CLAIFF NEWS: Cine Las Americas International Film Festival 26th Anniversary Hosted Great Films

The Austin-based Cine Las Americas International Film Festival (CLAIFF) was held from May 15 to 19 in Austin, TX. The festival showcased many films and videos from Latin America (North, Central, South America, and the Caribbean) and the Iberian Peninsula, representing over 15 countries throughout Ibero-America. The film festival hosts films and videos made by or about Latinx in the U.S., or the rest of the world, with movies and videos by or about Indigenous groups of the Americas also featured.

CLAIFF opened with Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborn’s festival favorite, Going Varsity in Mariachi. The opening night screening at the AFS Cinema was near capacity, and I heard various positive comments from the audience members, who mingled during the reception in the lobby. The documentary follows Edinburg North High School’s Mariachi Oro as they compete for a state championship. The film premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, winning the Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award and the SXSW Film and Television Festival, among many options during the festival circuit (23-24). This screening was an excellent opportunity to view it in a theater again. I do not have official news in my emails, but there is word that a streaming service will offer this memorable documentary.

The Closing Night film was Lone Scherfig’s La Contadora de Peliculas (The Movie Teller). The film stars Academy Award® nominee Bérénice Bejo, who is known internationally for her film work in France, as well as her work on A Knight’s Tale (2001) and her role as Peppy Miller in The Artist (2011), written and directed by her husband, Michel Hazanavicius. The film won the Oscar in 2012 for Best Motion Picture, and she was nominated for her performance in a supporting role. Bejo’s co-stars are BAFTA nominee Daniel Brühl and multiple-time Goya Award winner Antonio de la Torre. The film premiered in September 2023 at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and has continued the film festival circuit.
I look forward to hearing more about the film. I will announce any theatrical releases or if it becomes available via streaming services.

Cine Las Americas’ signature programming track, “Hecho en Tejas,” returned with shorts during a special presentation at the Austin PBS studios on May 18. The Hecho en Tejas selections were Soft Breath, Masu y Masa, Maria, Floodplain, and La Bendicion (The Blessing). The awards were announced on closing night, with Floodplain winning the Audience Award and Maria winning the Jury Award. All the films are outstanding, with many with good stories/scripts to be made into features.

On Thursday, I viewed the films God Save Texas: La Frontera (Iliana Sosa, Director), El Otro Hijo, and a fantastic opportunity to view (on the big screen) the documentary Carlos, about the award-winning musician Carlos Santana. It is excellent, and I was very excited to have an opportunity to view it after it premiered last year at the Tribeca Film Festival, followed by a theatrical release in September 2023. The documentary combines new interviews with Santana and his family, never-before-seen archival footage, including home videos recorded by Santana himself, concert footage, behind-the-scenes moments, and interviews with music industry luminaries and collaborators. If you missed it, check streaming services.

I viewed Sugarcane, Boca Chica, and Prison in the Andes on Friday – all great films. I did not view Pedagio (Toll) as I saw the film during SXSW 2024. You can read my complete reviews in English and Spanish on this site. Boca Chica by Gabriella A. Moses premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival 2023, where the director won the Nora Ephron Award. The film has a great script and performances, especially from the child actress, Scarlet Camilo as Desi, in her debut performance. As of now, the film is scheduled to screen at the Los Angeles International Film Festival (LALIFF, May 30) and the Bentonville Film Festival (June 14).

On Saturday, I watched The Strike by co-directors JoeBill Muñoz and Lucas Guilkey (in attendance) and two subjects of the film that provided an excellent Q&A after the film screening. The film premiered at the Hot Docs Film Festival last month. It is about California prison’s policies regarding solitary confinement for decades, with excellent interviews and changes made. It is a wonderful and informative documentary. It is set to have the Los Angeles Premiere at the LALIFF on June 1, and I hope that many people take advantage of viewing the film at this festival. Also, on Saturday, I viewed Milonga by director Laura González, and I found it very entertaining. It is a drama focused on relationships and dance. It stars Paulina Garcia (fabulous in the 2013 film Gloria) as Rosa and Carlos Troncoso (with an over 20-year career in cinema and television) as Juan. Theirs is not the only relationship highlighted, but primarily the one with her adult son and the distance between them since her late husband’s death six months earlier. The film won an Audience Award at this festival. Excellent script and performances make this worth viewing.

Sunday’s final day of films was extraordinary. Catapum, A Little Family Drama, Igualada, Bajo Terapia, and the closing film mentioned above. Catapum is a documentary about three women from different generations “who discover strength in Bullerengue, an ancestral musical tradition, using it to resist, heal, and celebrate life.” Learning about a musical tradition I was unfamiliar with before this film was great. The elder of the three firmly believes in keeping this tradition current for future generations.

A Little Family Drama was released in February 2024 at the Sedona International Film Festival, where it won an Independent Spirit Award. The drama comes from the actions taken by Matias (Ramon O. Torres, actor/co-writer), with the blessing of his grandmother and restaurant owner, Anselma (Alma Martinez, How the Gringo Stole Christmas, “Gentefied” TV series). This comedy included various family situations and cracks in the relationships among siblings, mother/daughter (both generations), and various things a general audience can identify with. I have yet to get the official news about where it will screen next or if any streaming is planned, but their website may provide updates.

The film Igualada is a documentary about a Black woman from a rural background in Colombia who challenges the status quo by launching a presidential campaign. Fifteen years in the making, this documentary peels back the curtain on how unprecedented change can happen. It is very informative. This film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and we anticipate a future release.
Bajo Terapia is a comedy/drama, and I will avoid disclosing many details. The synopsis states, “Three married couples undergoing therapy are summoned by their female psychologist to a meeting. The psychologist won’t attend the reunion, but she will give them instructions about what to do.” To say much more about this would be to provide spoilers. It is hilarious in some scenes, but the dialogue can be pretty dramatic. All levels of topics are discussed among the three couples, but there is one more sensitive than others, thus making a change that I did not expect. Juan Carlos Vellido (born in Spain) is an actor and director known for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017). He does an outstanding job as Roberto, and a final scene of him without dialogue sent chills through me. The film appears to continue in the festival circuit in Miami last month before this festival. I hope it finds distribution or a streaming service that will be seen by a wider audience soon.

For more information about Cine Las Americas for year-round programming and the next festival, visit

Source: CLAIFF

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