“Tótem,” a new film by Mexican director Lila Avilés, features a young girl named Solecito, or Sol. Her age is never mentioned, but she seems wise beyond her years due to her father, Tonatiuh’s battle with cancer. The film depicts a birthday party for Tona, attended by family and friends who are trying to distract themselves from his illness. Despite the serious undertones, the film also includes humorous moments, such as Alejandra hiring a psychic to cleanse the house of negative energy. Through a welter of detail, the film captures the family’s efforts to fill their environment with life in the face of death. As the movie builds to its climax, a surge of sounds heralds the final scene, leaving the audience to contemplate the film’s poignant tone.
In contrast, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s “I.S.S.” takes a look at feral human behavior among six astronauts on the International Space Station. When the world experiences an apocalypse, the crew members attempt to take control of the I.S.S., leading to a struggle for dominance. The film provides a gripping portrayal of the fight for survival in space.