Tropic of Cancer

In a desert in Mexico, at what seems like the end of time, or the beginning, but is merely a few years ago, a group of families eke out an existence on the side of a major freeway. Living off the land like some twenty-first-century hunter-gatherers, they tramp through the desolate landscape, looking for birds, snakes, and cactus plants. Later on, tourists will stop by the side of the highway, and from their air-conditioned, manicured lives will purchase a bird or two, or maybe a cactus, and then drive away. “It's so dry here,” says one, helpfully offering a water bottle to a preteen kid, as the camera cuts away to an infant, her face down in the dust, literally swallowing dirt. Touches like these make Tropic of Cancer not just a quietly observed portrait of a hardscrabble life, but a proud heir to Bunuel's Land Without Bread, at once surreal, despairing, and rich with an understated anger.-Jason Sanders

• Written, photographed by Polgovsky. (54 mins, In Spanish with English subtitles, Color, DigiBeta, From Tecolote Films)

Preceded by:
Unnamed Film (Naomi Uman, U.S., 2008). Returning to live in her grandparents' native village in the Ukraine, director Naomi Uman observes the daily rhythm and flow of life among the old villagers. “A hybrid of lyrical and documentary forms, hers is a cinema equally attuned to the unique textures of small-gauge celluloid and the subtleties of cultural difference. . . . Uman's subject matter parallels her own artisanal practice, valorizing the tactile and hard-won pleasures of work.”(Light Industry) (55 mins, In Ukranian and English with English intertitles, Color, 16mm, From Canyon Cinema)

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