BEIRUT: Teenage Leonardo faces many of the same problems as adolescents everywhere: He’s bullied by classmates, stifled by his overprotective parents and worried he’ll never find love. One thing makes him different from most of his peers, however. Leonardo is blind.
When a new boy, Gabriel, arrives at school, Leo’s best friend Giovanna falls for him, only to become jealous when the two boys begin to spend all their time together.
Brazilian director Daniel Ribeiro’s feature “Hoje eu quero voltar sozinho,” entitled in English “The Way He Looks,” is screening Friday night at Metropolis Empire Sofil as part of the fifth Festival of Ibero-American Cinema, “Otras Miradas,” (Other Viewpoints).
The understated coming-of-age drama won two awards after premiering at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival last February, the FIPRESCI prize for best feature film in the Panorama section and the Teddy Award for best LGBT-themed feature.
“The Way He Looks” is one of several award-winning features and feature-length documentaries screening as part of the festival, an annual event featuring the best recent cinema from Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Organized by the Spanish Embassy and the Cervantes Institute, “Otras Miradas” aims to broaden the cultural horizons of Lebanese viewers.
This year, the festival was organized in collaboration with the embassies of Mexico, Colombia, Brasil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina and Chile, as well as the Portuguese, El Salvadorian and Peruvian consulates.
A total of 11 films are screening during the nine-day festival, which opened Thursday with Mexican director Fernando J. Le?n’s 2012 comedy “La Cebra,” about two bandits who dream of joining revolutionary leader Alvaro Obragon, and set off to find his troops on a zebra they’ve mistaken for a horse.
Screening late Friday evening is Portuguese director Zézé Gamboa’s 2012 comedy “O Grande Kilapy,” which is set in 1960s Portugal and features a protagonist named Joao Fraga. Inspired by a real figure, Fraga is a rich young Angolan, a Casanova who just wants to bed women, spend his family’s money and have a good time. The senior executive of the National Bank of Angola, he begins to swindle funds away from his employer to fund his playboy lifestyle.
Angola and colonial legacies once again take center stage Saturday, in Cuban director Rogelio Paris’ 2008 war movie “Kangamba,” set in the African nation in 1983. It’s August, and thousands of soldiers from the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), financed and led by the apartheid South African regime, launch a violent offensive against a military until of the government-loyal Popular Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA). Fighting with FAPLA in the small town of Kangamba are a number of Cuban volunteer troops.
Later the same evening, Peruvian director Eduardo Mendoza’s 2011 drama “Bolero de Noche” retells the timeless legend of Faust and his bargain with the devil. Mendoza’s protagonist is a troubadour, who sells his soul for a bolero that will never die.
Sunday’s film hails from Colombia. Rey Sagbini and Andrew Tucker’s 2013 “El Viaje del Acorde?n” follows Colombian accordion virtuoso Manuel Vega. Along with two fellow musicians, Vega has spent 16 years attending the world’s largest competitive accordion festival in Valledupar, but has yet to win the grand prize. One day the trio are invited to perform in Germany and together they embark on their first trip abroad – and discover a new world.
Screening Monday is Paraguayan director Ermes Medina Valiente’s “Che Pykasumi,” which recounts the inspiration behind writer and teacher Cecilio Valiente’s eponymous song, one of Paraguay’s best-known and loved traditional melodies.
Uruguay will have its turn in the spotlight Tuesday in Diego Arsuaga’s “El Ingeniero.” The film dwells on the mystery of why the coach of the Uruguayan national football team, known as Engineer Erramuspe, failed to show up on the day of the team’s Americas Cup final game, and why he resigned his position two days later, citing “personal reasons.”
Wednesday’s feature is director by Spain’s Pablo Berger. The 2012 black-and-white silent drama, “Blancanieves,” won 10 Goya Film Awards and was nominated for three European Film Awards. Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “Snow White,” the fantasy story is set in a romanticized version of 1920s Andalusia and was described by the director as “a love letter to European silent cinema.”
Olegario Barerra’s 2012 “El Manzano Azul,” screening Thursday, hails from Venezuela. The multiaward-winning film follows the story of Diego, an 11-year-old city boy who is forced to spend his summer in the mountains with a grandfather he hardly knows. Bullied by the country kids, he has a miserable time, until he stumbles across a strange blue apple tree and meets a attractive young girl.
Argentinian director Ariel Winograd’s 2013 feature “Vino Para Robar” (To Fool a Thief) tells the story of two professional robbers Friday. This comedy caper follows Sebastian and Mariana, two skilled thieves who are seemingly unaware of each other’s existence, until Mariana tricks Sebastian into stealing a near-priceless artifact for her, and he embarks on a mission to track her down and get his revenge.
Later Friday night, feature-length documentary “Quatro Puntos Cardinales,” from El Salvador’s Javier Kafie, will employ four separate narrative threads to explore the richness of life in the small Central American country. The film serves as a reaction against the image of violence with which El Salvador is often associated.
The closing film of the festival, screening Saturday Nov. 8, is the award-winning “Dawson Isla 10,” from Chilean director Miguel Littin. The film recounts the stories of former members of Chilean President Salvador Allende’s Cabinet and what became of them after he was overthrown in the 1973 coup, to be replaced by Augusto Pinochet. The deposed Cabinet members were incarcerated in a concentration-camp style prison on Dawson Island, Terra del Fuego.
“Otras Miradas” continues at Metropolis Empire Sofil until Nov. 8. All films are screened in the original language with English subtitles, except “Che Pykasumi,” which will be shown in Guarani with Spanish subtitles. Tickets cost LL6,000. For more information, please call 01-204-080.