Recently premiered in Chile, Abandonados (The Abandoned) presents a dystopian Chile after World War III. Based on the short Calor 2052, survivors try to live on despite their memories, loneliness, and ensuing madness. The young director is David Contreras Silva, fellow genre geek and comic book artist, who previously directed gore film Demencia (Dementia). Looks like he has a theme going! Despite a low budget, Contreras had the support of the community including local firefighters and the army along with private and public funds from Los Ángeles (Chile) institutions.
Here’s a link to their movie blog (in Spanish) and the production company Chile Fantástico‘s Facebook Page. Hopefully we will get to see it soon in the northern hemisphere.
The Abandonados trailer looks great! It is in Spanish but you can get the gist of it. It has a voiceover of a reporter talking about the war for water resources, and how it came to Chile along with Christmas 2049.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Not a Latino bartender manual
Cosmos Latinos: An Anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain
Edited By Andrea L. Bell & Yolanda Molina-Gavilán
Wesleyan University Press, 2003
There are many Science Fiction authors that write in Spanish, but unfortunately few are translated into English (especially short stories) so Cosmos Latinos was a surprising find. Besides 27 short stories, it contains an interesting introduction about the development of science fiction literature in Latin America. I’ll sum up the intro here since it has some interesting points and in the next post I’ll review the actual stories.
According to Cosmos, the three dominating characteristics of Latin American science fiction literature are:
- Its slant towards the “soft” sciences- psychology, ecology, and sociopolitical topics including social criticism and international relations;
- The use of Christian symbols, other Western mythology, along with the opposition of faith vs. reason/technology; and
- Its use of allegory, satire and humor in topics ranging from the serious- like the colonization of the Americas, to lighter fare featuring heroes on some sort of quest in comic-book style.
Other noteworthy points discussed in the introduction, some of which I didn’t know:
- Latin American sci-fi’s beginnings were greatly influenced by Anglophone and other foreign authors to a certain extent, but since the 1960s the main influence of science fiction writers comes from within; that is, writers in Spanish and Portuguese “cross-pollinate” and the scifi community supports itself with magazines, awards, and conventions. Prior to 1960, there were very few writers committed to the genre and it was the isolated author who used it for promoting a particular agenda, like providing a social critique.
- Unfortunately sci-fi faced the sociopolitical and economic climate of the 1970s and 80s and production diminished in Latin America and Spain. Publishers needed to make money and turned to more mainstream titles to avoid government suspicion. Artists and intellectuals in general stopped writing or emigrated. It was only until the late 1980s with the broadening of political freedoms and the institution of literary prizes that the genre picked up again.
- The countries with the most recognized sci-fi authors are Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Spain, although every Latin American country has active writers and organized fan activity. Publishers outside the region have expressed an interest in local authors, although that has often meant that writers feel pressured to imitate their Anglophone counterparts to be marketable.
- Genre writings are not confined to magical realism, a myth perpetuated by what little gets translated into English and made into Hollywood movies (see 100 Years of Solitude, Like Water for Chocolate) but it is an important subgenre that helped legitimize the fantastic among social literary circles. Even now mainstream regional bookstores tend to focus on magical realism; other subgenres of scifi are mostly translations from well known authors, considered a safer investment for publishers.
- The Internet has done a lot for Latin American scifi, solidifying regional ties. Several websites of published magazines, fan forums and new authors have developed and flourished.
If you get a chance to peruse Cosmos, keep in mind that it is seven years old and that science fiction in Latin America has continued to grow since then, although most of it is still limited to Spanish speakers. One of the reasons to write this blog is to share my discovery of interesting authors in the genre so if there is one you enjoy, let me know via email or comment!
Everybody is blue on Pandora
Avatar opening weekend has finally arrived and James Cameron definitely did not disappoint! Avatar is an amazing film that grabs you immediately and doesn’t let go until well after the end credits. There are no boring parts. The 3-D is used well, not throwing things at you all the time but giving you depth perception that brings the computer generated world to life. Everywhere you look there is something new to discover; it’s almost too much to absorb on the first try.
The story in brief is about a marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who travels to the planet Pandora to join the Avatar project team. His mind is connected to a genetically compatible test tube body that is to all effects, a body of a native Na’vi. This allows him to interact with the local tribe as he becomes increasingly entwined with his new surroundings. The problem is that Jake’s human friends are on the planet to exploit it, and the Na’vi are in the way. Yes, this type of story has been told before but it doesn’t drown in clichés like I was afraid it would and it adds unexpected twists.
Our blue Latino warriors Zoe Saldaña (as Neytiri) and Laz Alonso (as Tsu’Tey) really brought it and even though they were playing computer generated characters, the motion capture in 3-D truly made their facial expressions shine through. Also, the voices were all theirs and when they spoke the Na’vi language (a complete language created by USC professor Paul Frommer) they were absolutely believable. Kudos to the language coach (Carla Meyer appears as the dialect coach on IMDB) for giving the non-natives a noticeable accent and making the Na’vi actors appear fluent. And thank you subtitle font people for using Papyrus when Na’vi was spoken. It was as pretty as the language.
Our non-blue warrior chica Michelle Rodríguez (playing Trudy Chacón) kicked ass and was a favorite (at least in my theater) judging by the applause she got. Trudy is a helicopter pilot, part of the group of mercenaries on Pandora. She becomes an important part of the inevitable rebellion, and I’m pleased she had such a prominent role that wasn’t computer generated and an actual Latina character. Latinas on Pandora FTW!
On the science fiction side, this movie has enough creatures, glowing plants, weapons and technology to satisfy any sci-fi or fantasy fan. There is plenty to dissect here and obsess over, my fellow geeks! It is jaw-dropping gorgeous and with the 3-D even more so. Hi-tech labs, fantastic myths come to life, and heart-stopping battle scenes round out this film to make it an absolute must-see.
Frak, this TV doesn't have cable.
Al final del espectro (At the End of the Spectra) is a 2006 Colombian thriller set to be remade in the U.S. in 2010. If you like movies similar to the Japanese version of The Ring, you’ll enjoy this film. I’m not sure Espectro (Spectrum or ghost) needs to be remade, but I do like that the same young Colombian director Juan Felipe Orozco will direct the Hollywood version. It is set to star Nicole Kidman in the main role, so this is great Hollywood exposure for Orozco. He not only directed Espectro, he also co-wrote it with his younger brother Carlos Esteban Orozco.
The lead, Vega (Noëlle Schonwald), is a young documentary filmmaker who due to recent tragedy is sunk in a depression. Apparently in Colombia being depressed means you should move into a creepy apartment by yourself to recover. Vega’s father is played by Kepa Amuchastegui, whom I recognized as the “Mr. Meade” from the first Ugly Betty, also a Colombian original. Daddy takes Vega to an apartment building at the beginning of the movie. She promptly gets security cameras installed to satisfy (and feed) her paranoia. Vega’s floor mates are a raving alcoholic, her rebellious daughter, and a creepy bug-eyed neighbor with a Doberman. Vega shuns socializing with them to remain isolated in her apartment. That’s when her visions begin. The more time she’s alone, the more she sees and hears things she tries to explain to herself so she doesn’t think she’s going crazy. Now an agoraphobe, Vega tries to solve the mystery of her apartment via endless hours watching her camera monitor and digging through things left by the previous tenant all with increasing paranoia and tension.
The film starts off slowly so if you feel like it’s dragging on a bit, don’t worry. It’ll pick up and then you’ll regret turning the lights off. Like I did.