Happy May Day!
I couldn't find a poster for "Vanaja", so that's a picture of the title character. The film is about a 15 year old girl, Vanaja. She lives in southern India with her alcoholic father who is a fisherman. They are very poor, so she quits school and goes to work for the wealthiest woman in town as household help. "The landlady", as everyone calls her, used to be a famous dancer and Vanaja is hoping that the landlady will teach her how to dance. Of course she does, and things seem to be going pretty well for Vanaja until the landlady's adult son comes home from the U.S. to run for public office. I don't want to reveal too much more of the plot in case someone wants to rent this film, but I was quite troubled by a lot of it. This film sort of reminded me of Sweet Mud as another look at a person coming of age while trying to take care of their helpless single parent. Like Sweet Mud, we get to see a piece of life in a specific culture - in this case a lower caste girl.
The film is the director's first - his film school thesis project. It's really gorgeous - the colors in India are a treat for the eye (just look at that great shot up above). The scenes with Vanaja dancing are quite captivating. However, I did feel like the characters were not very fully drawn. They seemed to behave in a way that furthered the plot, not how real people act in the real world. The actors are all non-professionals found in India and they did a great job. There are a lot of great pictures, with explanations about some of set dressings and descriptions of the cast and process of making the film on its website, if you're interested in more info.
If your Spanish is a little rusty, the second film was "City in Heat". I wasn't going to stick around for the second film, but they posted the audience rankings of the films in the festival and City in Heat was the third highest ranked film. I'm so glad that I did, because I loved it. It was probably my favorite film of the festival. It's an Argentine film about a group of 4 friends around age 40 living in Buenos Aires. They are three men and one woman and the woman has had relationships at one time or another with each of the men, which of course makes things complicated. In their younger days, they hung out at a local bar and became good friends with the owner, Duke. Two of the men still frequent the bar often, but the third man and the woman aren't around much any more. They plan a get together one evening and something changes after that night. The film is set to a fantastic score of tango and jazz music (the woman in the group is a tango singer, so we get to see her practicing with her band fairly often). Seeing this film, you want to immediately hop a plane to Buenos Aires. The city looks fantastic and everyone in the film is just gorgeous. The film is funny, romantic and sad and I'd highly recommend it.