Even the lesser performances have their compensations. The Venezuelan-Peruvian production At Midnight and a Half is a nightmare of impending apocalypse and gamesmanship in an abandoned city. In the Spanish Bluebird of Happiness, a haughty art restorer tries to rebuild her life in the Andalusian countryside. Thanks to distant, enigmatic performances from the women, both films become studies of solitude and willful detachment from human contact. In the Argentine Imposter, enigma defines the existence of a young man who sequesters himself in a ruined estate as another tries to unravel his secret.
In contrast, the Mexican films showcase women who love too openly for their own good. Marisa Paredes (All About My Mother) plays the starving, ostracized wife of a retired colonel who's been waiting forever for his pension in Arturo Ripstein's melancholy No One Writes to the Colonel. In Like a Bride, two young, Jewish women from 1960s Mexico become allies despite their differing Ashkenazi and Sephardic backgrounds, making choices that throw their families into turmoil. Chicano Gregory Nava's (Selena) latest is the lackluster American Tapestry, which picks up energy and passion from its final subject, a mother who risks slavery and an illegal border crossing so that her children can have a better life up north.
Finally, two of the more ambivalent portrayals of women can be found in Revenge, a Chilean tale of the extremes a woman can go to in staying with the abusive man she still loves, and I Was Born a Black Woman, a fascinating portrait of Brazil's first Afro-Brazilian woman senator. Altogether, the festival affords extraordinary glimpses into the machista life of Latinas.