The film series “Neighboring Scenes: New Latin American Cinema” at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Jan. 26-31, features 15 features, documentaries, and shorts from Central and South America. Here are four highlights from this year’s program.
‘A Decent Woman’
In this stinging social comedy, Belén (Iride Mockert) takes a job as a maid in a gated community outside of Buenos Aires. When Belén discovers a nudist colony on the other side of the compound’s electrical fence, she secretly joins it, and finds unexpected freedom among the naturists. However, a conflict soon develops between the two communities, pitting the literal have-nots against the wealthy homeowners. Lukas Valenta Rinner’s shrewd, sardonic film punctures moral superiority and tolerance while raising questions about the value placed on beauty and objects. That “A Decent Women” is superbly acted, darkly funny, mildly erotic, and shockingly violent only adds to its many pleasures. Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m. (Q&A with director Lukas Rinner)
Life for Santiago teenager Jesús (Nicolás Durán) is mostly hanging out with his friends Beto (Gastón Salgado) and Pizarro (Sebastián Ayala), having explicit sex, getting drunk or high and dancing to K-pop. Jesús’ irresponsible behavior troubles his father, Héctor (Alejandro Goic), who is ready to give up on his son. One night the youths meet — and seriously beat up — Gonzalo (Pablo Gutiérrez) in a park. When Gonzalo dies, tensions rise between the three friends, prompting Jesús to ask his father for help. “Jesús” requires some patience, as the first act meanders, but the second half is gripping, as Jesús’ too-late remorse for his bad behavior magnifies the vivid portrait of wasted youth. Durán gives an appropriately nervy and affecting performance in this taut little film. Jan. 27, 7:00 p.m. (Q&A with director Fernando Guzzoni)
‘Site of Sights’
This fantastic documentary from the Dominican Republic, observes the class differences at a resort area where laborers are creating an artificial beach. A young woman, cell phone always at hand, tries to relax by the pool, and combat her loneliness; two golfers make bets, but can’t make their shots; tourists walk along the beach. Meanwhile, a gardener and a housekeeper complete their tasks, stopping to read a magazine and express their aspirational desires. A group of men who work on the beach philosophize about love and women. It is all artfully filmed, and very quotidian, but the emotions are palpable. “Site of Sights” deftly observes its subjects, who are rich and poor, young and old, male and female, black and white, capturing the essence of human nature. Jan. 28, 5:15 p.m.
'Where I Grow Old'
This intimate and leisurely-paced drama has Teresa (Elizabete Francisca) arriving in Belo Horizonte, Brazil to stay with Francisca (Francisca Manuel), her childhood friend from back in Lisbon. The two young women have an easygoing friendship, discussing relationships as well as their homesickness. There are also lovely moments of Teresa dancing alone in the apartment, or Francisca caring for a friend’s dog. Nothing much happens over the course of “Where I Grow Old,” but the film’s realism is what drives the emotion. Then some unexpected news alters the dynamic between the roommates. The leads, who are non-professional actors, are as charming as the film is poignant. Jan. 29, 8:45 p.m.