"

Renate Costa
Paraguay/Spain, 2010, 108 min.

A personal documentary film with a broad scope, "108" is Renate Costa's gently probing exploration of her late gay uncle's life under the Paraguayan dictatorship. Alternately straightforward and impressionistic, Costa's moving take on homosexuality in a tyrannical country encompasses the aftermath of such repression on society at large, and thanks to a symbiotic relationship with d.p. Carlos Vasquez, the quietly inquisitive lensing picks up textures and details that reveal as much as the spoken word. "108" is the derogatory moniker Paraguayans use for homosexuals, a term stemming from the first of many lists of arrested (and frequently tortured) gay men that political strongman Alfredo Stroessner had posted in public places as a way of intensifying their humiliation. The docu's original-language title, "Cuchillo de palo," translates as "useless knife," an insulting phrase directed at Costa's uncle Rodolfo and, presumably, other gay men considered ineffectual members of society.



Gonzalo Castro
Argentina, 2010, 90 min. 

Mario Bellatín exists: he’s a one-armed Mexican writer with an amazing vitality; even when he himself says in Winter-house that he is already dead, and even when he writes auto-biographical texts where his own name perishes and is replaced by a heteronym who still recognizes himself as his own ghost. And, also, even when this film by Gonzalo Castro enters into an aimless ritual in order to turn him into a film character, a well-defined specter. The thing is that everything in Winter-house balances itself on the sharp edge of the lively world of Literature and its transformations, where that “writing without writing” practiced by Bellatín ends up condensing a thick atmosphere. A series of equally valued things take place in it: negligible acts, mystical gestures, and the everyday conversations with his daughter, his assistants, and his colleagues, recorded in fixed shots that let every word and gesture breathe to the point that the echoes spread in multiple directions. 


Pan-Cinema Permanente

Carlos Nader
Brazil, 2007, 83 min.
Named after a poem in which Brazilian experimental poet Waly Salomão talks about the omnipresence of fiction in everyday life, “Pan-Cinema Permanente” is a mix of homage, biography, and manifesto. Carlos Nader, a visual artist better known for his award winning videos, excels as director of a film that will surprise those who might expect a film closer to video art than to a cinema of “facts.” The film offers a portrait of Salomão and his use of language through the language of images, mimicking to some extent Salomão’s own intermediatic poetics, when he decided to incorporate video as a new means of literary and artistic experimentation. Nader, who was a close friend of the poet, helped him in his experiment. “Pan-Cinema Permanente” is the result of fifteen years of collaboration, during which Nader recorded Salomão talking to the camera, as if he were making “cinematographic poems,” including footage from appearances on TV.


Viajo porque preciso, volto porque te amo

Karim Aïnouz and Marcelo Gomes
Brazil, 2009, 75 min.

Marcelo Gomes and Karim Aïnouz collaboratively wrote and directed this story of a man dealing with changes in the Earth and in his own life. José Renato (Irandhir Santos) is a geologist who has been sent to the Sertão region of Northeast Brazil on an assignment -- a canal has been proposed that would redirect the flow of a large river through a region of the desert that's in need of water. However, as José tries to determine how viable the canal would be given the land and minerals in the area, he discovers that the people of the Sertão are of two minds about the project -- while it would bring new life to the dry and dusty land, it would also force hundreds of people to give up their homes and start again somewhere else. As José ponders the geological facts and personal feelings about the new canal, he can't help but think of his own circumstances: his wife left him shortly before he set out on his trip, and despite plenty of conversations with himself and a few assignations with prostitutes, he's wildly certain about how he feels or where he stands.