One of the more obscure films to pop into this year’s Best Animated Feature category at the Academy Awards was the Cuban-born cartoon Chico & Rita. (It lost out to the American-made Rango.) The roots of the film’s existence can be traced back to director Fernando Trueba (one of three directors credited on Chico & Rita). Trueba produced and directed the Latin jazz documentary Calle 54. It was on that watershed 2000 film that Trueba met legendary Cuban pianist/bandleader Bebo Valdés. Valdés provides the music as well as the loose biographical inspiration for Chico & Rita.
For whatever inexplicable reasons, Americans are becoming pop culturally obsessed with alternate worlds / parallel universes. It’s cropping up in films (Mike Cahill’s navel-gazing astronomy lesson Another Earth) and in television (FOX’s mind-bending mystery series “Fringe”). Heck, even venerable kids’ comic book “Life With Archie” has dedicated the last year or so to exploring two increasingly dark parallel existences—one in which Archie married Betty and one in which he married Veronica. (I’m not even kidding.) Now, NBC goes whole hog with the concept with the speculative cop drama “Awake.”
The fifth annual Taos Shortz Film Festival cuts loose March 1 through 4 in Northern New Mexico. This year’s four-day fest features more than 70 short films from around the globe. There will be panel discussions, networking parties and more than 120 visiting filmmakers. The filmmakers come courtesy of the 48 Hour Film Project International Filmapalooza, which is running concurrently with this year’s Taos Shortz. Screenings take place at the Taos Center for the Arts. Panel discussions (which are free and open to the public) are at the TurnStyle Gallery. It all kicks off on Thursday afternoon with a collection of local shorts straight out of Taos County. Things wrap up on Sunday with the 48 Hour awards ceremony at 3:30 p.m. and the Taos Shortz awards at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for each block or $80 for the full festival “Taos Hmmmm” pass.