THE ninth Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival enters its second and final weekend highlighted by three diverse films from Brazil and a romantic comedy that travels from Miami to New Zealand and back.
The documentary "Favela Rising," by filmmakers Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary, traces the effect that one man and a new musical form have on one of the worst slums in Rio de Janeiro, Vigario Geral. Anderson Sa, a charismatic drug trafficker brought up in the middle of senseless violence, transforms himself into the rebellious leader of a social groundswell known as AfroReggae. This grass-roots cultural movement mixes hip-hop, street beats and Afro-Brazilian themes and inspires the area's residents, who live in oppressive poverty, trapped between aggressive drug lords and police corruption. Sa's story takes a tragic turn when he is seriously injured in a surfing accident.
Also from Brazil is the erotic drama "Cidade Baixa" (The Lower City), directed by Sergio Machado. Two young men, Naldinho (Wagner Moura) and Deco ("Madame Sata's" Lazaro Ramos), co-own a cargo boat and give a ride to a young hooker named Karinna (Alice Braga, niece of Sonia) who agrees to sleep with both of them as part of the deal. After Naldinho is stabbed after a cockfight, the trio's bonds are intensified and complicated. An inevitable love triangle builds amid steamy sex, and the resulting jealousy threatens the men's friendship. The themes are familiar, but there's plenty of heat generated by the three leads, and Machado handles it with gritty style.
Brazilian director Bruno Barreto's romance "O Casamento de Romeu e Julieta" (Romeo and Juliet Get Married) is set against the rivalry of Sao Paolo's two most popular soccer teams, Palmeiras and Corinthians. The screwball comedy gets at the heart of sports fanaticism while satirizing more serious forms of bigotry. This Romeo (Marco Ricca) is an ophthalmologist and leader of the Corinthians' cheering section. He falls for Juliet (Luana Piovani), a soccer player whose family members, particularly her father, Marco (Luis Gustavo), are rabid fans of the green-shirted Palmeiras. In an elaborate ruse to win over his potential father-in-law, Romeo pretends to be a fellow fan of the Green. Chaos ensues as veteran Barreto puts his large cast through whiplash pacing.
The slight but sweet "Meet Me in Miami" stars Carlos Ponce as Luis, a 23-year-old South Florida hotel heir who seems to have it all but pines for Julia, a New Zealander he met when he was 13 and her family vacationed at one of his father's chic resorts. She never kept her promise to return, but Luis spontaneously decides to hop a plane for Kiwi-land with his best pal, Eduardo (Eduardo Verastegui), an ardent playboy, in tow. Now a goth tattoo artist, Julia (Tara Leniston) proves hard to pin down as Luis and Eduardo pretend to be gardeners to get close to her family. Directed by Eric Hannah and Iren Koster, the film suffers from the fact that they haven't sufficiently set up the obstacles that keep Luis from simply telling Julia who he is.
The UCLA Film and Television Archive's Jacques Rivette retrospective concludes with the New Wave master's most recent film, "The Story of Marie and Julien." Originally planned as part of a mid-1970s tetralogy that included "Celine and Julie Go Boating," "Duelle" and "Nor'west," the 2003 film stars Emmanuelle Beart and Jerzy Radziwilowicz as lovers plagued by dark secrets. The dreamlike film, an enigma of blackmail and missed rendezvous with a vaguely metaphysical tone, turns on the intense performances of its two stars. Radziwilowicz plays a forlorn artisan who repairs old clocks and unexpectedly meets the woman (Beart) he had had an affair with a year earlier, when both were involved with others. Rivette lets the relationship build slowly, relying on small gestures and plaintive lovemaking to shape their story.
Also at UCLA, the pan-Indian series "Filmi Melody: Song and Dance in Indian Cinema," wraps with something classic and something modern. "Amar Akbar Anthony" stars Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna and Rishi Kapoor as three brothers separated in childhood and raised under drastically different circumstances. The Hindu grows up to be a policeman, the Muslim becomes a \o7qawwali \f7singer and, somewhat pointedly, the Catholic turns to a life of petty crime. Directed by "masala movie" specialist Manmohan Desai, the 1977 film moves at a breakneck pace and cranks up the comedic, musical and melodramatic elements to deliriously absurd levels.
Quite different is "Swades" (Homeland), Ashutosh Gowariker's heartfelt 2004 drama with music. Contemporary star Shahrukh Khan plays Mohan, an engineer working in the U.S. who impulsively returns to India to search for his childhood nanny. As the Westernized Mohan rediscovers his connection to his native land, Gowariker shows it off to maximum widescreen effect and employs classic Hindi film songs on the soundtrack.
Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival
* "Favela Rising": 9:15 p.m. Friday
* "Cidade Baixa" (The Lower City)": 5:15 p.m. Saturday
* "Meet Me in Miami": 7:30 p.m. Saturday
* "O Casamento de Romeu e Julieta" (Romeo and Juliet Get Married): 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Info: (866) 468-3399, www.latinofilm.org
Jacques Rivette series
* "The Story of Marie and Julien": 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: James Bridges Theater, Melnitz Hall, UCLA campus
Info: (310) 206-FILM, www.cinema.ucla.edu
Filmi Melody: Song and Dance in Indian Cinema
* "Amar Akbar Anthony": 7:30 p.m. Saturday
* "Swades" (Homeland): 7 p.m. Sunday