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Retina Latina, a new platform for films from Latin America. Photo courtesy of UNESCO
Retina Latina, a new platform for films from Latin America. Photo courtesy of UNESCO

Film platform provides new views of Latin America

A new, free, legal video-on-demand platform helps connect film lovers with some of the best works in Latin American cinema. 

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Latin American cinema is full of jewels that go unnoticed. Thankfully, Retina Latina a free, legal video-on-demand (VOD) platform that connects film lovers, was born to solve this problem. This month it's celebrating three years of existence.

Surprises such as Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, with its ten Oscar nominations, are dependent on the possibilities of a film to circulate and reach different markets. In the case of Roma, that possibility was enhanced by the fact that it was available on the Netflix platform.

Netflix, the largest online streaming service in the world, has well understood the enormous quality of some Latin American filmmakers, and knew how to utilize that audience. However, the case of Roma is the exception.

Much more often, Latin films spend a few days on the billboard, when they are feature films, and short films have even less exhibition space. Moreover, it's difficult to know what's going on in the neighboring country. How many Colombians know which films were released in Uruguay or Ecuador last year?

To address this information gap, Retina Latina was born in 2016. It is a free and legal VOD (Video on Demand) platform, supported by cultural institutions in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay and by the Inter-American Development Bank.

After a short registration, here you will find from Peruvian experimental cinema to Uruguayan animated short films. For the curious, this selection of recommended films may be a good place to start exploring the platform. 

The Colors of the Mountain (Colombia, 2011)
 

 

This film, winner of eleven international awards, portrays in an hour and a half the Colombian armed conflict from the point of view of Manuel, a child who lives his day to day like any other. Without truculence, but also without false compassion, The Colors of the Mountain shows us how violence closes its fence on a vereda (which would be the equivalent of a neighborhood in Colombia’s countryside): men, with ruana and combat weapons on their shoulders, pass by the house to ask questions, threatening graffiti appears on the wall of the school, the list of class attendance is filled with red lines for children who have already moved. But the only thing that really keeps Manuel going is rescuing his soccer ball, which fell on a minefield while playing with his friends.  

The Room of Bones (México y El Salvador, 2015)
 

 

The Room of Bones is a documentary that asks what a country that sows bodies harvests. In El Salvador, says Marcela Zamora, the director, when the civil war ended, the war between gangs began to emerge, populating the country with corpses and mothers who look for and ask for their children, overcoming fear and threats.

This one-hour documentary accompanies the team of the Instituto de Medicina Legal del Salvador, which rescues and analyzes the bodies vomited by the soil, waiting for someone to claim them one day. However, this rarely happens. Most of them end up being stored in the room of bones, a small room crammed into the inevitable disorder; as Zamora describes it:

"The room of bones could be El Salvador. It is as small as El Salvador that hides it. It is as saturated as El Salvador that hides it. It is so lacking in everything that this room should be called 'El Salvador Room of Bones' and not 'Forensic Anthropology'. In this room there are bones from the four cardinal points of the country. In this Room of Bones, paradoxes of life, we find those who disappeared during the civil war, which ended almost twenty-two years ago, and the senseless violence of gang warfare. Here they meet again, without truces, gang members of the Salvatrucha with gang members of Barrio 18 and their victims. There are also bones that speak of other bones: those of migrants who return skulls. Three of the country's greatest tragedies are condensed here. They are our bones of war and peace. Bones that arose to shout what happened before and what is happening now.”

This feature film, ultimately, portrays more than one Latin American country and shows a reality that is key to understanding phenomena such as the migrant caravan.

El autómata (Cuba, 2016)

This short science fiction film, produced at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión de San Antonio de los Baños, shows us an automaton reflecting on its body, strange and rusty, the place in which it lives and the reactions it arouses in those who, astonished, observe it. Thirteen minutes long, it has a clear and beautifully composed photograph accompanied by a well-constructed narrative.

El campeón de la muerte (Perú, 2014)

El campeón de la muerte is a short film (20 min) based on a costumbrista tale by Enrique López Albujar, a Peruvian writer from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is the story of an indigenous man who asks for the help of a somewhat ghostly bounty hunter to take revenge for the death of his daughter. The performances are somewhat strange, but this short film stands out for its photography, music and the imposing landscapes it portrays.

Matar a todos (Uruguay, 2007)
 

 

This police film, awarded at six international festivals, tells the story of Julia Gudari, a lawyer who investigates the kidnapping of Eugenio Berríos, the Chilean chemist responsible for the production of sarin gas during Pinochet's dictatorship, who was apparently being protected by the Uruguayan army. Set at the end of the Cold War, Matar a Todos shows us the tensions and contradictions of a society that tries to "restore democracy" by protecting the military elites of the dictatorship and the difficulties of those who fight for truth and justice, but have to bear the heavy burden of their pasts. Matar a todos was declared by the Uruguayan state as a film of national interest, but it has a wider reach than the country's borders.

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