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7 Must-See Films Screening at CineFestival (and 1 Must-Avoid)

Photo: Courtesy Photo, License: N/A

Courtesy Photo

'Las Marthas'

7pm Tue, Feb 25 (75 min)

In Rebel, director Maria Agui Carter attempts to piece together the story of Loreta Velazquez, a woman who, according to her disputed memoir The Woman in Battle, disguised herself as a man so she could fight for the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. With little content to work with besides Velazquez’s book and an assortment of scholarly interviewees taking turns conveying the same oral history, Carter’s approach to the film is unconventional and ultimately useless. Part talking-head documentary, part second-rate reenacted drama, Rebel is never quite sure what it wants to be and ends up playing both sides halfheartedly. The story might be a fascinating one, albeit not exclusive to Velazquez, but with an unnecessary cast and scenes brimming with filler, it’s one history buffs could experience with less superfluous material through their own independent study on the subject. For a different take on the doc (which debuted on PBS last May), read Patricia Portales’ review.

Las Marthas
9pm Tue, Feb 25 (69 min)

To call the month-long, Fiesta-like celebration of U.S. President George Washington that takes place every year in Laredo “bizarre” is an understatement. In the well-crafted documentary Las Marthas, which won the Special Jury Award at this year’s festival, director Cristina Ibarra explores the rich tradition sponsored by the elite Society of Martha Washington in which young women, mostly Mexican-American, are presented in extravagant gowns (some worth up to $30,000) at a colonial ball that is the center of the festivities. For most of the film, Ibarra follows two debutants as they prepare for the event’s finale. Give Ibarra credit, however, when she is brave enough to challenge some of the ideals behind the celebration instead of simply praising it for its longevity. Las Marthas, which KLRN screened as part of their Community Cinema series, is a unique look at social classism in South Texas and Mexico that asks some valid questions about family lineage.

9pm Wed, Feb 26 (85 min)

There is a purity to first-time feature writer/director Fernando Frias’ love story Rezeta that makes the film emotionally palpable and sincere. Winner of the Best Narrative Jury Prize at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival, the romantic dramedy stars Rezeta Veliu as her namesake, a professional Albanian model working in Mexico City until she flies off to wherever her next gig takes her. When she falls for Alex (Roger Mendoza), a punk-rock drummer, Rezeta must decide if a relationship is enough to keep her grounded. As fancy free as its main character, the film manages to capture a litany of sensations a new relationship might produce, especially with Veliu and Mendoza, both non-actors, freestyling off each other’s dialogue with ease. Well-paced, although real time doesn’t seem to fit into Frias’ storytelling structure, Rezeta isn’t necessarily breaking new ground from a narrative perspective, but it’s at its best when the boy-meets-girl storyline refuses to get bogged down by cliché.

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