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Wednesday, August 6, 1997

It's sensual cinema

Toronto Sun

Sex still sells in the cinema of Spain and Latin America. That's the message emerging from the lineup of Spanish and Portuguese language movies announced yesterday by the Toronto International Film Festival.

"Throughout the films from Latin America and Spain I found a thread of sensuality," festival programmer Ramiro Puerta said as 14 titles were added to several programs of this year's September festival, including Contemporary World Cinema, Real To Reel and the new Discovery series. There is no separate Latin American program any longer.

"Whether it's a political film like Chile: The Obstinate Memory, or a genre film like Belly Up, or one that deals with relationships like The Oyster And The Wind, (the films) have extremely strong themes of sensuality," Puerta said.

The films are from Spain, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Cuba and Argentina, countries that have undergone upheavals in their cinema in recent years but are now in a resurgence period with both veterans making comebacks and new young filmmakers emerging.

The titles include four world premieres plus six other North American premieres and one Mexican film making its international premiere.

Some highlights:

* Chilean director Patricio Guzman's Chile: The Obstinate Memory, a penetrating documentary about the survivors of General Augusto Pinochet's infamous attack on the Chilean presidential palace, a prelude to his repressive dictatorship;

* Brazilian Beto Brant's Belly Up, the story of a car thief who gets promoted to 'hired killer' in a gang in a seedy town on the Paraguayan border;

* Brazilian Walter Lima Jr.'s The Oyster And The Wind, a coming-of-age story of a lonely girl who invents an imaginary companion to deal with her burgeoning sexuality;

* Argentinian Alejandro Maci's The Impostor, a surreal drama begun by Maria Luisa Bemberg, who asked Maci to finish it and realize her dream after her death;

* Spanish director Manuel Lombardero's In Praise Of Older Woman, a new movie adaptation of Stephen Vizinczey's landmark novel about a man's sexual and political awakening during the Spanish Civil War and its fascist aftermath.