Unlike European films in the previous century, Latin American cinema encountered numerous obstacles and limited infrastructures to reach theaters in the US. With a passion to radically alter that equation, Carlos A. Gutiérrez and Monika Wagenberg launched the non-profit Cinema Tropical in 2001. Initially, it was a weekly screening series, often with the filmmaker present, at the former Two Boots Pioneer Theater in New York City. They showed new work from young directors as well as retrospectives of older filmmakers, largely unseen in the States. The popularity and demand quickly forced the expansion of their film series programming to include theatrical, non-theatrical and educational film distribution. By the end of the first decade, Cinema Tropical was the key catalyst in the Latin American cinema renaissance of the early millennium and soon became the largest distributor of Latin American films in the US. As both a venue and a distributor, Cinema Tropcial introduced many films that would shortly enjoy mainstream popularity, such as Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores perros (2000) and Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también (2001). Their innovative work also opened the way for films from smaller countries, such as Peru and Guatemala, to finally reach foreign audiences. Now with on-demand streaming options as well, the organization remains an influential force in Latin American film exhibition, education and distribution.
The Harvard Film Archive acquired twenty-five 35mm prints from Cinema Tropical’s collection in 2021, representing a diverse range of essential films, such as Orlando Lübbert’s Taxi para tres (Chile, 2001), Carlos Bolado’s Bajo California: El límite del tiempo (Mexico, 1998), Josué Méndez’ Días de Santiago (Peru, 2004), María Luisa Bemberg’s Momentos (Argentina, 1981), Fernando Pérez’ Suite Habana (Cuba, 2003), Martín Rejtman’s Silvia Prieto (Argentina, 1999), Luis Orjuela’s El Carro (Colombia, 2003) and Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll’s 25 Watts (Uruguay, 2001). All prints have English subtitles.
A complete list of titles can be found in HOLLIS.