¡Mira! Latino and Video Festival

Standouts from south of the border.

FORGET THE SOMBREROS, pi�s, and other south-of-the-border movie stereotypes. Although mariachi bands and other legitimate cultural touchstones do appear among the titles on Mira's program, you won't be seeing many clich鳠or knee-jerk reactions against them. A more mature, self-confident spirit seems to be the rule among films previewed for the festival, as if the historical slights, insults, and overt racism of our own cinematic treatment of Latino culture are now part of its past. mountainous homeland of his ancestors, seeking atonement for killing a pregnant woman in a traffic accident. Playing only one night at the Grand Illusion, this film is worth seeing for its striking visuals and rhythm (Bolado's an accomplished editor on others' movies), along with its dreamy John Cage-like score. Bolado has the confident eye to simply let his pictures do the talking as his artist hero builds ephemeral natural sculptures along his pilgrimage. It's a rich, simple story that could've easily fallen into spiritual mumbo-jumbo, but it never overstates its wanderer's visions or epiphanies.


runs November 4-11

Yet the past can haunt you, as evidenced by Carlos Bolado's Bajo California, in which a Los Angeles artist ventures to the Ruins also deals with the past but from a decidedly tongue-in-cheek perspective, as codirectors Jesse Lerner and Rita Gonzalez playfully deconstruct notions of "authenticity" in Mexico's pre-Columbian art market, weaving an enjoyable mockumentary out of echt-travelogues, newsreels, and the like. Intentionally cheesy music and voice-over narration—in Spanish, making for lots of subtitles—help suggest the implicit link between forgeries and documentaries.

HISTORY'S MORE BRUTAL and serious in Paulina, a documentary whose heroine describes her harrowing journey from campo to ciudad. Video testimony alternates with reenactments of her girlhood, when she was simply traded for land by her impoverished family, ending up as the third common-law wife of an ogre who rapes her at the age of 13. It's strong stuff, yet Paulina emerges as a remarkably resilient survivor, "an optimist as always," one neighbor says. As a girl, she seeks refuge in the local graveyard, explaining, "If the living don't love me, the dead will." After miscarrying her child, she flees to Mexico City, reinventing herself as "the best maid in Mexico," according to one glowing employer.

Paulina finds pride in her domestic work, raising the children of the rich, and eventually having a daughter herself from a short-lived, unhappy '70s marriage. "Don't bow your head the way my father told me to bow mine," she lectures her own daughter—who appropriately becomes a strong-willed, independent nurse. This fascinating documentary by Vicky Funari is really a portrait of three generations of Mexican women, including glimpses of Paulina's own poor, unrepentant mother. Concluding her story, Paulina declares, "Now I think I'm whole," with evident satisfaction. Lord knows she deserves it.

MIRA ALSO INCLUDES various short films and videos, playing at several venues (see page 87 for details). Among them are the opening night documentary Zapatistas (narrated by Edward James Olmos), three shorts by Garfield High School students, and an experimental video by LA artist Frances Salome Espa�

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