Maya and the Three (Jorge R. Gutierrez, 2021)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Maya and the Three.

criterion logoAn epic animated event told over nine chapters, Jorge R. Gutierrez’s Maya and the Three is the story of a brave and rebellious warrior princess whose fifteenth birthday ceremony is interrupted by the gods of the underworld who claim her life is forfeit to the God of War, Lord Mictlan. While coming to terms with her family’s secret past, Princess Maya embarks on a quest to recruit three legendary fighters, fulfill an ancient prophecy, and save their four kingdoms from the gods’ vengeance. With its Mesoamerican inspired fantasy world, its frame-breaking action spectacles, and its impeccable collection of performances by Zoe Saldaña, Alfred Molina, Allen Moldonado, Stephanie Beatriz, Gabriel Iglesias, Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal, Rosie Perez, and Rita Moreno, Maya and the Three takes its inspiration from cinema’s great works of fantasy to produce a dazzling tribute to Gutierrez’s Mexican homeland.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • 4K digital transfer, approved by creator-director Jorge R. Gutierrez, with Dolby Atmos soundtrack on the 4K UHD and Blu-ray editions
  • In the 4K UHD edition: One 4K UHD disc of the film presented in Dolby Vision HDR and two Blu-rays with the film and special features
  • Audio commentary featuring Gutierrez and creative consultant Sandra Equihua
  • Spanish language alternate soundtrack with newly translated English subtitles
  • Extended interviews with the Gutierrez, Equihua, Zoe Saldaña, Diego Luna, Gabriel Iglesias, Stephanie Beatriz, Allen Moldonado
  • Picture-in-picture storyboards and production artwork for the entire film
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Featurettes on the series: Creating the World of Maya, Behind the Epic Battles, Meet the Warriors, and 15 Fun Facts
  • Music video for “If It’s To Be” by Kali Uchis
  • Son of Jaguar, Gutierrez’s VR tribute to Mexican pro-wrestling
  • Super Macho Fighter, a stop-motion proof of concept created by Gutierrez
  • Carmen Got Expelled!, a 2010 pilot by Gutierrez
  • Carmelo, Gutierrez’s 2000 thesis film for CalArts, and Tequila Macho, a 1999 teaser made at CalArts
  • We the People music video series produced by Netflix with creator Chris Nee, producers Barack and Michelle Obama, and various directors including Gutierrez
  • Trailers and teasers
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: New essays by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and visual effects journalist Ian Failes; and drawings, original paintings, and other ephemera

Continue reading

MMC! Double Feature #42: A Latin American History Starter Pack

In anticipation of MMC!’s next (and overdue) imagined Criterion edition, this latest “Double Feature” shares a couple of recent Netflix favourites in an unusual pairing linked by their celebratory treatments of Mesoamerican, South American, Caribbean, and Latin American cultures. Órale!

John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons (Aram Rappaport, 2018)

Presenting the 2017 Tony-nominated play, Aram Rappaport’s film version of John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons follows the performer’s survey through 3,000 years of Latin American history all in an effort to help his bullied son. The process is a heartfelt reclamation of Leguizamo’s history, an unpacking of his resentments, and an effort to offer something culturally redemptive to his son and himself. Leguizamo paints with a broad brush in this one-man show, reveling in cartoonish caricatures and historical overstatements while citing his scholarly and not-so scholarly sources, but his points remain sound throughout. This is a comedy and its lessons and its outrage are revealed through that lens, remaining true even while its outspoken tour guide sometimes colours way outside the lines.

Maya and the Three (Jorge R. Gutierrez, 2021)

Building on El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, his lucha libre-inspired series for Nickolodeon, and The Book of Life, his animated feature film drawing on Mexican Day of the Dead traditions, Jorge R. Gutierrez’s Maya and the Three is an epic adventure told through the histories and mythologies of Mesoamerica, South America, and the Caribbean. Maya, a spirited princess with the heart of a warrior, undertakes a mission to fulfill an ancient prophecy and save humanity from the wrath of vengeful gods by uniting four kingdoms and leading their unlikely champions. Gutierrez mines clichéd tropes with brilliant stylization, moving heroism, and multivalent representations that push back against stock family film conventions and fantasy movie presumptions. Sacrificing warrior mothers, multiple Akira slides, stone Olmec heads, Gatchaman helmets, a Rosie Perez voice-role, some post-colonial villains found in undead conquistadors, and the most spectacular closing battle seen in quite a while make this massive animated fantasy an easy MMC! favourite.

