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Sundance Film Festival

So, What's Latino At The 2016 Sundance Film Festival?

Film festivals often give off this tinge of bourgeois. Yet, given the right opportunity to attend or even read about, you'll see that programs such as the Sundance Film Festival – the largest independent film festival in the United States – tend to, more and more each year, premiere and curate around features and shorts that dare bring to focus the lives of the eccentric or weird, marginalized and disallowed. After all, art is a reflection of the times, no?

READ: Meet Se Joe, Haitian Filmmaker & Comedian Extraordinaire

This year, the widely anticipated festival introduced and/or specially featured a number of films centered on Latino characters, locations and experiences. Some are also directed by members of Latino descent. And said films can be found in categories spanning American and international dramatic, documentary, and smaller groups like NEXT. Peep the rundown…
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PLAZA DE LA SOLEDAD
Inviting us into a world we would otherwise never know, this richly textured portraiture jumps off the screen in vibrant, clarifying colors. Carmen, Lety, Raquel, and Esther?, each ranging in age from 50 to 80 years old,? ??work the streets of La Merced in Mexico City, where life revolves around a large town plaza. Age means nothing to these women, who still dance and seduce with the same energy they’ve held on to since youth. But with time comes a desire to seek out companionship and security, whether in the form of their fellow co-workers, older men, or their own deeply ?ingrained sense of self-reliance.

Photographer-turned-filmmaker Maya Goded refuses to shy away from the painful aspects of these women’s jobs—the abuse, fear, and discontent that come from years of selling intimacy?. She leads us into? their histories, families, superstitions, and hopes, while allowing the camera to hone in on the contours of their well-worn bodies—beautiful and real.? Plaza de la Soledad is a sumptuous ?visual celebration ?and ?a ?refreshingly honest ?exploration? of physical and emotional ?self-determination against difficult odds. See trailer, here.

WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE
In this tense and immersive tour de force, audiences are taken directly into the line of fire between powerful, opposing Peruvian leaders who will stop at nothing to keep their respective goals intact. On the one side is President Alan Garcia, who, eager to enter the world stage, begins aggressively extracting oil, minerals, and gas from untouched indigenous Amazonian land. He is quickly met with fierce opposition from indigenous leader Alberto Pizango, whose impassioned speeches against Garcia’s destructive actions prove a powerful rallying cry to throngs of his supporters. When Garcia continues to ignore their pleas, a tense war of words erupts into deadly violence.

Filmmakers Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel capture all angles of a volatile political and environmental crisis with breathtaking access and bold, unflinching camera work. From the raucous halls of justice to deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle, When Two Worlds Collide exposes a titanic clash between a president hungry for economic legitimacy and an outspoken environmentalist desperate to protect an ancient land from ruin.

MR. PIG
Eubanks (Danny Glover), an old-school pig farmer from Georgia on the brink of losing his family farm, sets off on a road trip with Howard, his beloved and very large pig. As they make their way across the border to Mexico to find “Howie” a new home, Eubanks’ drinking and deteriorating health begin to take a toll, derailing their plans. His estranged daughter, Eunice (Maya Rudolph), is forced to join them on their adventure. Driven by strong convictions and stubbornness in his old ways, Eubanks attempts to make peace through his devotion to Howie and desire to mend his broken relationships.

Director Diego Luna tackles the old and new in an age of global markets, factory farming, and disposable relationships. Luna’s poetic postcard road film to Mexico, guided by a soundtrack evoking the South and old rock ‘n’ roll, is lyrically photographed following the gorgeously overgrown, winding roads of Central America. Luna trusts his audience, letting the story unfold in a bold, un-expository way, allowing tour-de-force performances by Glover, Rudolph, and, of course, Howie the pig.

READ: Latinos Who Won Big At The 73rd Golden Globe Awards

JACQUELINE (ARGENTINE)
A filmmaker introduces us to the subject of his documentary—the beautiful Jacqueline Dumont, a young Frenchwoman who claims to have uncovered a covert assassination conspiracy. While unsure of the eccentric Jacqueline’s veracity, the filmmaker nonetheless enlists a couple of interns and heads to the holistic retreat in Argentina where she’s hiding out, to explore her claims and film her story. Upon arrival, the filmmaker begins to doubt the worthwhileness of his venture, but finds reasons to hope that he might actually be capturing something big, something real, with his increasingly makeshift film.

Driven by Wyatt Cenac’s drily witty performance as the unnamed filmmaker, Jacqueline (Argentine) is a hilarious, low-key misadventure, that also insightfully explores a director’s ambiguous relationship to his craft and continually turns its political thriller underpinnings on their head. First-time feature director Bernardo Britto (a Jury Prize winner for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival short Yearbook) makes fresh use of the mockumentary format to create a film playful in both form and content that reflects the uncertainties and hopefulness inherent in every artistic endeavor.

EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT
Embrace of the Serpent won an award at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight. This marks director Ciro Guerra’s first film at the Sundance Film Festival.

In 1909, Karamakate, a reclusive shaman in the Amazon, is sought out by sick German scientist Theodor Koch-Grünberg, seeking a cure for his condition. Resentful yet curious of the white man’s knowledge of his lost tribe, Karamakate agrees to lead him to the rare, sacred yakruna plant that can heal him. The men navigate the serpentine river and uncover secrets of the jungle surrounded by the impending savagery of colonialism. Forty years later, a similar scene unfolds when an American, basing his expedition on Koch-Grünberg’s published diary, encounters Karamakate and unknowingly asks him to fulfill this unfinished mission.

Remarkably merging past and present, Embrace of the Serpent enlightens us through the dialogue generated between two tribes divided by their great cultural distance. With spellbinding black-and-white cinematography, and hovering camera used to heighten the lure and vibrations of the Amazon, filmmaker Ciro Guerra has ventured deep to create a masterpiece of cosmic dimensions that invokes the memory of Earth’s forgotten civilizations. See trailer, here.

VIVA
Veteran director Paddy Breathnach's Viva first transported audiences to the vibrant world of Havana's drag scene at the Telluride Film Festival. We are thrilled to welcome Breathnach back to the Sundance Film Festival.

Jesus has spent most of his young adult life styling wigs at a drag club in Havana, longing for a purpose other than the pennies he scrapes together in the shadows of his surroundings. When Jesus is offered the chance to perform amongst the other queens, the cruel winds of fate bring his estranged, abusive father back into his life after 15 years. What unfolds is a bittersweet story of pain, regret, and reconciliation. As the two men’s lives violently collide, they are forced to grapple with their conflicting views.

Laced with the raw passion and drama of drag, director Paddy Breathnach and writer Mark O’Halloran bring Viva to life with exquisite tenderness. Actors Jorge Perugoría and Héctor Medina fill this wrenching love story with a raw humanity that runs beyond the confines of the screen. With a resounding case for compassion, Viva illuminates the oft-devastating path of family, neglect, and resolution. See trailer, here.

MI AMIGA DEL PARQUE
While her filmmaker husband works in Chile, harried young mother Liz struggles to take care of her infant son. Feeling out of place amongst the tight-knit group of other parents at the park, doubted by her husband, and judged by her newly hired nanny, Liz is drawn to factory worker Rosa, a plain-talking single mother she meets at the swings one day. Despite Liz’s liberation upon finding a bold new confidante, the friends’ increasingly apparent class differences, along with swirling rumors about Rosa’s motives and muddy family situation, feed Liz’s suspicions that her new pal might be a sinister influence on her already fragile life.

An honest appraisal of the public and private faces of motherhood, Mi Amiga del Parque casts the insecurities and exaltations of female friendship in equally sharp relief. In the role of Liz, Julieta Zylberberg fully embodies the anxieties and discomfort of a woman unraveling at the upheaval of her entire identity, while Ana Katz (who is also the film’s writer/director) plays the shrewd, fiery Rosa with a fierce sensitivity that earns both empathy and suspense. See trailer, here.

FUCKKKYOUUU
With the ability to travel in time, a girl finds love and comfort by connecting with her past self. Eventually faced with rejection, she struggles with her identity, and as time folds onto itself only one of them can remain.

Fuckkkyouuu is by director, writer and producer Eddie Alcazar, who was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film." He best know for the HBO documentary Tapia, about boxing legend Johnny Tapia, and is directing a feature on the same subject called Johnny. The short is also scored by multi-genre music producer, electronic musician and rapper, Flying Lotus. See trailer, here.

For more information about tickets or movies out now, visit here.

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Merriam-Webster Dictionary To Add Eminem's Version Of "Stan"

Out of 640 words added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Eminem's everlasting interpretation of the word "stan" is among the litany of terms. On Tuesday (April 23), the company tweeted the news with a gif of Beyonce's Homecoming documentary that premiered on Netflix (April 17).

Putting Slim Shady's "Stan" video into literary text, Merriam-Webster defines the title as "an extremely or excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan" or "to exhibit fandom to an extreme or excessive degree: to be an extremely devoted and enthusiastic fan of someone or something." In 2017, the Oxford English Dictionary also added "stan" to its pages.

