Best of ’16, Honorable Mention: Alba

alba-01Alba. Ana Cristina Barragán. Ecuador/Mexico/Greece.

Two of the better films I caught at this year’s Chicago International Film Festival don’t exactly cover new ground. Both falling under the “coming of age” umbrella, Alba and Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s Heartstone depict the dramatic hardships of cruel, confusing adolescence and fumbling sexual awakenings with a remarkable eye for detail, and both come from first-time directors. In Alba, a curious, sullen eleven-year-old girl (remarkably played by Macarena Arias, who somehow looks like a grown woman and a child at the exact same time) is forced to live with her estranged biological father (Pablo Aguirre) after her mother falls ill.

alba-02Calling to mind the films of the brilliant Argentine director Lucrecia Martel (The Headless Woman, La ciénaga), Ana Cristina Barragán takes a dramatically unsentimental and cinematically dynamic look at class divide in contemporary Ecuador as a father and a daughter struggle to connect with each other and the outside world.

alba-005Alba premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival in the Bright Future section and is playing at various festivals worldwide. I don’t have any distribution information for the film.

With: Macarena Arias, Pablo Aguirre, Amaia Merino, Mara Appel, Isabel Borje, Maisa Herrera, María Pareja

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