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Review: San Diego Latino Film Festival’s Un Mundo Extraño

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone With Some Otherworldly Films

Above: "Sadourni's Butterflies" exemplifies the strange world and glorious world of Un Mundo Extraño at the San Diego Latino Film Festival.

KPBS arts reproter Beth Accomando explores the bizarre world of the San Diego Latino Film Festival's sidebar, Un Mundo Extraño


The San Diego Latino Film Festival kicks off it’s 21st season tonight. But while it’s easy to fill the house with opening and closing night crowd pleasers, I suggest getting out of your comfort zone and checking out the bizarre world of Un Mundo Extraño.

Imagine you’re in a darkened theater. There are people all around you. Some have inched to the edge of their seats, others are hunkered down behind a loved one’s arm. Onscreen a young man frantically looks for his girlfriend in an eerily empty department store. Then…something jumps out of the dark. The person next to you screams but the person down the aisle laughs. That’s the way a horror film is meant to be watched.

Un Mundo Extraño Sidebar

"Las Mariposas de Sardourni/Sardoni's Butterflies" (Argentina/Italy)

March 15, 10:00 p.m.

March 19, 9:45 p.m.

"Dame tus ojos/Give Me Your Eyes" (Mexico)

March 16, 8:00 p.m.

March 23, 9:45 p.m.

"Viral" (Spain)

March 16, 9:45 p.m.

March 22, 10:15 p.m.

"At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul" (Brazil)

March 21, 10:30 p.m.

"Films like this really rely on a kind of visceral reaction from the audience," says Miguel Rodriguez, "You could look at them intellectually but they really are more supposed to appeal to a baser instinct in the audience and that can be really amplified when you watch it with a group of people in a darkened theater where you aren’t really distracted by having to go to the bathroom or your dog running around the living room. The theater is an ideal situation to see a film like this where it’s a little more immersive."

That’s why Rodriguez programmed the Un Mundo Extraño sidebar at this year’s San Diego Latino Film Festival. The title translates as A Strange World and Rodriguez’s criteria was to find films that take us someplace different.

"Some are thrillers, some are art house type pictures, but really I’m looking at something where the content is a little more bizarre or otherworldly or just anything other than a slice of life type film where reality is not what’s being portrayed necessarily."

He wanted films that were changing the shape of the genre and none do this better than "Las Maraposas de Sadourni/Sadourni’s Butterflies." The Argentine-Italian co-production focuses on a circus dwarf just released from prison after serving time for a crime of passion. Visually, the film is breathtaking. Every frame contains something clever and fresh. It calls to mind films like "Amelie" and "Tuvalu" but Rodriguez finds it hard to pinpoint its style.

"Definitely some ties to German Expression, and silent film, even old Barnum and Bailey circus style," Rodriguez says, "It's just a gorgeous film, one of my favorite films I’ve seen in the last year because it’s pristine, it’s beautiful, and it’s really otherworldly. I think people are really going to enjoy it."

Trailer: Las Maraposas de Sadourni/Sadourni's Butterflies

Trailer for "Las Maraposas de Sadourni/Sadourni's Butterflies."

In contrast, Spanish film “Viral” is firmly rooted in the hi-tech world of today where social media rules. A young man is picked by a reality TV show to live in an electronics store for one week. His only contact with the outside world is through social media and he needs to rack up fans and followers as his life in the store is under the microscope of multiple cameras. But it turns out to be more than he bargained for and he starts to experience some very strange and possibly supernatural encounters. “Viral” manages to mix horror and comedy, as does Mexico’s “Dame tus ojos/Give Me Your Eyes.” But Rodriguez warns that the humor is much darker in the Mexican thriller about two girls on a killing spree, and the cops and media on their trail.

"Nobody in this film is without some kind of major character flaw," Rodriguez explains, "But what’s interesting about it is you’re taken on this road trip with these two girls, and you live their lives with them, and it’s not a constant stream of violence so you forget what they are capable of until something happens, and it’s taken to such an extreme level that it’s a little bit shocking when it does happen."

Rodriguez is also excited about his solo revival film, a 1964 Brazilian film featuring the character of Coffin Joe. “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul” is not just the title of this film, it’s a promise made in its prologue. This black and white gem urges the viewer to go home or show their courage, and stay and suffer.

"It’s this guy Jose Mojica Marins who just got together a bunch of his friends and you know and a little bit of money and made a very dark, and gothic horror film in the vein of old Universal horror but taken up a notch. It still has resonance and still has the ability to be creepy," Rodriguez says.

The deliciously campy film will be paired with the short film "Radiant Star," made by one of Marins' protégées, Fabiana Servilha (who will be at the screening to present her film).

Rodriguez, who runs the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, is thrilled that the San Diego Latino Film Festival is also willing to showcase horror and take viewers out of their comfort zone. I urge any filmgoer who no longer finds trips to the mall theater exciting to plan an extended stay with Un Mundo Extraño. It’s an adventure you don’t want to miss.

The San Diego Latino Film Festival runs through March 23rd at the Ultrastar Mission Valley Theaters and Digital Gym Cinema.

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