Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Julieta: Film Reviews from the Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

Julieta, Pedro Almodóvar, 2016
CIFFR: Thurs Apr 6, 2017

Almodóvar is a little like Quentin Tarantino for me. No, not in style. I mean in the sense that I either adore or abhor their films. No in-between, no middle grounds... Tarantino and Almodóvar, to me, are either geniuses or morons, depending on what film we're talking about. (To be fair, I do like many more Almodóvar films than I do Tarantino ones.)

When I saw Julieta on the film festival roster, and even after reading the (raving) reviews online, I wasn't sure what to expect. Also, this was going to be Cor's first Almodóvar film (I'm still trying to understand how I allowed an entire decade together to pass before I made formal introductions), so I was torn between singing Pedro's praises and toning it down enough to manage expectations, in case it turned out to be a bomb of epic proportions. (Because, let's face it, when Almodóvar bombs, he does it in Miltonian grandiosity.)

But he did not bomb. Julieta will be remembered as one of his masterpieces, along with Volver (2006) and Átame ("Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down", 1989)—and a few of his coming productions-to-be, since this film evidences a newfound maturity that will surely bring us many, many more riveting stories and extraordinary filmmaking.

(And, yes, Cor loved it, too.)

I'm constantly amazed at Almodóvar's uncanny insight into the depths of the female soul. Especially when it comes to mother-daughter relationships. He's done it before, in Tacones Lejanos ("High Heels", 1991), in Todo Sobre Mi Madre ("All About My Mother", 1999), in Volver, certainly—a film which was hailed as "an ode to female resilience" (Wikipedia). And he did it again with Julieta. Adriana Ugarte, who plays the younger Julieta in the film, was quoted as saying,

"It's a mystery, but he can feel how we feel and how we are." 

An absolutely brilliant, brilliant film. Looking forward to the next one, Pedro!




Have you seen it, or are you planning to? I'd love to know what you think if/when you do.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The #WATWB September Edition: On Earthquakes and the Soul of a Nation (#FuerzaMéxico)

Every year on the 19th of September, Mexico City commemorates the anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that leveled the city, and honors those who perished, those who survived, and—perhaps most especially—the millions who took part, over days and weeks and even months, in the search and rescue efforts to find the missing and, later, to rebuild not just the city but the lives devastated by those three minutes the earth shook.

Tlatelolco (Mexico City), 1985
The commemoration includes, every year, an evacuation drill that takes place at 11:00 am. The alarms of the early-warning system sound, and every building in the city empties, people stand in groups in the street until they're given the all-clear, and then everyone mills back up into their offices and cubicles to wait for the evacuation assessment. How fast did we do it? Where did we screw up? What can we do to make it faster, safer, better?

This year, when the alarms sounded again at just past 1:15pm, most people thought it was another drill. Or a malfunction.

It wasn't.



Mexico City is no stranger to earthquakes. Being built on the bed of what once was Lake Texcoco, the city sits on sandy and clayey soil that amplifies any seismic activity. After 1985, building regulations changed drastically, an early warning system was implemented, evacuation drills were practiced and perfected, and for 32 years the city suffered no major damages, structural or human, during quakes.

Until eleven days ago. Over three hundred people dead, and counting. Search and rescue efforts are ongoing. Corruption has been revealed and documented, much to the chagrin and embarrassment of politicians and public servants. Lives have been turned upside down, the damage to the city will take months to assess fully, and reconstruction will take millions of dollars. Mexico is in mourning.

But they're far from paralyzed.

Instead, there's this:



And all this is happening without—perhaps even in spite of—the government.

The feeling all around the city, even as far as Cuernavaca, the capital of Morelos (where the epicenter was located) and also damaged, though not as badly as Mexico City, is that Mexicans are taking back the country. For a long time, mainly because of that apathy I talked about earlier, we believed we did, in fact, deserve the government we had. That there were more bad people than good. And therefore that the good ones had no hope. But today there is an undercurrent of optimism, of potential: the evidence—the Topos, the volunteers, the selflessness—seems to prove the old sentiments wrong. The good ones seem to be everywhere. And the bad ones easily identifiable in their government buildings, wearing their silence and sheer ineptitude in the face of a crisis right out on their sleeve for the whole world to see.

