Open Doors showcases a selection of features and shorts from Central America and the Caribbean that have made a mark on the festival circuit in recent years.
90 Minutes 2020 (Hon)
Dir. Aeden O’Connor Agurcia
Honduran filmmaker O’Connor Agurcia’s feature debut offers a snapshot of his Central American homeland, and its passion for football, through the prism of four stories about immigration, drug trafficking, hooliganism and the media. Edgar Flores (Sin Nombre) and Brandon Lopez star in 90 Minutes, which premiered in March at Miami Film Festival, winning the audience award for best feature. The ensemble drama also played at the Bogota and Havana festivals as well as Chicago Latino Film Festival and AFI Latino Film Festival, among others. O’Connor Agurcia, who studied film in Prague because Honduras has no film school, shot each segment with his 10-strong filmmaking team whenever they could raise sufficient funds — often months apart. One sequence was filmed during the Honduran ‘Clasico Capitalino’ football match between Olimpia and Motagua, while another was inspired by an unlikely Honduras victory over Mexico in 2013. O’Connor Agurcia is developing his follow-up feature Sun Falls, which will shoot in Honduras next year in co-production with Guatemala, Mexico and Norway, and is in development on two TV shows.
Contact: Paul Hudson, Outsider Pictures
Ayiti My Love 2016 (Hai-US)
Dir. Guetty Felin
With Ayiti My Love (Ayiti Mon Amour), Felin became the first Haiti-born female director to shoot a narrative feature entirely in the country. The film was later chosen to represent the Caribbean nation in what was then known as the foreign-language film category at the 90th Academy Awards. The magical-realist fable takes place five years after the country’s devastating January 2010 earthquake and follows a young man mourning the death of his father, who was among 220,000 believed to have perished in the tragedy. The film premiered in Toronto 2016’s Contemporary World Cinema strand and played Stockholm later that year. Felin’s earlier work includes US political documentary Closer To The Dream and post-earthquake TV documentary Broken Stones.
Contact: Orange Studio (int’l); Efuru Flowers, Flourishing Films (North America and Caribbean)
A Film About Couples 2021 (Dom Rep)
Dirs. Natalia Cabral, Oriol Estrada
The latest feature from Cabral and Estrada, graduates of Cuba’s International School of Film and TV (EICTV), is a comedy-drama about a couple who question their relationship after they set out to make a documentary about love. The directors persevere, resolving to complete the project and rekindle their own romance. A Film About Couples premiered last October at Biarritz Latin American Film Festival and went on to play at Rome and Miami, among other festivals. Dominican Republic’s Cabral and Spain’s Estrada broke out with their 2014 documentary You And Me, which premiered at Visions du Réel in Switzerland and was a prizewinner at Cartagena’s FICCI, among others. Their first fictional feature, Miriam Lies, premiered at Karlovy Vary in 2018 and earned a special jury mention. The pair founded Faula Films in 2012.
Contact: Faula Films
The Fishes Within 2022 (El Sal)
Dir. Brenda Vanegas
Following up on her fiction debut Before The Rain, released earlier this year, Salvadoran filmmaker and university lecturer Vanegas turns her gaze from immigration to another harrowing subject. This Open Doors world premiere centres on 11-year-old Lucia, who returns home one day to discover her siblings have gone missing and sets out to find them. Larissa Maltez and Emy Mena star in The Fishes Within, which is based on real-life stories and highlights child exploitation in El Salvador. Vanegas gained her masters in screenwriting at TAI School of the Arts in Madrid and serves as general director at Salvadoran production company Encantada Por La Vida. “This is a real story, with a real unhealed wound,” she says. “We must not just watch it and recognise it, we must heal it as soon as possible.”
Contact: Encantada Por La Vida
Medea 2017 (Costa Rica-Chile)
Dir. Alexandra Latishev Salazar
Medea went through San Sebastian’s Films In Progress sidebar in 2016 and the following year premiered at Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema. The story centres on a rugby-playing university student who harbours a secret pregnancy. Latishev Salazar — also in Open Doors’ Projects Hub as producer of Federico Montero’s Men Die Sooner — raised money for Medea through a crowdfunding campaign and private investment, setting up a co-production with Chile’s Cyan Prods while in San Sebastian. She is working on her next feature Delirio, a psychological drama about a girl and her mother who go to live with a grandmother who has dementia; it is expected to premiere in 2023.
Contact: Cynthia Garcia Calvo, Cyan Prods
Option Zero 2020 (Braz-Cuba-Col)
Dir. Marcel Beltran
Cuban director Beltran’s documentary centres on a group of compatriots as they bid to reach the US in the hope of starting a better life. Eschewing the perilous boat trip to Florida, the migrants attempt another dangerous route, involving a flight to Guyana from where they will trek through Central America. Stranded in Panama, the group show images of their jungle journey captured on cellphones. Option Zero (La Opción Cero) premiered at International Documentary Festival Amsterdam in 2020 and screened at Hot Docs in 2021, winning awards at festivals in Argentina and Trinidad & Tobago. Beltran is also selected for Open Doors’ Projects Hub with fiction feature MOA.
Contact: Marcel Beltran, Mediocielo Films
Right Near The Beach 2020 (US-Jam)
Dir. Gibrey Allen
Short-film director Allen’s debut feature treads a path between personal drama and a commentary on how Jamaica is dealing with issues of sexuality and equality. Expanding on ideas explored in his 2011 short Excuses For Jeff, Right Near The Beach centres on a man seeking justice after the murder of his son, a prominent sprinter who led a secret life. Allen filmed on location and populated his cast with local non-professional actors. The film played at festivals including Trinidad & Tobago and Los Angeles’ Pan African Film & Arts Festival, and has its European premiere in Open Doors Screenings. Allen resides in New York and tends to focus his work on Black and minority experiences.
Contact: Efuru Flowers, Flourishing Films
Roza 2022 (Guat-Mex)
Dir. Andres Rodriguez
The feature debut of Guatemala’s Rodriguez centres on migrant Hector, who returns to his village after an arduous trip through the darkest corners of Mexico and the US. When he takes stock of the domestic situation — a dominant mother, emotionally remote wife, estranged son and unfriendly community — Hector resolves to reclaim his life by force. Produced by Guatemala’s Cine Concepcion, Roza went through Ibermedia’s development workshop, Panama Film Lab and Cinergia Lab, received funding from Programa Ibermedia and won Costa Rica Festival Internacional de Cine’s post-production award; it has its European premiere in Open Doors Screenings. Rodriguez is developing his follow-up feature The Invisibles (Los Invisibles), about a young man struggling to care for his sick mother, which takes part in this year’s Open Doors Hub co-production platform and won three awards at Guadalajara International Film Festival’s co-production market in 2021.
Contact: Cine Concepcion
Agwe 2021 (Hai)
Dir. Samuel Frantz Suffren
Black Doll 2018 (St Vincent-Grenadines)
Dir. Akley Olton
Black I Am 2018 (Hon)
Dir. Laura Bermudez
Gloom 2021 (Cuba)
Dir. Daniela Muñoz Barroso
Leaves Of K. 2022 (Nic-Costa Rica)
Dir. Gloria Carrion
Out Of Many 2020 (Jam)
Dir. Rebecca Williams
Scars Of Our Mothers’ Dreams 2017 (Gren)
Dir. Meschida Philip
Soul Of The Sea 2019 (Guat-Nor)
Dir. Elvis Caj Cojoc
Techos Rotos 2014 (Costa Rica)
Dir. Yanillys Perez
Tundra 2021 (Cuba)
Dir. Jose Luis Aparicio Ferrera