New Guatemalan Film Headlines An Austin Festival
Marimbas del infierno (Marimbas from Hell), a Guatemalan film written and directed by Julio Hernández Cordón, had its regional premiere here April 21 as the 14th annual Cine Las Americas International Film Festival opened in Austin, Texas to a crowded theater. Thick on films from 20 countries in a north-south axis from the U.S. to South America, the festival runs through April 28, and includes feature films, documentaries, and a Texas-based section of movies aptly titled Hecho en Tejas.
The film begins with Don Alfonso narrating a lamentable tale of a gang trying to extort him. Don Alfonso sleeps in a chair while covering himself with a cheap blanket every night, as the gang has robbed all of his possessions. He is isolated from human contact including with his family, because he has had to move for their protection. The one precious object in his life – as we see when he dramatically drapes himself over it weeping – is his marimba (the national instrument of Guatemala, it resembles a wooden xylophone) – which travels with him on an exile’s journey including a stay with his glue-sniffing godson, Chiquilin. The words, Siempre Juntos (always together), are inscribed on the instrument,to underscore which is the primary relationship for Alfonso.
Chiquilin, likable despite being a somewhat sketchy character, puts his out-of-work godfather in touch with Blacko, a member of a death metal band called Metal Warriors. Blacko happens to be a physician as well as a born-again Christian-Orthodox-Jew-ex-Satanist. Don Alfonso tells Blacko that he’d like to incorporate the marimba into Blacko’s death metal band, an idea Blacko finds intriguing because of his love of the marimba song “Theresa’s Tears”.
Much to the amusement of Chiquilin, who confesses he only brought the two together in order to prove to Don Alfonso how ridiculous the idea was, Blacko and Don Alfonso agree to jam soon. Only Blacko cannot rehearse on Saturdays as he must observe the Sabbath. Together, the hodge-podge group forms a band, the Marimbas from Hell. The film continues to track the band’s brief life and quick demise, with both hilarious and touching moments. Cordón’s directorial style is raw and personal, providing intimate glimpses into the lives of the three characters.
Marimbas del infierno was a terrific opening film . Films will be screening at four venues around Austin including the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. Head to the website, for more information about all of the up-coming screenings, including all the free ones!