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2016 San Francisco International Film Festival program notes

April 21, 2016

SFIFF59-LOCKUP_VER_Blk(0)Here are two program notes I wrote on two great films from South America for the San Francisco Film Society’s 2016 San Francisco International Film Festival (April 21-May 5).

Neon Bull (2015)

Strange and erotic, with an unexpected view of gender roles, this film is set in the macho world of bull wrangling yet its male protagonist is interested in fashion and designs dresses. In dusty farmland with scattered signs of heavy industrialization in Northeast Brazil, a cowhand, Iremar, nurtures his passion on the side. Drawing clothes on women in a co-worker’s nudie magazine and toting mannequins with him in the back of a truck while taking bulls around the rodeo circuit, he pursues his true calling. When a handsome new worker comes to help, a hothouse atmosphere erupts among the small group of cowboys. Director Gabriel Mascaro’s film depicts an environment where most animals endure harsh treatment, but within that reality, steamy fantasy abounds; for example, Iremar designs the provocative horse-themed costumes his truck-driving boss Galega wears in the sexy dance routines she performs at the end of each rodeo. Read more…

Salero (2015)

Moises Chambi Yucra and his family stand at the crossroads of time. For generations they have made a humble living as saleros harvesting salt from Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. The blinding-white high-altitude flat has survived the impact of the miners’ pickaxes, shovels and late-model trucks for a millennia, but beneath Uyuni sit massive amounts of lithium, a mineral instrumental in powering smartphones and electric vehicles. With stunning cinematography that captures both the vibrancy and the solitude of the land and life, director Mike Plunkett captures the final days of an age-old livelihood. His camera reveals a wisdom and peace of mind found only from working for years in pristine nothingness. Read more…

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