'Stan' has been added as both a noun and a verb. https://t.co/Dal0N79sAU pic.twitter.com/q1kBkKR1rn

— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 23, 2019

In a lyric annotation for Genius, Eminem broke down the latter part of the chorus ("And even if I could it'd all be gray/But your picture on my wall/It reminds me that it's not so bad, it's not so bad"), performed by Dido, and shared how those lines set the stage for the rest of the song.

"When I heard 'your picture on my wall,' I was like 'Yo, this could be about somebody who takes me too seriously.' So I knew what I was going to write about before I wrote it," he said. "A lot of times when I'm writing songs, I see visions for everything I'm writing. This was one of those."

Revisit the 2000 video below.

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Jamie Squire

Prince's Half-Sister Fears Estate Will Go Bankrupt Over Mishandling Of Finances

Prince's half-sister, Sharon Nelson, has accused Comerica Bank & Trust, the administration that is handling Prince's estate, of mishandling the late artist's finances, Billboard reports. Her family's fight against Comerica has now resulted in thousands of court filings and millions of dollars in legal fees. She predicts that if the company is not stopped, Prince's estate will soon go bankrupt.

"Prince’s estate will be bankrupt by the end of the year," Nelson predicted. "Prince is not resting in peace while this is going on. He's very upset what these people have done to his estate. It's really sad."

After Prince's death in 2016, Nelson and her siblings – the singer's full sister Tyka Nelson, his half brothers Omarr Baker, Alfred Jackson, John R. Nelson and his half-sisters Sharon and Norrine Nelson – became sole heirs of the estate that is said to be valued between $100 million and $300 million. The family was forced to hire their own attorneys to defend their interests after 45 people claimed to be heirs of the "Purple Rain" singer's estate.

Due to nearly $3 million in legal fees, Nelson said her siblings are not able to afford a new attorney. Although she is able to get by because she is a "senior citizen and I have worked all my life," she said her other family members are barely scraping by.

The family was each awarded $100,000 following Prince's 2016 tribute concert, but Nelson said they have not received any more money from Comerica although the bank continued to receive $125,000 a month for administering the estate.

Additionally, Nelson told Billboard that Comerica continued to make poor financial moves such as paying $90,000 a month to store Prince's unreleased music in a vault in Los Angeles.

There are reportedly more than 2,700 court filings regarding this matter. The court documents include motion, affidavits, memos, and depositions that support Nelson and her family's complaint about Comerica's representation.

In Oct. 2017, Nelson and two of the others heirs filed to permanently remove Comerica from the estate after an allegedly heated meeting. They accused the bank of being verbally abusive and threatening Nelson.  In Dec. 2017, a judge denied their petition to remove Comerica, ruling that it would not be in the best interest of the estate.

Comerica has denied the allegations against them. Bank officials explained in the court filings that the heirs could not receive a dime until a tax bill from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was settled. Nelson said she found that reasoning odd since Prince died with $97 million in cash and $30 million to $40 million in real estate holdings.

Comerica released a statement to Billboard regarding Nelson's claims. "The estate of Prince Rogers Nelson is a court-supervised estate, which places strict reporting and judicial oversight requirements on Comerica as the Personal Representative," the statement read. "Comerica has complied with all legal and ethical requirements during its administration of the estate. Comerica’s fees and those of the estate’s attorneys are filed with and approved by the Court every four months with complete transparency to the heirs. The attorneys’ fees paid by the estate have been court-approved as reasonable and necessary for the benefit of the estate."

Prince's siblings are currently asking a judge to permanently limit the Comerica's powers as the estate’s personal representative. A hearing is scheduled for May 20.

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Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP

Second Man Convicted In The 1998 Death Of James Byrd Jr To Be Executed

In 1998, Jasper, Texas became the epicenter of the nation when James Byrd Jr's dismembered body was found outside of a predominately black church. The rest of his body was found about a mile and a half away.

Byrd was beaten by three white supremacists men and tied to the back of a pick-up truck and reportedly dragged three miles. All men were found guilty for his brutal murder. One was sentenced to life in prison, one was executed in 20111 and another will be put to death today (April 24).

According to CNN, Jon William King, 44 who's been on death row for 20 years, will die by lethal injection.

King has long maintained coconspirator Shawn Berry was solely responsible for Byrd's death. King has appealed his conviction, alleging ineffectiveness from his defense team. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case last October.

In 2011, Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed and Shawn Berry was sentenced to life. While murders are devastating, Byrd's dragging death placed a blinding spotlight on the racial tension in America. The fallout from the case helped to pass the nation's hate crime bill, named after both Byrd and Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teen who was viciously beaten to death.

Byrd's family, however, have opposed the death penalty and made it clear they would prefer that King be sentenced to life in prison. Byrd's son Ross has been quoting saying, "You cannot fight murder with murder."

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