In the trenches, all these long days and late nights of working shoulder to shoulder, regardless of color or religion or education or socioeconomic background, have revealed a brotherhood we had perhaps forgotten, perhaps chosen to ignore, perhaps been swindled into betraying. There is hope, today, that this brotherhood, these sentiments of unity and shoulder-to-shoulder equality, may become the driving force for the change—the awakening—Mexico so desperately needs.

Y que viva México, cabrones!



Late at night, hundreds of rescuers, some military, some professionals, most simply volunteers, finally get confirmation that there is no one else trapped in the collapsed building. Instead of giving in to the exhaustion I'm sure permeated every muscle of their bodies, they all stood proud and straight and launched into a spontaneous rendition of the Mexican national anthem.

I am beyond proud to be Mexican.

Want to help México? The New York Times has a good list of organizations that are doing extraordinary work. My personal favorite, also included in the NYT list, is the Topos ("moles" in Spanish). They're heroes without capes—but with plenty of superpowers. CNN did a great piece on them, if you want to find out more. Or you can choose to "stay" (symbolically only, for obvious reasons) in housing damaged by the earthquake. Arriba México, via Cadena.ngo, will direct all proceeds to the fund for rebuilding. In advance, and on behalf of all Mexicans, mil gracias!


This post is part of the We Are The World Blogfest, a monthly event intended to seek out stories of hope and light. If you need more brightness in your life, hop on over to the other participants for a healthy dose of feel-good and inspiration.

Thanks for stopping by!














Saturday, August 26, 2017

The #WATWB August Edition: On Hope & the Worthiness of the Effort It Takes


Photo by Berlian Khatulistiwa (Unsplash). Typography by Guilie Castillo.
It's been a hard couple of months, and it hasn't been easy to focus on the positive. Last month, in fact, I found it impossible (one of our dogs died). And then the drama with North Korea started. The situation in Venezuela got much, much worse (Curaçao is like 75 km off the VEN coast)—including a threat of military action from the US and, just yesterday, new financial sanctions. And then there's that spate of white supremacist rallies and demonstrations wreaking havoc in the US.

Is it any wonder that I'm still struggling to find the light? Maybe not. But I have a choice, don't I? I can allow myself to sink into the darkness, to lose the fragile hold I have on hope, to give in to despair. Or... I can make an effort. Grasp that hope tighter. Feed my strength with the superfood of finding the good in the world.

Which is why the We Are The World blogfest, a monthly event that seeks to spotlight the good stories, the positive outcomes, the reasons for hope, is all the more important. And important, too, that I—that all of us—make the effort to find those stories.

Those outcomes.

Those reasons.

Even if it's something small, something tiny and apparently insignificant compared to the enormity of everything else. Every bit of hope helps. Every bit of feel-good we're able to muster, even if only for a moment, pushes the darkness back. And, inch by inch, we'll gain ground. Because, finally, this is about keeping alive not just the ideals but the reality of the world we want: a world of light, and of hope.


And it starts with us. Be the light you want to see in the world, right? In order to be any kind of light, though, we need to keep that spark alive in our own consciousness.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Other Side of Hope: Film Reviews from the Curaçao Film Festival #ciffr

The Other Side of Hope, a film from Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki about a Syrian immigrant in Finland and officially labeled a comedy (more on that below), was the opening film for the Curaçao film festival on Wednesday April 5th. When we were making our selections for the festival, I marked this one as a must-see: immigration, especially from Syria, has taken a prominent role in news and debates worldwide, and after my dushi spewed a few anti-immigration sentiments (on which I swooped down like a rapacious bird of prey, no mercy, no quarter, until I saw a dawning light of reason in his eyes), I thought a story such as this one might help elucidate some of the finer points in the refugee-crisis dispute.



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