Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Latin lovers

Mind-blowing exploration at Toronto's Latin film fests

BOGATÁ BEAUTIES. La Corona exposes the hopes and dreams of Colombian prisoners vying to win a beauty contest behind bars.

Alucine, Toronto’s Latin media festival, comes together every year with a spirit of independence. Not always on everybody’s radar, this growing and eclectic festival brings together a wide variety of film and other media from Latin Americans throughout the world. Always embracing the queer community this year’s Alucine (running Thu, Nov 20 to 29) has a plethora of new work including the fantastically engaging documentary La Corona, a must-see especially if you missed it during Hot Docs, and a diverse compilation of queer films from Mix Brasil, the huge queer film fest in São Paulo.

Based in a Colombian women’s prison, La Corona, an Academy Award-nominated short from 2007, plunges us into the lives of a group of women vying to be the winner in a cut-throat beauty queen contest. Murderers, thieves and guerrillas, many of them lesbian while in prison, these women share their stories, their dreams and what it means to them to win the crowning title. Poignant and insightful, La Corona gives a bird’s-eye view into life in prison and some of the traditions and politics of Colombian culture (7pm, Nov 24).

Alucine presents the best program I’ve seen from Mix Brasil in a few years (9pm, Nov 28). Some films are better than others but on the whole it is a strong, diverse group of independent cinema. It has everything from porn, death and young romance, to older women sex workers trying to make a basic living. Two of the porn-styled films are Furs for Adonis, an experimental romp through 1970s porn, and Joy Stick Joy, a pussy-filled extravaganza.

The short Barbara is one of the most poignant and compelling films of all. In it, a trans woman has a death-bed reconciliation with her father. Then there are the romances of Sweet and Salty, Life Next Door (with two very sexy women), OK and My Dog Teaches Me How to Live, a great film about the relationship between a young photographer and his dog who has died. The love between people and their animals is not an often-explored topic, and in this piece it is done sensitively and realistically.

The best of the bunch is the last film, 69 Luz Square, about a group of older sex workers who walk the streets of São Paolo. With humour and insight these women talk about their clients, their lives on the streets, their experiences and everything that you have ever wanted to know about men’s fetishes and more. Still working and proud of it, they talk about what they will and will not do — these are not the sex workers you often see on screen.

A few other programs to note at Alucine include the queer video self-representation project — screenings from a workshop tackling identity, difficult life experiences and politics around being lesbian or gay in Latin America and in Canada. These pieces show individuals finding their queer voice through cinema (5pm, Nov 22).

What would it be like for a spiritual leader to tell you that you are the wrong gender? Colombian-Canadian Carolina Valencia found this out while (as Carlos) she was making a film about the Afro-Caribbean religion of Santeria when a Santeria priest told her she was living a lie. Faced with this truth that she had always known and hidden from herself she goes on a journey with the Santeria priest and pursues a gender transition. Voodoo Woman is a fascinating but awkwardly told tale that focuses too much on Santeria mysticism rather than the story of Valencia, a person dealing with prejudice, loneliness and the fight to become a woman in middle age.

Voodoo Woman plays with Love Effect, the latest short by Juana Awad, this experimental video portrays disjointed bodies moving through time and space as they come together and move apart. The sound is an integral part of the image and the effect of both on the emotions is a beautiful exploration of the intensity of love (9pm, Nov 29).