When the casual viewer thinks of films from Central and South America, he most likely thinks of classics from Los Olvidados to City of God that show the effects of grinding poverty on successive generations of abandoned children. But festival entries like Delicate Crimeand In Bed, largely set in the well-to-do world of the urban upper middle-class (in Brazil and Chile, respectively), are neither more nor less "real" than a picture from the sparsely populated countryside of Mexico (Ricardo Benet's News From Afar) or the documentary Favela Rising, shot in the teeming slums of Rio de Janeiro.
A warning to critics everywhere, Beto Brant's deliberate, increasingly intense drama, Delicate Crime, posits a bitterly alienated scribe who develops an obsession with a one-legged artists' model. Inez (Lilian Taublib) is a great character, eager for any kind of sensual experience, while Antonio (Marco Ricca), somewhat schematically, is an intellect detached from human contact, at once hyper-articulate and delusional. He's a Dostoyevskian figure, Addison DeWitt as Ivan Karamazov, and he must fight not just his own demons but also the Svengalilike hold Inez's patron has on his obscured object of desire.
Two souls who maintain all their humanity, intelligence, and sensuality are the eloquent lovers of In Bed. Daniela (Blanca Lewin) and Bruno (Gonzalo Valenzuela) spend a night together speaking great bouts of verbiage between great bouts of sex. And if the sex doesn't do it, Lewin and Valenzuela are attractive enough to hold your interest through all 85 minutes, aided less by director Matias Bize's shaky camera than by Manuel Rojas' well-structured screenplay.
News From Afaris a well-written, well-directed, slowly paced look at a 17-year-old who attempts an escape from his rural prison. Like other selections at this festival, such as Chile's Play(see review on page 22), it's built around the impact of globalization on even the tiniest community. Favela Rising, by Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary, mingles the fascinating history of criminal activity in a particular neighborhood with the inspirational saga of a petty crook turned "Afro Reggae" musician trying to combat his community's ruin. The charismatic Anderson Sá's true story contains plot twists that would strain credibility in a Hollywood movie. Who could have predicted that Sá, having faced down many criminals and mobs in his day, would become a quadriplegic in a freak surfing accident ... or that he'd walk out of his hospital room just a few days later? And he can play. Favela Rising may be the most entertaining film at this festival. Gregg Rickman
Delicate Crime: Sunday, April 23, 9:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Wednesday, April 26, 9:45 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Thursday, May 4, 5 p.m., AMC Kabuki
In Bed: Saturday, April 22, 9:15 p.m., Castro; Monday, April 24, 3:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki
News From Afar: Tuesday, April 25, 7 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; Saturday, April 29, 6 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Tuesday, May 2, 3 p.m., AMC Kabuki
Favela Rising: Saturday, April 29, 8 p.m., Baycat (2415 Third Street at 20th Street); Monday, May 1, 6:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki