To start off the University of Maine’s Latin American Film Festival, directed by Manolo Caro and first released back in 2018, the Mexican comedy film “Perfect Strangers” was screened at the Fogler Library’s lynch room on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
The festival was created in order to show films from across the globe nearly every week until March 21. with the purpose of showcasing a myriad of diverse voices, themes and concepts. In the case of “Perfect Strangers” the film touches on themes of gender, human sexuality and secrecy in the modern age.
Starring Cecilia Suarex, Bruno Bichir and Mariana Trevino, the story revolves around a group of best friends who get together to share dinner. The hostess then proposes a game idea, that all guests must lay their cell phones out on the table, so that every time a phone call or incoming message is heard, the recipient must answer or read aloud the message in front of the group. What starts off as an innocent game eventually escalates into a chaotic ride as each guest has a secret revealed about them.
The movie is a remake of the 2016 Italian film of the same name. Being remade in 22 countries, such as Greece, Spain, France and South Korea, the original film currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most remakes of any single movie.
The performances throughout the film are stellar, and every actor feels believable in both their respective roles and chemistry with one another. More than anything, the film brings out the deepest level of the human mind as seen when each text or phone call is received. The way in which each friend reacts to each other over the course of the film is both hilarious and heartbreaking.
Christopher Clark, Science Reference Librarian at the Fogler Library, is part of the coordination team for the Latin American Film Festival. The decision to showcase “Perfect Strangers” was made to coincide with Valentine’s Day, considering the movie’s subject matter revolves around relationships and the secrets we keep from our friends.
“Perfect Strangers is a dramedy that highlights the foibles of miscommunication, secrecy, and misunderstanding–between friends, partners, parents and children,” Clark said. “It is an ensemble film built around a single location, with compelling performances and rich interpersonal drama.”
Daisy Singh, the Dean of Libraries, brought together her colleagues at the Fogler Library to coordinate the festival as a way to highlight more inclusive films outside of the usual Hollywood hemisphere. Singh says that showcasing foreign films such as “Perfect Strangers” not only provides audiences with thought provoking concepts and themes, but also helps in allowing more diverse films to be viewed in locations open to the public.
“What I most enjoyed about the film – as well as an upcoming film in this series called Alice Junior – is that they both make social commentaries about gender and sexuality without being pedantic. I feel that comedy and drama are used to great effect,” Singh said. “As an Ecuadorian-American, I was also happy to see Latin Americans represented in our programming. For those of us who don’t have many opportunities for multicultural or intercultural experiences, it’s a way to broaden one’s perspective. And it’s a way for a small but growing community to see themselves represented and included.”
Film festival’s have always been an important venue, especially for foreign movies, to be screened to a wider audience. Singh hopes that audiences who watch “Perfect Strangers” will also understand the deeper culture shown in the film.
“One thing they could take away is a reminder that no culture is a monolith. Sometimes we absorb stereotypes from mainstream media, but every nationality and region has a plethora of subcultures and perspectives with many nuances,” Singh said. “We’re all grappling with tradition and change and we’re looking for ways to bring marginalized communities and voices to the forefront.”
The second movie of the Latin American Film Festival “Machuca” will be screened on Feb. 21 at the same location. There will also be a special Q&A with the directors of the upcoming festival films “Alice Junior” and “Eternal Amazon” through Zoom. The coordinators from the Fogler Library hope to breach boundaries and allow audiences the opportunity to enjoy films from other countries.
“More than anything, I just hope they enjoy themselves. There’s something to be said for being exposed to new films outside the American Hollywood mainstream. It reminds us of the universality of art, and how cinema is able to speak to us so vividly across (perceived) boundaries of geography, culture, and language,” Clark said.
To watch “Perfect Strangers” you can visit https://pragda.com/sfc-event/sfc-university-of-maine/ with the username: SFC@UniversityofMaine and the password: FilmFestUofMaine23.