“The Spirit of Cuauhtémoc, Alive and Untamed!”

For no particularly good reason, Mexico and Latin America hold a place of special regard here at MMC! headquarters. We love the food, the art, the music, the history, the mythology, and the professional wrestling of Mexico and those of its sister countries and cultures. What is especially wonderful of both John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons and Maya and the Three is that neither is precious about its celebration of these histories. In these films, they are things to be embraced and enjoyed passionately, things to both applaud and laugh at, things that influence and are influenced upon as part of a global culture rather than being something hermetically sealed away for its own stultifying preservation. Above all, they are exceptionally entertaining, bringing accessibility while still remaining faithful to their vernacular origins. For those not too starched in their educational expectations, this pairing makes for a brilliant introduction to some Latin American study.

Both John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons and Maya and the Three are available on Netflix. And with titles like Uncut Gems, The Irishman, Roma, and Beasts of No Nation having already garnered Criterion canonization, who’s to say these titles might not be waiting for a wacky “C” of their own?

Bandits of Orgosolo – Ten Documentary Shorts (Vittorio De Seta, 1955-1961)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Bandits of Orgosolo • Ten Documentary Shorts by Vittorio De Seta.

Heralded by Martin Scorsese as “an anthropologist who speaks with the voice of a poet,” Italian director Vittorio De Seta produced a string of extraordinary short documentaries in the 1950s that distill their subjects to pure cinema. Shooting in vivid color in the rural villages of Sicily, Sardinia, and Calabria, De Seta captured the rhythms and rituals of everyday life among the fishermen, miners, shepherds, and farmers who continued to live and work according to the preindustrial traditions of their ancestors. These shorts were followed by Bandits of Orgosolo, which presented with neorealist authenticity the tragic plight of a poor Sardinian shepherd unfairly accused of rustling and murder. Together, these miniature marvels and this hardscrabble feature-film debut stand as essential, ennobling records of a vanished world.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • New, restored 4K digital transfers of all eleven films, overseen by the World Cinema Project in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays:
    • The Age of Swordfish (1954 • 11 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) Vittorio De Seta’s rhythmic editing adds drama to this chronicle of a Sicilian spearfishing expedition.
    • Islands of Fire (1954 • 11 minutes • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) This prize-winning short is a poetic portrait of life on the coast of Sicily before, during, and following a volcanic eruption.
    • Solfatara (1955 • 11 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) Harshness and beauty exist side by side in this look at the lives of sulfur mine workers and their families in southern Italy.
    • Easter in Sicily (1955 • 10 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2:35:1 aspect ratio) De Seta captures the music and pageantry of an Easter celebration in Sicily.
    • Sea Countrymen (1955 • 11 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) The rhythms of the sea set the tempo for this vivid account of a day in the lives of Sicilian fishermen.
    • Golden Parable (1955 • 10 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) Filming amid the flaxen wheat fields of Sicily, De Seta documents the everyday rituals of farmers during harvest time.
    • Fishing Boats (1958 • 11 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) The unpredictable nature of the sea governs the world of Sicilian fishermen as they work, rest, and seek refuge from a storm.
    • Orgosolo’s Shepherds (1958 • 11 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) The striking landscapes of rural Sardinia provide the backdrop to this lyrical look at the hard-earned lives of the region’s shepherds in winter.
    • A Day in Barbagia (1958 • 11 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) From sunrise to sunset, De Seta chronicles the lives of Sardinian women who look after both home and fields while their shepherd husbands are away tending their flocks.
    • The Forgotten (1959 • 21 minutes • Color • Monaural • 2.35:1 aspect ratio) De Seta travels to a remote province in southern Italy to capture a unique celebration known as the “Feast of Silver.”
    • Bandits of Orgosolo (1961 • 95 minutes • Black and White • Monaural • 1.37:1 aspect ratio) Returning to the Sardinian countryside, De Seta presents a ruinous portrait of a poor shepherd wrongfully associated with some bandits and forced to flee, taking his flock and his younger brother into remote, inhospitable lands.
  • Introduction by Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival chief Gian Luca Farinelli
  • New interview with director Martin Scorsese
  • Détour De Seta, a 2004 documentary by Salvo Cuccia
  • The Filmmaker is an Athlete: Conversations with Vittorio De Seta, Vincent Sorrel and Barbara Vey’s 2010 interview with De Seta
  • New English subtitle translations
  • PLUS: Essays by scholar Alexander Stille and critic J. Hoberman

