The 5th annual San Francisco Latino Film Festival, Cine+Mas was held September 12-27, 2013. It was a marvel of the best international and national films I’ve seen in a long while.  I was moved by many of the works but the sensibility of the documentary film LA GENTE DEL RIO was profound as my first watching the birth of neo-realism.

An Argentinean film, LA GENT DEL RIO’s directors are Martin Benchimol and Pablo Aparo. It is the story of the people from an aging declining town as told through the voices of its people who are similarly described.  Situated a hundred kilometers from Buenos Aires, the town’s life was seasonal in the past. People came during the summers to swim in and cross the river.  Over the years these transients, dare say rag-tagged visitors, were accused of bringing vandalism to the town. Much of the towns peoples focus became talking about and understanding of what the river people have to do with the fading of the town’s opulence. Eventually, a private policeman is hired who sets up a sentry booth on the town square and patrols to prevent and monitor the river people. In the process the town’s people, through their own presentations lay bare the plight of aging in small, no longer prosperous, rural communities.

On the heels of being so taken by LA GENT DEL RIO, I saw NEBRASKA, Alexander Payne’s most recent film. Remarkably it is filmed similarly, in the neo-realist homage black and white sensibility.   The bioethical themes match the beneficence and autonomy issues associated with caring for the aging, dying and cognitively impaired people in declining small towns.  Both films are life reviews of individuals and the place where they live. Life review is a way of working through end of life tasks.

NEBRASKA is shot on location in a small town in the state for which it is named, and over the highways of four Midwestern USA regions.  The extras, even those with spoken lines are mostly drawn from the streets and bars of this one small town.  Beside the extras, the stars were also brilliant too; Bruce Dern, Bay Area Local Will Forte, Bob Odenkirk, June Squibb and Stacy Keach.  They share the feeling of The River People depicted at the tip of South America, accentuating the universal process of aging in this century.

In the tradition of the Mill Valley Festival there were two separate opening films for this the 36th Festival. NEBRASKA was opening across from the remake of the 1947 film the SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY.  I chose to see NEBRASKA, instead of MITTY because I studied medicine in that state at Creighton University and cared for people in the region. Further, Alexander Payne previously has made bioethics relevant films, particularly CITIZEN RUTH and THE DESCENDANTS. NEBRASKA did not disappoint; raising concerns about the ecology of aging, relevant to Baby Boomers, their elders and children.

LA GENT DEL RIO. (35mm) directed by Martin Benchimol and Pablo Aparo,  Argentina.  Independent. 2012.

NEBRASKA (35mm) directed by Alexander Payne. USA. Paramount. 2012.