“A year ago, I was reading Kafka,” Marco Saavedra tells us early in The Infiltrators. “Now I was living it.” Born in Mexico and raised and educated in Massachusetts, he had cannily and bravely let himself be captured by authorities in 2012 with the goal of landing at Broward Transitional Center. Once inside the under-the-radar Florida detention facility (operated by a for-profit company with a contract from ICE to house non-criminal men allegedly in the U.S. without proper documentation), Marco’s mission was to help the inmates and expose the facility.
Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera’s vital and important film, which mixes and matches documentary footage with reenactments, took home a couple of Sundance awards and is being developed as a scripted TV series. The Infiltrators (Saturday, Sept. 21 at Alamo Drafthouse) is one of several films in the San Francisco Latino Film Festival—Sept. 20–29 primarily at Drafthouse, the Roxie and the Opera Plaza Cinema—that’s set in the past yet feels utterly right now.
The acutely emotional Venezuelan drama Little Histories (Historias Pequeñas) (Saturday, Sept. 21 at the Roxie) is set during the bizarro days of the 2002 coup against President Hugo Chavez. The political events (or big history, if you will) form the background to five domestic scenarios that are parables of moral failings and triumphs. Writer-director Rafael Marziano overlays the personal and the political in both subtle and obvious ways that reveal the fault lines throughout Venezuelan society.
The lush opening night film, Yuli, reaches back in time to trace the journey of Afro-Cuban dancer and choreographer Carlos Acosta from the Michael Jackson-inspired breakdance routines he showcased as a boy to his triumphs with the Royal Ballet in London. Based on Acosta’s autobiography and featuring Acosta himself, Icíar Bollaín’s full-blooded biopic encompasses a vast swath of terrain—psychic, artistic, emotional and historical. Festival season has begun, and you don’t want to miss a step.