KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando looks at the new El Mundo Extraño sidebar at the San Diego Latino Film Festival.
Related Story: Latino Film Fest Highlights Horror & Sci-Fi Movies
ANCHOR INTRO: The 19th Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival proves it's not too old to change. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando tells us about a new sidebar showcasing genre films.
The San Diego Latino Film Festival turns 19 this year, and it's proving its vibrancy by continuing to change. You can still find well over a hundred films from around the globe -- ranging from shorts to features, animation to documentary, comedy to tragedy. But this year you can also find El Mundo Extrano, a sidebar showcase that literally translates as The Strange World.
The Festival is no stranger to films that push the envelope and take us to weird, bizarre, and fantastical places. Let's not forget that the father of surreal cinema, Luis Buñuel, made films in both Spain and Mexico, and his work's been showcased at the festival. The festival's also given us "The Ship of Monsters," the Spanish Dracula, and "My Mother-in-Law is a Zombie." But these genre films sometimes got lost in the shuffle. That's why we have the new sidebar El Mundo Extrano says assistant programmer Glenn Heath.
GLENN HEATH: By grouping them together we are really strengthening their marketing abilities and to promote them because we're very proud of these three films and we think that they deserve a wider audience.
So prepare for zombies, aliens, and witches.
GLENN HEATH: This new showcase is really going to focus on genre cinema in Latino film. Most notably horror films, science fiction films, supernatural stories.
Like "El Paramo," in which Columbian soldiers sent to a distant outpost discover a women buried alive behind a wall.
CLIP Soldiers breaking down a wall.
She's the sole survivor in a blood-splattered building and is incapable of helping the men solve the riddle of who she is. She could be one of the guerrillas or perhaps a witch. Either way, her presence causes the men to turn violently on each other.
GLENN HEATH: It's all about atmosphere and tone, and obviously the hidden repression that are underneath all of these men's experiences. It's just a very claustrophobic movie and for genre fans I think it's going to impress them because of how it treats the typical war film, it changes it, it deconstructs it in a way that makes it into something else.
Which is what "Extraterrestrial," another film in the showcase, does to the science fiction film. In this case, a man wakes up to find himself in a strange woman's apartment...
CLIP woman screams...
And with spaceships hovering outside her window. The film mixes sci-fi with romance and a savvy dose of black comedy. Comedy and horror mix with radical results in Cuba's first zombie film, "Juan of the Dead."
CLIP Juan of the Dead zombie removal ad
When the zombie apocalypse comes, let Juan help you with the removal of your reanimated loved ones.
GLENN HEATH: It really shows the resolve of the characters and how adaptation and evolution really plays into their lives on a daily basis.
Cubans like Juan are survivors. For decades they've been making do with whatever they have and relying on their own ingenuity to survive challenging circumstances.
CLIP They are zombies, the living dead.
When zombies arrive at the island nation, the undead are designated as "dissidents" and the authorities even suggest they're sponsored by the U.S. government. But the ever-resourceful Juan simply sees it as an opportunity to be seized.
GLENN HEATH: It's really funny, rambunctious, inventive, creative, it's "Night of the Living Dead" and "Shaun of the Dead." But a very Cuban flair to it. It's got a cutting political edge to it and it's very smart in how it addresses those political concerns.
Yes, genre films are often very smart yet they don't often get the respect they deserve says Heath.
GLENN HEATH: They sometimes tell us the most about what type of society we're living in because they are often very ambitious and they do more with less. So there's that creative energy there, that vibrancy, that spark.
So prepare for a strange and wonderful cinematic adventure at this year's San Diego Latino Film Festival.
Beth Accomando, KPBS News.