Rays of Hope

The spotlight may be shone on anything: not just the pleasant moments in life, but also the melancholy ones. With Matthew Bomer, familiar from the stripper ballad MAGIC MIKE and the series WHITE COLLAR, you can see the melancholia in his face. In PAPI CHULO, he plays an L.A. weatherman with a cloud over his head who has a nervous breakdown in front of the TV cameras after he loses a friend. His life takes a positive turn, however, when he hires a Latin American migrant to fix up his house. A buddy comedy begins and Ernesto, played by Alejandro Patiño, also becomes a subject of interest.

In the Spotlight section, stars and celebrities gather and beckon films offering high-quality entertainment to be watched with excitement or sometimes in a state of complete relaxation. The camera likes to inspect the margins of society, everyday life far from the glamorous side of things, where situations and people are waiting who certainly deserve a little time in the spotlight. An eighth-grader who tries in vain to get the attention of her classmates through her Internet videos makes just as strong an impression as a fireman who suffers severe burns while on duty and wants to return to normal life. The video blogger is played by Elsie Fisher, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her first cinematic performance. The injured fireman is played by Pierre Niney, a rising star of French cinema, whose radiance is only increasing.

A couple of documentaries in this year's Spotlight section focus on historical persons and events that already occupy a spot in our collective memory. Miles Davis got cool jazz off the ground; Michael Hitchinson and his band INXS stormed the charts in the 1980s. The structure of their personalities, which often lie in shadow, can now in hindsight be strongly illuminated.

In strict documentary style and in person over a cup of tea, Emir Kusturica deals with Uruguayan president José Mujica, known as "El Pepe", while Chanya Button takes on the true love story of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West in fictional form. In 1920s London, the two authors had to assert themselves in the face of the conventions of their age, while Swiss doctor Enriqueta Faber had to disguise herself as a man while in Cuba in the early 19th century in order to marry the love of her life and to pursue her profession of choice — surgery — as directors Laura Cazador and Fernando Pérez illustrate.

Sometimes famous names are necessary in order to approach a broad viewership with such historical vignettes. What happened once upon a time can set an example for the present. And as concerns relationships, some conflicts are timeless in any case. Ricardo Darín and Mercedes Morán, two luminaries of Latin American cinema, play a couple who try to find out after 25 years whether they wouldn't be happier in other circumstances. The character played by Belgian actor Philippe "Bouli" Lanners must figure out a new family arrangement with his ex-wife and their children that all of them can live with. Sure, it's sometimes easy to become melancholy, but in cinema, the path often leads past the shadows and into the light.

Michael Stadler

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