Latin American film festivals


By Sarah Stephen

Sydney Latin American Film Festival
Fri Feb 17-Sun Feb 19
Campbelltown Arts Centre, Art Gallery Rd (cnr Camden & Appin Rd)
Fri Feb 24-Sun Feb 26
Tom Mann Theatre, 136 Chalmers St, Surry Hills
For full program visit <>.

Melbourne Latin American Film Festival
Thurs Feb 23-Mon Feb 27
ACMI Cinemas, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Sq., Flinders St
For full program, visit <>.

Very few stories from Latin America make it to Australian cinemas, despite Latin America having a healthy film-making industry. The films to be presented at the Sydney and Melbourne Latin America film festivals are primarily Australian premieres.

A special guest at both the Sydney and Melbourne festivals will be Cuban film-maker Juan Carlos Cremata Malberti, showcasing his films Viva Cuba (2005) and Nada Mas (Nothing More) (2001).

Cremata, 46, began his career in film as a writer, actor and director for a children's television series in Cuba. While working for the program, he received a degree in theatre and dramatic arts from the Havana Superior Institute of Art.

Cremata's work won him a Caracol award from the Cuban national union of writers and artists. In 1985, Cremata received a special artistic award from the Cuban ministry of culture.

He was a film-editing professor at Buenos Aires University and his work has won many awards worldwide, including the John Simon Guggenheim Grant in 1996.

Part romantic comedy, part political satire, Nada Mas tells the story of a young, bored postal worker (Thais Valdes) whose entire family has moved to Miami and are desperately trying to get her to leave Cuba. To spite her monstrous new boss (played by the legendary Daisy Granados), she begins to write fake replies to misaddressed letters, reviving long-lost romances, feuds and sparking an unexpected chain of events.

Viva Cuba looks at Cuba's complex social and political landscape through the eyes of the country's children. Cremata turns his camera on 11-year-old best friends Mal and Jorgito. Mal is from an old upper-class Havana family and her snobby mother does not want her to play with Jorgito, whom she considers "common". Jorgito's mother, a working-class socialist proud of her family's social standing, places similar restrictions on her son. What neither woman recognises is the strength of the bond between the children. When they learn that Mal's mother is planning to leave Cuba, they decide to travel to the other side of the country to find her estranged father, and persuade him against signing the forms that would allow it.

Viva Cuba has swept awards in countries as politically and culturally varied as Guatemala, Germany, Taiwan and France, including receiving the Grand Prix Ecrans Juniors from a panel of child judges at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

Raul the Terrible (screening in Sydney), by Australian documentary film-maker David Bradbury, is the story of Raul Castells, a leader of the piqueteros and a modern-day Robin Hood fighting for the poor of Argentina.

Bolivar soy yo (I am Bolivar), which is only screening in Sydney is a multi-award winning comedy from Colombian director Jorge Ali Triana. It is a delirious and razor-sharp satire of Latin American politics and contemporary media. Actor Santiago Miranda (Robinson Diaz) is cast in a cheesy Colombian telenovela (TV soap), chronicling the life of hallowed 19th century revolutionary Simon Bolivar. The hypersensitive actor immerses himself too fully in the role, snaps when forced to perform a revisionist version of Bolivar's death and decides to rewrite the remaining episodes to realise Bolivar's epic dream of a united Latin American state.

Venezuela que pasa? (What's Up with Venezuela?), which is screening in Melbourne, provides a lively look at the political hotbed of present-day Venezuela, a country that has come into the international spotlight under its revolutionary socialist president, Hugo Chavez. The film is hosted by Venezuelan thinker and poet Carlos Morreo and features clips from pro- and anti-Chavez films and TV.

Juchitan Queer Paradise (screening in Melbourne) is a film set in the town of Juchitan in southern Mexico. Juchitan is a haven for gay men and transsexuals. Here, gays are simply considered a third gender. The film profiles three very different gay men: Oscar is a local councillor, reception hall owner and father of a teenage son; Eli is a high school teacher from a wealthy landowning family who openly admits to paying for sex, and Felina is a cross-dressing beauty parlour owner and strict Catholic.

From Green Left Weekly, February 8, 2006.

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