These high-impact films were among 20 entries from nine countries in the Lincoln Center’s Latinbeat 2005 Festival.

Sergio Bianchi’s Quanto Vale Ou É Por Quilo? (What Is It Worth?) is at once caustic satire, striking realism and literal theatre of cruelty. Shuttling between historical periods, it deals with the era of slavery and contemporary racism in Brazil. A black man, abused when he was rented out, is examined by his outraged owner solely to ascertain property damage. A black woman wears a grotesque iron face mask as the voiceover explains that this was necessary to keep slaves from drinking which led to stealing. A pregnant runaway is caught by a bounty hunter who returns her to the “master,” the man who apparently raped her. The film emphasizes that runaway slave hunters were themselves from oppressed classes, seduced by the high pay to take on unsavory work. Drawing a parallel, the actor who plays the hunter also plays a contemporary black man trapped in menial jobs who becomes a hired killer for rich, often respectable clients.

Alex Bowen’s 2004 Mi Mejor Enemigo (My Best Enemy) is a satirical haiku about the absurdity of war, here a 1978 conflict between Chile and Argentina. Enemy patrols get lost on the pampas, a stone’s throw from each other’s foxhole. Cold, hungry and bored, they develop a warm relationship around competitive national pastimes and feasting on a sheep. Each side has its stiffnecked patriot. Ultimately, outside circumstances intervene, reintroducing suspicion and fear. The film juxtaposes the insignificance of a few armed men on a vast wintry plain, its dramatically shifting sky reflecting the human circumstances.

The 2005 documentary El Inmortal (The Immortal) by Mercedes Moncada-Rodriguez, focuses on the ravages of war suffered by one family in Nicaragua. Two young brothers are kidnapped from their village by the Contras, with their 15-year-old sister following to look after them. Fear drives the boys into visiting mayhem on “the enemy” while the sister is passed around sexually. Another sister sees her husband tortured to death and one brother’s twin joins the Sandinistas. The movie is filmed as if on a perpetually cloudy, almost queasy day. Interspersed among powerful interviews of surviving family members telling how their lives were forever changed, an ominous evangelical bus, El Inmortal, winds its way through Nicaragua – hawking salvation to people who have experienced unspeakable suffering.