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'Utama' was one of the films surrounding the LATAM Indigenous experience awarded at Sundance. Photo: 'Utama'
'Utama' was one of the films surrounding the LATAM Indigenous experience awarded at Sundance. Photo: 'Utama'

Latin American talent stands out at Sundance

Two movies surrounding Indigenous communities were awarded at the festival.

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An elderly Quechua couple have been living in the Bolivian highlands for years, where they have suffered extreme drought driven by climate exchange. Virginio, 80, is ill but decides to hide his illness from his wife Sisa, 81. Both, alongside their grandson Clever, 23, must decide between staying in the community or moving to the city and leaving not just their territory and lifestyle, but also their culture and past. 

These Indigenous non-professional actors are the main characters in Utama, a Bolivian-Uruguayan film that won the World Dramatic Award Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The film, directed by Alejandro Loayza Grisi, reflects a reality very close to Indigenous communities in South America.

"If we don't do something quick, we are soon going to have more people in the same situation as Virginio and Sisa," Loayza lamented.

Meanwhile, The Territory, another film that focuses on a Latin American Indigenous community, was awarded by the public and the jury in the World Cinema Documentary & Documentary Craft category, respectively. In the documentary, directed by American Alex Pritz, a young Indigenous leader — from the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau community — and his mentor fight to protect an area of the Amazon rainforest from farmers. 

More awards for Latin American talents

The Word Dramatic Cinema Award went to Mexican actress Teresa Sánchez for her role in Dos Estaciones. In this film directed by Juan Pablo González, Sánchez performed the role of María García — proprietor of a Jalisco-based tequila factory — who tries to move the company forward facing foreign competitors. González considered the film as a “very personal” one in which he reveals his love for Jalisco.

"We wanted to tell the story in a way not only in the big picture but also on a day-to-day basis," he said after hearing about its recognition at Sundance.

Additionally, the Mexican-American screenwriter KD Dávila was the winner of the Waldo Salt Screenplay Award for the film Emergency, a satirical comedy about young Black and Latino friends who carefully weigh the risks of calling the police during an emergency.

In the short film competition, the Jury Prize for Best American Fiction Short Film went to Mexican-American director Walter Thompson-Hernández for If I Go, Will They Miss Me

Finally, the Brazilian film, A Wild Patience Has Taken Me Here, directed by Érica Sarmet, won the Special Jury Prize. The film follows a middle-aged motorcyclist who, tired of loneliness, goes to a lesbian party for the first time. There, she meets four young queers who share their home and affections. 

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