Continue reading

Hinterland Remixed, Mobilize (Caroline Monnet, 2015), and Sign-off (Brett Bell, 2011)

I recently had the good fortune of attending the book launch for Andrew Burke’s Hinterland Remixed: Media, Memory, and the Canadian 1970s, a deep dive into the true north’s televisual archive and collective memory that includes considerations of the Hinterland Who’s Who vignettes, Michael Snow’s La Région centrale (1971), and SCTV. Professor Burke’s discussion and accompanying presentation diverted into a number of unexpected areas – the L’Atelier national du Manitoba film and art project, Kern-Hill Furniture Co-op commercials, electronic musicians Boards of Canada, the With Glowing Hearts short film (Ted Remerowski, 1979) – however two contemporary works stood out: Caroline Monnet’s Mobilize (2015) and Brett Bell’s Sign-off (2011).

Caroline Monnet, a Canadian artist of French and Algonquin heritages, obtained access to more that 700 films from the National Film Board of Canada to create Mobilize, an intense and passionate portrait of Canada’s indigenous people. With footage from the rural north and urban south, from traditional crafts to modern industry, Monnet captures the dynamism of the indigenous Canadian experience and, with the feverish score of Inuk artist Tanya Tagaq, provides a kind of sizzle reel made up of what the filmmaker calls “images of indigenous people kicking ass on screen.” MMC! fans may recognize scenes from Don Owen’s High Steel (1966)! Brett Bell’s Sign-off presents an absurdly nightmarish take on With Glowing Hearts and the anachronism of the television station sign-off culminating the day’s news and entertainment with a collage of landscapes and symbols set against the patriotism of the national anthem. Bell, born and based in Regina, Saskatchewan, creates something wonderfully weird and distinctly Canadian in Sign-off and for that MMC!’s heart does glow.

Birds of Passage (Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, 2018) – Ithaca Fantastik 2018

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Birds of Passage.

In 1970s La Guaira, Colombia, an indigenous Wayuu family gets swept up in the newly-booming marijuana trade and their lives and traditions are forever fractured when greed and passion overtake their tribe’s honor. Based on the true origins of drug trafficking between the United States and Colombia, filmmakers Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego resist the lurid glamour of narco-crime cinema and instead present a film alive with ethnographic authenticity and Shakespearean tragedy. Brilliantly colorful and fiercely prideful, Birds of Passage traces the familiar downfall of a criminal empire in an unfamiliar setting.

Disc Features:

  • 4K digital master, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Tension and Revision, a MUBI interview with directors Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego at Cannes
  • The Word Messengers, new interviews with the cast and crew
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by film critic Jessica Kiang

Continue reading

SFFF Day 4 – Go Big and Go Home

The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival’s final day was even more massive than expected. With a packed program and an extra short film (moved from the previous day due to a technical issue), there was little downtime between screenings and the Festival’s final midnight show started late and wrapped well past 2:30 a.m. Those that saw the marathon day of screenings to its bleary end enjoyed without question the SFFF’s best block of films (plus some welcome giveaways for lucky attendees).

Continue reading