Top 10 Latino Movies of 2008

As I’ve discussed before, I had been blogging about film for about 5 years and it is still a big part of my life, although I don’t dedicate much devotion to it as I used to. The Oscar Race season is still among us, and I have a lot to catch up with before I post a general movie top 10. I pay close attention to the U.S. releases of Iberoamerican cinema; I was lucky to attend various film festivals during 2007 and 2008 and was able to see most of the Latino films released on the big screen last year. Note that I omit films like “Che” because most of the creative credit (producing, directing & writing) are not Latino at all. Two films that one would expect to see in this list are El Orfanato (Juan Antonio Bayona), which is noteworthy but released in 2007 and La misma luna (Patricia Riggen), which I found overly sentimental even if the film’s intentions were probably honest , the immigration subject should and is a hot theme in Hollywood but this tear-jerker isn’t commanding enough to transcend at all. City of Men is the continuation of City of God, but without Fernando Mierelles as the creative master it's a disappointment, but not as huge as the mediocrity of Blindness. Don’t expect many of our filmmakers to get awards recognition, except for Penelope Cruz (in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona), who might just be the frontrunner for the Supporting Actress category at the Oscars. Now, I present 10 films worthy to watch (again, U.S. releases only), the top three are masterpieces, you don’t have to live in LA or NY to enjoy great audiovisual experiences from our circuit, most of these pictures are available on DVD, so check them out.

01 Stellet Licht / Silent Light [Carlos Reygadas] 100
I have seen at least 96% of all films that have been made in Mexico during this millennium, and this is by far the most transcendent piece from a new wave of cinematic geniuses. Carlos Reygadas is the visionary enfant-terrible of Latin-American cinema, he takes us to a community of Mennonites on a cosmic opening sequence and later to the heart beating of a man in emotional crisis, confronted with guilt as he faces the decision of following his heart or god’s will. The result is miraculous, with astonishing cinematic scope by Alexis Zabe, a glossy sound design and a resolution that gives homage to Carl’s Dreyer Ordet. This is honestly my favorite film from this decade; I’ll include a link to my Spanish-language review that I wrote for the film when I first saw it at the New York Film Festival. READ REVIEW HERE
02 En la ciudad de Sylvia/ In the city of Sylvia [José Luis Guerin] 90
03 Hamaca Paraguaya / Paraguayan Hammock [Paz Encina] 90
04 A Casa de Alice / Alice’s House [Chico Texeira] 85
05 XXY [Lucia Puenzo] 85
06 El Custodio / The Custodian [Rodrigo Moreno] 85
07 Los Cronocrimenes / Timecrimes [Nacho Vigalondo] 80
08 The year my parents went on vacation [Cao Hamburger] 80
09 Elsa y Fred [Marcos Carnevale] 75
10 Tropa de Elite / Elite Squad [José Padilha] 70